Those in health circles have a bit of a love/hate relationship with dairy. You have some who say you can’t have a healthy diet without plenty of dairy while others who say dairy should be avoided at all costs. The answer, as usual, is probably somewhere in between. Barring any intolerances (and many are intolerant to parts of milk such as lactose; see your doctor if you suspect dairy may be affecting you adversely), dairy can have a healthy place in your diet as long as you choose good-quality dairy.
Benefits of dairy products
Dairy’s biggest draw is the calcium content. It’s the reason why many of us grew up being constantly told to “Drink your milk!” Calcium is essential to bone health as well as metabolic health. Most milk and many other dairy products have been fortified with vitamin D which is necessary for the absorption of vitamin D as well as having other health benefits. Calcium, along with potassium and magnesium (milk is high in all three),also have important roles in the body.
Milk also contains a good amount of vitamin A and B, phosphorus, and other nutrients, each with their own health benefits. Milk contains beneficial fatty acids, like omega-3s. Yogurt also boasts natural probiotics necessary for good digestive health, which we are finding has an effect on so many other aspects of health as well. Furthermore, dairy products are high in protein, especially certain yogurts such as Greek yogurt and of course eggs.
Considerations when choosing dairy products
For optimal benefits from your dairy products, opt for those that are organic and obtained from free-range, grass-fed cows (or other animals). Recent recommendations have been to consume low-fat or fat-free dairy products, but opinion is shifting again to suggest that fats are not as bad as recently thought. To be safe, opt for smaller quantities of good, full-fat milk products. For yogurt, which is usually sold sweetened, look for either lightly sweetened yogurts or plain yogurts to which you can add fruit or honey for sweetness. If you’re feeling adventurous try sheep and goat dairy products, which can be easier on the digestive system, with most of the same benefits as dairy from cows. They even have some of their own benefits!
So go ahead, no need to avoid dairy, rather incorporate it into a whole food, plant forward diet. For those who are not intolerant, dairy can have a healthy place in your diet in moderation. For more on food, nutrition, and healthy living, check out the blog section of our website!