Most of us were raised on the belief that it was important to drink milk. Globally, we’ve seen everyone from Beyoncé to Heidi Klum with milk moustaches – and more recently, Australian athletes, actors, media personalities and politicians have posed with a milk-stache, encouraging Australians to buy more locally produced milk to send a message of support to our dairy farmers. All this at a time when it seems more people are switching to alternatives because they swear it is better for their skin, digestion and waistline.
But are the supposed evils of dairy really true? And do you need to swear off dairy completely?
Here, we sift through the most common myths and facts associated with dairy.
If you’re on a kilojoule-controlled diet that includes milk, cheese or yoghurt, your resistance training program is going to pay off more than if you were avoiding dairy. The latest evidences shows working your muscles + dairy foods results in more weight loss, more body fat loss, and improved lean muscle mass to keep your metabolism firing. There is a lot of nutrition misinformation out there, and milk and dairy foods have been wrongly associated with weight gain. But milk, cheese and yoghurt are high-protein, low-GI and high in calcium, which actually reduces the amount of dietary fat absorbed by the body.
“Current evidence does not directly link milk consumption and asthma” – that’s from a summary of the available evidence for the link between dairy foods and asthma. Food is not a common trigger for asthma, with major triggers more likely to be dust mites, pollen, animal hair or fur, viral infections, tobacco smoke or even cold air. Dairy foods have often been suggested as a common trigger – but the National Asthma Council Australia does not routinely recommend avoiding dairy foods as a way to manage symptoms.
Eating cheese doesn’t raise “bad” cholesterol levels, and it’s not linked to high blood pressure. Double win. Although cheese contains saturated fat and salt, it contains a whole host of beneficial nutrients. It’s likely the way these nutrients interact as a package results in an overall protective effect on heart health. In this case, just because it tastes great – indulgent even – doesn’t mean it’s not good for you.
There’s no strong evidence to support this theory, and milk and dairy foods have essential vitamins and minerals important for skin health. Skin type, genetics, hormones and exposure to pollutants are more likely to be linked to breakouts.
If you have difficulty digesting lactose, you don’t need to eliminate dairy foods from your diet. Dairy Australia’s Dietary Guidelines suggest up to 250 ml of milk could be well tolerated if it’s eaten with other foods or throughout the day. And it doesn’t stop there. Most cheeses contain virtually no lactose and yogurt contains ‘good’ bacteria that help to digest lactose. Low-lactose products and lactose-free milks are also available.