Information channels are overflowing with conflicting claims about the relative health benefits of eating dairy products. Dairy proponents maintain that milk and cheese are the best sources of dietary calcium. Detractors claim that diary products are actually detrimental your bone health and increases risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. There are “experts” on both sides, loudly proclaiming their opinions as truth.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Folks who make wild claims like osteoporosis rates are lower in nations with lower dairy consumption are likely trying to link statistics that don’t necessarily have anything to do with one another. Other factors, like level of physical activity, have a lot to do with osteoporosis rates, although diary detractors don’t often seem to take those factors into consideration. Dairy supporters who claim that vitamins in milk do things the same vitamins ingested through supplement can’t likely don’t have any empirical evidence supporting their claims.
Dairy consumption is not essential to human health. The vitamins and mineral found in milk, cheese, and yogurt can all be found in other foods and there appears to be no difference how you ingest them. However, dairy can be beneficial to one’s diet, depending on one’s lifestyle and the substances it replaces in one’s diet. Americans drink gallons of soda and chow down pound after pound of sugary snacks. Replacing soda with milk or candy bars with yogurt would help decrease harmful intake of harmful sweetened and processed foods.
One key to making dairy products a beneficial part of a healthy diet is to choose low-fat versions of the products. Reduced fat cheese, low fat or skim milk, and light yogurt will not promote weight gain like their full-fat counterparts.
If you still are of a mind to cut dairy from your diet, here are some options for getting the vitamins and minerals found in dairy products:
- Calcium – Carrots, oranges, tofu, fortified cereals
- Vitamin D – Fish, oysters, eggs, fortified cereals
- Protein – Tofu, legumes, eggs, whole grains
- Riboflavin – Leafy greens, whole grains, sweet potatoes, meat
- Phosphorus – Legumes, fatty fish, bread