The drink you pour in your glass can make a large difference to your health. That’s the benefit of milk! For most of us, three serves of dairy foods (that’s milk – but also cheese and yogurt) each day is just right.
The Dietary Guidelines for Australians say dairy foods are the most reliable source of calcium and are readily available and convenient to use.
While dairy foods are a great source of bone-building calcium, they give us so much more than just calcium. Dairy foods are nutrient-rich – which means they provide a useful amount of vitamins and minerals for relatively few calories.
All types of milk, yogurt and cheese contain a package of more than ten key nutrients. Besides calcium, a glass of milk, tub of yogurt or slice of cheese contains carbohydrate, protein, vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc.
Recent research has linked children and adults who regularly consume dairy foods with a better quality diet – one containing more nutrients. Research studies have discovered that regular milk drinkers tend to have stronger bones and less bone fractures. And it is important to develop good habits early!
Adequate calcium intake in children and adolescents is crucial for building bone – and the larger the ‘bone bank’, the lower the risk of osteoporosis (or brittle bone disease). But on the day of the last National Nutrition Survey, more than half of all Aussie children did not get enough calcium.
Losing weight is proving a real challenge for many of us – and the maze of ‘miracle’ diets doesn’t help! Dairy foods can be a good option for people watching their weight. Emerging study evidence suggests people who include three serves of dairy foods as part of a healthy, calorie-reduced diet may lose more fat and weight than those people on the same diet with little or no dairy foods.
Many women have a false perception about the fat content of dairy foods – especially when it comes to regular (or whole) milk and yogurt. It may come as a surprise that regular milk is 3.8 per cent fat and regular, natural yogurt 3.4 per cent fat. A lot less than many people think!
And for those of us on lower fat dairy foods – rest assured, as these products supply just as much nutrition as their regular-fat counterparts.
Dairy is the hero of the story here because more than 60 per cent of Australia’s calcium intake comes from this source. Bony fish provides a good amount of calcium and some plant sources do have calcium, but it’s at comparatively low levels per serve. And absorption is another matter – you would need to eat 32 brussel sprouts or five cups of cooked broccoli or one cup of dry roasted almonds to absorb the same amount of calcium as from a 250mL glass of milk.
Combined results from studies conducted around the world show that milk drinkers have a slightly lower risk of heart disease than those who drink little or no milk. This is mainly due to milk drinkers having a lower risk of stroke.
For some time now, doctors have noted a lowering in blood pressure with a DASH diet. The DASH diet involves low fat, low salt foods and plenty of fruit and vegetables, together with three serves of mainly low fat dairy foods.
There is good evidence that cheese helps reduce tooth decay and milk may reduce the risk of certain cancers, such as colon cancer.
Milk and yogurt also have a low glycaemic index (GI) – to help people with diabetes control blood glucose levels.
Research has also shown that drinking milk and eating other calcium-rich foods is associated with a reduced risk of kidney stones and gout.
So, sit back and enjoy your three serves of dairy a day. Try a milky cafe latte on your way to work, grab a yogurt for a snack on the go or add some cheese to your next salad – how easy!
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(References: Dairy Australia, July 2006, Three Serves)