Why I won’t tell you to cut out dairy products.

Or any other food group for that matter, unless otherwise medically specified.

I know that cutting out carbs, cutting out dairy, going gluten free, sugar free, fun free is trending on the social media space and well, everywhere someone is talking nutrition and diets (shudder) and weight loss (shudder)

But before you consider/start/continue cutting out food groups, consider this: each food group provides different vital nutrients which your body needs. The research around nutrition strongly shows that including foods from the five core food groups within one’s eating pattern promotes health and well-being.

Let’s look at dairy products.

I personally love them. When I say I would eat breakfast food at every meal,  80% of the time I meant some type of greek yoghurt based breakfast bowl. The other 20% is definitely avocado, roast pumpkin and feta on toast.

I attended the Dairy Australia breakfast at the 2016 DAA conference earlier this year and there were some interesting stats reported.

The Australian Health Survey revealed that on average, Australians aged two years and over consume 1.5 serves of milk, yoghurt, cheese and alternatives per day, with only 10% of the population meeting the recommended number of serves of dairy.

And the number 1 barrier to dairy intake?

Gut issues. (I’m so grateful I tweeted throughout all of this). Plus there is a whole lot of confusion around dairy products and weight gain, dairy and our overall health, and it seems that doctors, naturopaths, dietitians all telling individuals different things (which we know).

So what’s the go with dairy, nutrition and our health?

Dairy products and their alternatives form one of the 5 core food groups.

These foods are grouped together because they provide similar nutrients, in particular, calcium and protein.

Your body cannot make calcium, therefore it must come from the foods you eat.

If we do not eat enough calcium, calcium is taken from our bones to be used for other bodily functions. So you can imagine if you are constantly not eating enough, the impact this can have on your bones in the long term.

It’s the same concept when it comes to protein. If we do not eat enough protein to maintain our bodily processes, our body breaks down our muscles for protein.

In addition to calcium and protein, dairy products provide Vitamin A, B12, Riboflavin, Potassium, Magnesium, Zinc, phosphorus and carbohydrates.

So apart from just calcium, if we start eliminating dairy products, we miss out on a whole lot of other nutrients. Unless an appropriate replacement is included, this can result in undernutrition.

(If you want to know the lowdown on non-dairy calcium sources: read this post.)

Does consuming dairy products cause weight gain?

No, in fact, it’s rather the opposite. Including dairy products within a balanced diet helps with weight management and in some cases, may accelerate weight loss.

The research suggests that the protein in dairy can help keep you feeling full for longer and thus reducing snacks, while at the same time, dairy calcium may reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs.

If i am lactose intolerant, can I eat dairy?

You sure can!

People with lactose intolerance do not need to avoid dairy foods. In fact, up to 250ml milk may be well tolerated if it’s consumed with other foods or throughout the day.

As for cheese, hard cheese actually contains little lactose, and lactose in yoghurt is already partially broken down so should be well tolerated.

Plus you can buy lactose free products in the supermarket.

How do I know if I am allergic to dairy?

Please note that a dairy allergy is different to lactose intolerance. Lactose is the sugar naturally present in milk. When an individual is allergic to dairy, they react to the protein component of milk. Cow’s milk allergy is rare in adults and it is difficult to diagnosed. Please please please go to your Doctor if you suspect this.

But aside from dairy providing fuel and nourishment for our physical health, it also provides pleasure, and may form a core part in your social and mental health.

I bet dairy products play a special part in your life.

Maybe it’s that saturday morning coffee with your love?

Maybe it’s the choc mint choc tops at the cinemas?

Maybe it’s your mum’s homemade baileys on Christmas Eve?

Maybe it’s spending time by the fire, with a glass of red and a platter of nice cheeses?

Maybe it’s the silence of your first cup of coffee in the morning before your house awakes?

And look, what’s a trip to the Yarra Valley or down the great ocean road without a stop at the local cheese hotspots?

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Yeah, look, I’m sure you can get around those little things.

But why give up on those little things when you don’t have to?

Emma xo

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