Dairy – Good or bad for your health?

Dairy often cops a bad wrap in health and nutrition circles, and many diets exclude it altogether. But, is it really bad for your health? With the dietary guidelines for Australians recommending two or more serves of dairy a day, surely there are some positives! Let’s look at both sides of the coin.

Good for your health
Dairy such as milk is a good source of protein
The combination of whey protein and Casein protein found in milk makes it a healthy and beneficial source of protein. Whey aids speedy protein synthesis, while the slow active Casein molecules form a gel like structure that is a very efficient source of nutrient supply.

Dairy products can be beneficial to your heart
Studies have shown that increased levels of dairy products lower the risk of suffering from hypertension or low blood pressure through their high levels of calcium. The benefits of calcium are twofold when ingested through dairy rather than supplements due to the potassium and magnesium found in dairy, helping to positively affect blood lipids and body weight, effectively helping to protect against heart disease.

Yes, dairy is good for your teeth!
We were all told as kids that you need to drink milk for healthy bones and teeth. The good news is that this is in fact true – the calcium and vitamin D (which helps your body to absorb the calcium) found in milk not only builds strong bones and teeth, but milk protein and cheese combat the formation of dental plaque and help to coat the teeth.

Not so good for your health
Our bodies are still not ready for dairy products – Many studies have stipulated that humans have only been consuming dairy products for around 10,000 years (which might seem like a fair while, but oddly enough is not long enough for us to adapt to a new food group!) and thus our bodies are not able to properly process dairy.

Too much of anything (even Calcium!) is not a good thing
While we need a certain amount of calcium in our diets, excess calcium can have undesirable effects, such as flushing out other important minerals, and the resulting mineral deficiency can cause a raft of problems on its own. Due to the way calcium interacts with neurons, excess calcium can lead to lethargy, muscle pain, kidney stones, and depression in some cases. Calcium is a highly necessary nutrient and so mustn’t be avoided completely, but be careful to ingest only the recommended amount!

Some milk contains harmful hormones
In modern day commercial dairy farms, cows are milked around 300 days a year and are pregnant for much of that time. The further along a cow is in their pregnancy, the more hormones their milk will contain. Some of these hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, have been linked to a higher incidence of cancer in both men and women.

So what’s the final verdict? Well, like most food groups, dairy has its share of pros and cons. However, when consumed in healthy, reasonable amounts, dairy provides several highly important nutritional benefits. Remember, everything in moderation!