Dairy is a staple hold ingredient in most homes around the world. What makes dairy so popular is its wide availability, a vast range of foods that contain it, and most importantly, the many health benefits it provides.
Though dairy can be seen as an important nutrient, the debate of whether its good for you is going strong. Lactose intolerance, allergic reactions, and calorie density are common reasons why a lot of people try to avoid dairy.
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With the bad rap that dairy has been subjected to over the years, many brands and food companies have developed other milk products to substitute dairy. Substitutes such as almond milk, coconut milk, and pea milk have become popular over the past couple of years.
So the big question is: is dairy good for you? Or is it even necessary for your diet? Before we can answer any of these discussions or put our personal opinions on the matter, we have to understand what dairy is.
What is Dairy?
Dairy is a food product produced from the milk of animals, most commonly milk from cows. Dairy is not just limited to cows as dairy milk can also be produced from goats and sheep.
Dairy contains natural fats, sugar, and protein, all being important nutrients in a healthy diet. Dairy is also one of the best sources of calcium. Calcium is essential for bone health, gut health, and improved digestion.
This is why milk is highly recommended for growing children. The purest base form of dairy is milk. However, multiple food products also contain dairy.
Products that Contains Dairy
- Milk – the base form of all dairy products is taken from lactating animals. Milk also contains the purest sources of fat, protein, and sugar compared to all the other dairy products. This combination of nutrients is designed for the growth and development of the body’s bone structure and muscle quality. Milk also provides energy and healthy bacteria to promote better gut health.
- Cheese – Cheese is an extremely popular dairy food due to its versatility to be mixed with multiple types of dishes as well as its variety and great taste. It is made by coagulating casein with milk. Casein is the main protein found in milk and is slow releasing. An enzyme called rennet is added to the casein to acidify and artificially speed the production of the cheese.
- Cream – Cream can be used for many different purposes. They can be used as decoration, adding extra flavour to meals or even cooking dishes. Like cheese, the cream is also produced by the processing of milk. It is created from the separation of fat from the milk. Once the fat has been taken out, creamy texture is left behind to be pasteurized. This kills off unwanted bacteria. Their level of fat identifies the different varieties of cream.
- Butter – Butter is also made with the same process of cream with slightly different changes. Butter is usually mass-produced and will have additives put in for flavour. Extra nutrients are also reduced depending on the purpose it is trying to serve. Low-fat butter is also an option as butter naturally contains a high level of fat.
- Yoghurt – Fermented in lactic bacteria, the fermentation of milk breaks down the compounds in milk. This results in bacteria converting into milk sugar and is the reason for the slightly sour and tangy taste in some yoghurts. Additives such as fruits, sugars, and other ingredients are added into yoghurt for flavour and nutritional benefits.
Every person is born lactose intolerant. However, every person will have a different level of tolerance. Lactose is a type of sugar contained in milk of mammals.
The reason why people have allergic reactions to lactose is due to their bodies inability to breakdown lactose enzymes due to its inability to produce the lactase enzyme. If you are unsure of your lactose tolerance level, always seek the advice of a medical professional first.
Pros and Cons of Dairy
Pros of Dairy
- Dairy is high in protein and is a natural source of it. This is important for muscle tissue repair and muscle definition. As children need a proper diet of whole foods for growth, milk is one of the best options. The two types of protein found in milk are casein and whey. Casein is a slow-releasing protein. Whey is a fast releasing protein that contains branched-chain amino acids. Casein is ideal for young children as the slow-releasing protein can assist muscle growth throughout the day. For the older crowd, whey is important as it is a fast-absorbing protein that is perfect for post-workout exercise and recovery.
- Dairy can improve bone health. The health and integrity of bones are extremely important for growing children and the elderly. The amount of calcium and Vitamin D found in milk, and dairy products can help promote growth and healthy maintenance of bones. Milk is also great for people who are calcium deficient. Milk also helps to improve or prevent the development of osteoporosis.
- Ideal for children. When children are still young (especially under 10), milk should be an essential part of their diet. As milk contains lots of calcium and vitamins, this is important for bone and gut health. The fat and protein content in milk is also important for making children bigger and stronger. When children get enough calcium and vitamins, they will be able to grow faster and healthier.
Cons of Dairy
- Allergies and negative reactions. As some people have higher lactose intolerance, this means consuming dairy products can be quite difficult. Side effects of lactose intolerance can be stomach aches, diarrhoea, skin rashes, nausea, and vomiting. It’s always a good idea to speak with a medical practitioner or dietician on whether dairy products can affect your health. It is also highly recommended for children to consult with their pediatrician to make sure they don’t suffer from any allergies.
- High-calorie intake. Though dairy products contain lots of healthy nutrients, without moderation, dairy can create harmful effects for the body, and weight gain is one of them. One cup of milk (250ml) typically contains 167 calories. For children looking to add weight, this is ideal as milk is easily consumable. However, for adults or people who struggle with weight management, this will make them gain weight that they shouldn’t be adding. Fortunately enough, skim milk is an option. This is where they reduce the amount of fat from milk through extensive processing.
- Negative additives. You’ll notice with a lot of dairy products, additives are put in to enhance flavour, texture or even boost certain nutrients. Don’t be fooled. Even though all these additives sound like benefits, often they are unnecessary and take away the main benefits of dairy itself. For example, salt is added to cheese and butter, while sugar and artificial sweeteners are added to yoghurt. Even though these additives may make the dairy product taste or look better, the dairy product no longer becomes a healthy option. For health purposes and to take advantage of the pure nutrients of dairy, try searching for organic dairy products.
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