Dairy: Is it good or bad for health?
August 11, 2020 | Farah Jassawalla

Dairy: Is it good or bad for health?

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For decades, dairy products have been advertised as a great source of calcium, consequently being good for our bones. Yet in recent years, plenty of conflicting research and viewpoints have been discussed that have made dairy products controversial among health experts. Dairy products are foods that are produced from or contain milk from a cow or other farm animals. They include yogurt, cheese, butter, and drinking milk. The recommended milk consumption per day is 2.5 cups or servings, but even this figure has come under fire as researchers have found that 2.5 servings of milk per day can cause some health complications.

Advantages of dairy

Milk and dairy products are among the best sources of calcium, and health experts do not doubt that they contribute significantly to bone health and solidity. High levels of calcium in milk also promote healthy muscle contraction and nerve transmissions, which lower the chances of getting osteoporosis or arthritis. Moreover, milk contains large reserves of vitamin D, magnesium, and phosphorus, which collectively improve the circulatory system and protect the liver, kidney, and spleen.

Disadvantages of dairy

On the flip side, dairy products, especially those which are processed (most dairy products found in supermarkets), contain large amounts of saturated fats and cholesterol. These give rise to higher risks of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. As a result of this, health experts suggest that dairy products made from natural milk or containing low levels of fat reserves be consumed. Experts also warn that fat-free dairy products should not be consumed as zero fat products often come with high amounts of unhealthy nutrients like sugar.

What does this mean?

Considering the merits and drawbacks of dairy, experts have suggested that about two servings of dairy products should be consumed every day at most. Even these dairy products should contain low levels of fat, and the fats should be unsaturated. The best milk or dairy products are the ones that come from natural farms and are not processed or are made from milk derived from soybeans (soymilk).

Alternatively, if you decide to consume full-fat dairy products, experts advise that other parts of your diet be altered for a healthy heart:

·       Eat more fruits and vegetables

·       Exercise at least two hours a day

·       Do not smoke

·       Consume less red meat to keep blood sugar levels low

·       Avoid alcohol

·       Sleep at least 7 hours every day in comfortable conditions

Does dairy cause cancer?

Over the past five to ten years, plenty of viral and popular research has been conducted that declared that dairy products might increase the rate of cancer. The research has been a critical point of debate for those in the health industry, as it has become a widespread belief among the public that dairy products cause cancer. Despite this, the research has been proven to be conducted poorly, and the consensus among experts remains that dairy products have no relation to cancer.

Lactose intolerance and dairy

Lactose is a sugar found in dairy products, and some people have small intestines that cannot digest lactose. Thus, they are lactose intolerant. If anyone with lactose intolerance consumes dairy products, they might experience bloating, severe stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Hence, those with lactose intolerance must only consume fermented dairy products like soymilk as they contain low amounts of lactose. Many people are not aware that they have lactose intolerance. They continue consuming dairy, which can damage their gut health in the long run, so you must perform some tests to determine if you are lactose intolerant.

All in all, dairy products have been at the forefront of many medical controversies over the years. Health experts generally state that dairy, when consumed in moderation (2 servings a day), can be extremely beneficial for health. The information mentioned above can be a useful guide for which dairy products should be consumed.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.