20140722-dairy-blog-headerIf any of you read the weekend A plus section of the Australian last weekend, you may have seen the article ‘The six foods I never stock at home’ written by the Paleo warrior and renowned chef, Pete Evans. As you would expect from any true Paleo disciple, dairy products are a no no. But it appears Pete is not necessarily encouraging everyone to go Paleo, according to his article, he is just anti dairy for the following reasons – “most people don’t retain the ability to digest milk after infancy and most dairy is not at all critical for good health”. He goes on to say that “drinking milk and eating lots of dairy are not the answers to reversing or preventing osteoporosis: In fact processed dairy foods such as low fat ultra -pasteurised milk, most cheeses and low fat flavoured yoghurts high in sugar are almost completely devoid of nutrients and should be avoided”.

Pete’s views on dairy are quite commonly held even though there is good evidence to counter his opinions. Let’s have a glance at the inability to digest milk after infancy.

Lactose Intolerance 

While it is true that lactose, the natural sugar in milk, can be difficult for some to digest because they lack the enzyme lactase, being intolerant to lactose is largely genetically determined and it is not as widespread as some people believe. In Australia, only around 5% of Caucasians appear to be lactose intolerant, compared with non Caucasians where the figure is around 75%. Most people from Asia have a high incidence of lactose intolerance but this doesn’t mean they can’t consume any dairy. Most people with lactose intolerance still produce some lactase and can consume small amounts of milk without any discomfort and are generally able to tolerate cheese (most of which is lactose free) and yoghurt which has less lactose due to the fermentation process. There are also lactose free milks available today.

Dairy Good 

Dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt do contain a myriad of nutrients such as protein (casein and whey) and 8 vitamins and minerals. It’s hard to agree that most cheeses are devoid of nutrients when most cheeses contain the following nutrients:

Vitamin A 

Essential for healthy eye sight Important for growth (particularly in children) 

Vitamin B12 

Helps to keep blood healthy Assists in the formation of nerve cells 

Riboflavin 

Helps release energy from food Helps cells to function properly 

Calcium 

Essential for strong bones and teeth along with Vitamin D and weight bearing exercise Needed for normal muscle and nerve functioning, and may assist in controlling blood pressure 

Potassium 

Assists with blood pressure control Important for nerve impulse transmission 

Magnesium 

Important component in bone structure Essential for energy transfer around the body 

Zinc 

Aids wound healing Essential for normal growth and development in bones, the brain and many other parts of the body 

Phosphorus 

Forms an important part of the mineral structure in bones 

So while there are plenty of other foods which can supply these nutrients besides dairy, dairy foods are the most readily available source of calcium and we know how important calcium is for healthy bones and teeth as well as muscle contraction and nerve transmission and even helping to control blood pressure.

What about Calcium ? 

According to the National Health and Medical Research Nutrient reference values, we need around 1000mg calcium (Ca) per day. This equates to approximately 3 serves of dairy foods. One serve is 250ml milk (approx 300mg Ca) or 40g cheese (approx 320mg Ca) or 200g yoghurt (approx. 360mg Ca).

If you choose dairy alternatives to meet your calcium needs, then try to consume a calcium fortified soy or rice milk. Almond milk and coconut milk are also delicious tasting alternatives but unfortunately they don’t match the calcium count.

Even though green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and broccoli are good sources of calcium, the bioavailability of the calcium is not as good as from animal sources. The exception appears to be Asian greens which have better calcium bioavailability.

The best non dairy source of calcium is fish with edible bones, 100g of canned salmon or sardines provided you eat the bones is around 335mg similar to a serve of dairy.

Probiotics 

Probiotic yoghurt and fermented milks like Kefir contain the healthy bacteria which has been known for centuries to improve our gut flora and assist with good bowel function and strong immunity. Other fermented foods which are now trending are fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi. Sour dough bread is also a source of probiotics but the benefits are not as great when the healthy bacteria are heated.

Dairy Yes or No 

It’s up to you but before you decide to ditch dairy make sure that you can replace the nutrients you may be missing out on. The main nutrient at risk would have to be calcium and we know that taking calcium supplements doesn’t come without some risk.

At Dineamic most of our meals are dairy free but that doesn’t mean we are anti-dairy. It’s just that we respect the dietary needs of all of you, Paleo warriors included, and it’s so much easier to add your own dairy selections should you wish to.

Now where’s that soy, rice, almond or milk café latte?

Article written by Karen Inge

Exercise, Healthy, Karen Inge, Meals, Nutrition, Tips