Dairy – Friend or Foe?

Over the last couple weeks, a number of clients I have been working with have told me they have cut out dairy. Whenever I see this or note it on their forms, I ask why? Why cut it out. Around half say because it causes bloating, abdominal pain or diarrhoea, all of which I think is a good reason not to have it. But the other half say because I thought it wasn’t good for you or there are so many issues advertised with it I wasn’t sure.

So the question is, is dairy good or bad for you?

Dairy foods are comprised of protein (whey & casein), carbohydrates (sugar – lactose) and fat (saturated fat).
Did you know dairy products assist with weight loss (as long as you choose low/skim options) :O you are shocked, aren’t you?  Dairy foods are high in calcium. High calcium diets will decrease body fat accumulation and preserve the metabolism during diet restriction. So including low fat calcium rich products such as skim milk, Chobani yoghurt, low fat cottage cheese will help prevent a decline in your metabolism while trying to lose weight. Not only does a high calcium intake help with weight loss, so does the branch chain amino acids found in the proteins in the dairy. Protein is thermogenic, which means your metabolism will increase by you consuming it regularly. So dairy foods are high in protein and calcium, so there are two major benefits to its consumption for weight loss.

Where most people move away from consuming milk is when they feel bloated, pained or have diarrhoea from its consumption. Why is this, because we are mammals, we are meant to be weaned off breast milk. However, not everyone suffers from these adverse effects, so why cut it out if it does not hurt you but in reality can help you? So what is the actual digestive issue with dairy?
The majority of the population have an intolerance to the sugar in the dairy product. Milk contains the highest amount of lactose, then yoghurts and soft cheeses. Hard cheese such as parmesan, swiss and cheddar have a very low lactose content.

The easiest way I tend to identify what is the issue, is I ask my client to try a lactose free milk and see what happens. If there is no pain/bloating on the product, it is the lactose that is the issue.
I have written down a breakdown of the majority of milks found available these days that most people have been consuming in replacement of dairy. In order each number stands for calories, grams of carbs, grams of protein, grams of fat and then milligrams of calcium per 200mL of milk.

• Unsweetened Almond milk 40 calories, 2g, 1g, 3g, 200mg
• Oat Milk 59 calories, 6g, 1g, 3g, 7mg
• Skim Milk 71 calories 9g, 7 g, 0g, 250mg
• Goats Milk,101 calories 7g, 6g, 5g, 227mg
• Low fat Milk 102 calories 12g, 7g, 2g, 230mg
• Rice Milk107 calories, 20g, 1g, 2g, 255mg
• Soy Milk 125 calories, 15g, 5g, 5g, 62mg
• Coconut milk 313 calories, 4g, 3g, 32g, 8mg

My main focus when looking at a milk source is the protein, fat and calcium content as I discussed above that protein and calcium are great for weight loss. Fat is also important because again the lower the fat the lower the total calories in the product. You will not find a product much higher in calcium then milk unless the product has been fortified.

So here are my findings:
Almond milk – the lowest calorie, pretty high in the calcium, but no protein. Calcium is fortified into this product. Have a look at the nutritional panel and it will say calcium carbonate was added.

Where skim milk, a few more calories, high in calcium and no fat. Not only that it contains a good source of protein. So in terms of weight loss….it’s GREAT

One product I would like to point out is coconut milk. Super high in calories, almost no protein or calcium. In terms of dairy looks like and what you are trying to replace, coconut milk is probably the worst option. Especially if you are trying to lose body fat. It is 4.5 times the amount of calories!

So in conclusion, my tips are, if you can do it, go for skim cow’s milk, if not reduced fat. However if you feel bloated or have abdominal pain, choose a lactose free product (I like liddels or try zymil). If this still does not work for you, try unsweetened almond milk. However depending upon what you are consuming it with, you will need to supplement it with some other source of protein. E.g. eggs, protein powder, alongside a meat product.

Dairy is not bad for you, so please take the thought out of your head! You just need to learn what is the best option for you! Why remove something that has good nutritional benefits if you do not suffer any adverse reactions to it. Plus its cheaper!


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