Calcium is found within milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. Milk and its products also provide phosphorus as well as protein. All are vital elements of a healthy diet so special effort should be made to consume them, especially in early year development
Health benefits of dairy products
Calcium is needed for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. A diet that is low in calcium during the developmental years of childhood and adolescence can make the bones weak for the rest of life and lead to conditions such as osteoporosis in later years. Dairy can also help to reduce blood pressure, reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of developing type two diabetes.
Dairy can also help to reduce blood pressure, reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease and reduce the risk of developing type two diabetes.
We should aim to eat two to three portions of dairy products per day (a portion is about 190ml (1/3 pint of milk), 28g (1oz) cheese or a small pot of yogurt) to increase our calcium intake.
How to include dairy products in your diet
A good way of incorporating milk into the diet is by having milk-based smoothies, in tea and coffee and on cereal or in milk puddings. Pasteurisation is a process that most milk and cream products go through to kill bacteria, prevent food poisoning and extend their shelf life.
It is also advisable to go for those dairy products that are lower in fat such as semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, have ‘diet’ yogurts and cottage cheese or Edam cheese as they are lower in fat than traditional hard cheeses such as cheddar. Low fat alternatives still contain all of the essential nutrients but as they are lower in fat, are much better dietary choices.
Too much hard cheese can raise the cholesterol level in the blood as it contains a lot of saturated fat. A side effect of having far too much calcium in the diet is constipation.
Other dairy foods such as butter are also high in fat so should be used minimally in the diet in favour of low fat spreads. Similarly, although cream is a dairy, due to its high fat content should be used sparingly. Plain yoghurt or soured cream is a good alternative for regular cream.
Alternative sources of calcium
Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body finds it difficult to digest dairy products. However, this problem does not mean that the nutrients from milk and dairy have to be cut from the diet completely.
Instead you could try calcium fortified soy or almond milk as a replacement for regular milk. Beans, dark leafy veg and some nuts also naturally contain calcium and protein.