Dairy foods provide an extraordinary nutritional punch! They contain over 10 nutrients that are important for our nervous system, muscle function, energy levels and of course, our bone health, not to mention being great for our general health. More specifically, dairy foods are a rich source of vitamins A, B1, B12, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc and phosphorous as well as protein and low GI carbohydrates. Eliminating dairy foods unnecessarily from your diet means you’ll be missing out on more than just calcium.
That’s why it is troubling to note that most of the population does not meet their recommended intake of dairy foods. In fact, the research reveals that one in six Australians are avoiding milk and other dairy foods despite having no medical reason to do so (1). This is a worrying trend because dairy is a core food group.
Further, rates of osteoporosis are incredibly high in the elderly population, which may be contributed to by a lifetime of poor dairy intake. So, the alarming rates of osteoporosis could be slashed if people increased their intake of milk, cheese and yoghurt.
There are a number of myths that abound about dairy products, and these may be causing some people to shun the milky stuff. However, this post will put to bed some of those myths about dairy foods.
Myth 1: I have lactose intolerance so I can’t have dairy
False: Lactose is a carbohydrate that is naturally found in cow’s milk and other types of mammalian milk. People who are lactose intolerant are unable to break lactose down into its single parts (glucose and galactose) because they lack lactase, the enzyme needed to digest lactose. However, even those with a lactase deficiency are able to tolerate small amounts of lactose without any symptoms. In fact, those with lactose intolerance may even be able to tolerate yoghurt, as the naturally present bacteria may assist with the breakdown of lactose. In addition, cream cheese and cottage cheese contain only a small amount of lactose and seem to be generally well tolerated. Most cheeses, particularly hard varieties also contain negligible amounts of lactose and can therefore be enjoyed by everyone, even those who are lactose intolerant.
A recent innovation has been the commercial production of lactose-free foods, to which the enzyme, lactase has been added. For those who lack this enzyme, the lactase digests the lactose in the food. In fact, lactose-free products still contain exactly the same amount of nutrition as other dairy foods. Pretty nifty, right?
Myth 2: Lite milk has added sugar
False: There is a misnomer that ‘lite’ is synonymous with “contains added sugar”. However, in the case of many dairy foods, lite milk in particular, this is simply not true. The only major difference between full cream and lite milk is the fat content. Nothing has been added to lite milk to compensate for the lower fat content. In fact, the only properties of the milk that are changed is the calcium and fat soluble vitamin content – calcium is slightly higher in skim milk, while fat soluble vitamins like vitamin A is slightly lower due to the removal of fat. Otherwise the nutritional profile is near identical.
Further, the evidence is changing about full fat and lite dairy foods. It appears that full cream dairy does not impact either our weight or our cholesterol levels (2). So your decision about which one to choose may simply come to down to personal preference. In any case, wear your milk moustache with pride!
Myth 3: Dairy foods will make me fat
False: No one food is fattening, it’s all about the overall quality of someone’s diet. Cheese, milk and yoghurt (both reduced fat and full fat varieties) are not linked to weight gain or obesity (2). To achieve a healthy weight, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend people limit junk foods, reduce portion sizes and find ways to be more active in our everyday lives (3).
Moreover, studies show that people who regularly consume healthy dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt are better able to maintain their weight, and have a reduced risk of developing heart disease and diabetes (4). The reason may be due to the impressive nutritional profile of dairy food.
So, how can you meet your recommended daily serves of dairy foods without it influencing your weight? That’s easy. Try adding milk to your cereal or porridge and perhaps including a dollop of yoghurt on top too; snack on yoghurt, custard, or cheese and biscuits if you are looking for a between-meal energy boost; add ricotta or feta cheese to salads and pasta dishes; or down a glass of milk after gym or before bedtime.
Myth 4: Permeate is unhealthy
False: Permeate is the collective term for the lactose, vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in milk. It is simply a result of milk manufacturing. Permeate is often added to milk in the factory to ensure that the protein and fat content of milk remain consistent. That’s because two different cows will produce nutritionally different milk. So next time you pick up a carton of milk you can be guaranteed that it will be nutritionally identical to the same brand of bottled milk that you purchased previously. And permeate is absolutely safe!
Myth 5: I can easily meet my calcium requirements from eating non-dairy foods
True: While calcium from dairy foods is the most readily absorbed and utilised, there are a number of non-dairy dietary sources of calcium. Think calcium-fortified soy milk, calcium-set tofu, chia seeds, bony fish and green leafy vegetables. Nevertheless, if there’s no medical reason to avoid dairy foods, then eating a combination of both dairy and non-dairy foods that are rich in calcium is the best practice.
Myth 6: Milk is pro-inflammatory
False: In a nutshell, dairy foods do not cause inflammation. In fact, a recent review of the current clinical evidence actually showed that dairy has significant anti-inflammatory properties (5). The only time dairy causes inflammation is when there is an allergy at play.
So, the take-home message is: embrace dairy foods as part of your diet. Your skeleton, muscles and even your waistline will thank you for it!
We recently celebrated Men’s Health Week (June 10-16). It’s an important initiative that shines the spotlight on men’s health issues and encourages men to take charge of their health and wellbeing. It’s clear that men face different health issues to women and we blokes also have different needs.
Did you know that on average, Aussie men live five years less than women? This statistic alone is worrying. In fact, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Leading Causes of Death by Gender shows that the death rate from the main causes of death is usually higher for men than women. In fact, more men than women die from heart disease, trachea and lung cancer, chronic lower lung disease, colon cancer, leukaemia, diabetes and suicide. And recent news suggests that the rate of male suicide and suicide attempts has been grossly underestimated. Men also experience higher rates of addiction, and injury or death from violence and crime.
From a dietary perspective, a high saturated fat and salt intake, inadequate fibre consumption and too many sugary drinks increase a man’s risk of heart disease and other nasty illnesses. The key to dietary success is getting the balance right. The focus should be on consuming whole foods. Think plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, dairy, whole grains and lean proteins. Not to mention slashing our alcohol intake. That advice goes for both genders. However, data suggests that men drop the ball more than women when it comes to healthy eating.
Further, prioritising measures to improve men’s health outcomes is crucial. The National Male Health Policy released in 2010 identified six key areas to focus on. These include: optimal health outcomes for men, health equity between population groups of males, improved health for males at different life stages, a focus on preventive health for males, building a strong evidence-base on male health and improved access to health care for males. The focus must be on wellness and not just illness.
So what can be done on an individual or grassroots level? It’s clear that men need to start reaching out and discussing their health with their partners, friends and health professionals. The first point of contact should be the GP. Your GP is like the head coach of a football club as he/she oversees the general progress of each patient and liaises with other health professionals in the patient’s support network.
Men should have annual health checks. Just like we take our car to get regularly serviced, it is crucial that we get a regular check-up too. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers can often be picked up in their early stages, when treatment is almost always more effective.
In my role as a dietitian, I see a large number of men who come to me for dietary guidance once they’ve been diagnosed with something sinister, whether it be elevated blood sugars, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, after a diagnosis of diabetes or following a heart attack. Very few men come through my door to discuss disease prevention. It’s mind-boggling. I know I can offer people so much more when they come to see me earlier.
It’s high time we acknowledge that our most important piece of machinery is our own body, not our bank balance, list of achievements or even our beloved cars. But when it comes to us blokes caring for ourselves, we are usually not that good at it. We often take the “she’ll be right” attitude. However, that just isn’t working. Something clearly has to give.
Now, I admit that in the past, I’ve also been guilty of “everything will be fine” arrogance at times. Several years ago I had some chest pain and acted like it was no big deal. Thirty-something men don’t get chest pain, or so I thought. It was only after some nagging from my wife that I sought medical advice. In the end, it was simply a twinged muscle, but in hindsight, I’m glad I sought some professional advice to put both our minds at ease. You might say that I bit the bullet and manned up to it.
To help promote men’s health issues we need health ambassadors to spread the message. State and federal governments should consider appointing a Men’s Health Minister to oversee community based projects and national initiatives aimed at improving the lives and health of Aussie men. If men had role models or leaders effectively working in this space, it would encourage men to be more proactive about their health.
Finally, it’s all well and good to celebrate an annual Men’s Health Week, but that still leaves 51 weeks of the year when men’s health issues are out of the limelight. And that’s got to change! The health and longevity of Australian men depend on it.
Place zucchini into a muslin cloth and squeeze out extra moisture. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add corn, spring onion, cumin, parsley and seasoning.
In a separate bowl whisk together eggs, milk, baking powder and flour.
Gently add egg mixture to the other ingredients and combine well.
Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Ladle mixture into frying pan and flatten with an egg flipper. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until golden brown and cooked through. Transfer fritters to a plate lined with paper towel to absorb excess oil. Repeat with remaining mixture.
Serve with avocado, poached eggs and tomato relish.
Option: Add 100g halloumi cheese to mixture if desired.
According to recent data Australian adults are eating more than 7.4 million kilograms of added salt, aka sodium. That’s enough to fill 760 Olympic-sized pools, every year. That is a staggering statistic! And it’s playing havoc on the health of our hearts, kidneys and bones.
Something has to give. Our lives clearly depend on it!
Let’s explore the science and discuss some alternatives to the salty stuff. Your hearts will thank you for it.
To refresh your memories from high school biology days: wherever salt goes, water will follow. So, a diet high in salt has been shown to increase blood pressure via this mechanism, as the extra salt in the blood vessels is escorted by additional water. This causes additional strain on your heart to effectively pump the blood around the body. Reducing salt in your diet can ease the pressure on your blood vessels and reduce the load on the heart. You can lower your salt intake by learning to become a savvy shopper, choosing fresh foods, experimenting with different herbs and spices to find flavour combinations that delight. Let’s see how that looks in practice.
Much of the salt we eat is from packaged and processed foods – almost 75% to be exact. Minimising our reliance on certain packaged foods will likely reduce our overall sodium intake. By all means, continue to eat whole grain breads and cereals as well tinned legumes and canned fish, but reduce your overall consumption of chips, pretzels, processed meats etc. Instead, maximise your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats and protein alternatives as well as whole grains.
Know your labels
Knowledge is power. If you know what’s in your food, you can make healthier and more informed choices about what to eat and what to leave on the supermarket shelf. When it comes to sodium, choose products with less than 400mg per 100g. Better yet, select foods with less than 120mg of sodium per 100g – it’s the gold standard!
Be a matchmaker
Experiment with herbs and spices and learn flavoursome partnerships. Recreate tried and true winning combos by adding basil to your tomatoes, cooking dill and salmon, sage and pork, thyme and lamb, parsley and chickpeas, as well as garlic with your roast veggies. Discover new and exciting culinary partnerships.
Load up on fruit and vegetables
It’s clear that Aussies don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables. In fact, only 7% of us meet our vegetable requirement and a little over half of us meet our fruit requirement each day. It’s astounding! Fruit and veggies contain a wide array of different nutrients including potassium. This important mineral counters the actions of sodium so it can help to decrease blood pressure and ease the burden on our cardiovascular system.
Make the swap
Ditch regular table salt for Heart SALT! It has 56% less sodium making it a suitable alternative. Plus, it tastes just like regular salt (salt lovers rejoice). Products like Heart SALT along with the above tips on how to choose lower sodium packaged foods could really benefit our overall heart health. And that’s something worth celebrating!
Be weary of trendy options like pink Himalayan salts that promise to deliver up to 84 key nutrients. It’s just persuasive marketing that contains not a grain of truth. You can get all the nutrients you need from eating a diet rich in fresh fruit, veggies, dairy, meat, fish, tofu, legumes and whole grains without having to rely on the minute traces of nutrients in pink Himalayan salt.