You want to make sure that your family eats a healthy diet, right? Some foods are obviously healthy and some are obviously unhealthy. Everyone knows that a fresh garden salad provides lots of nutrients, whereas a frosting covered doughnut is clearly not good for you. However, some foods aren’t quite as cut and dried.
Dairy can contribute to a healthy diet, but you have to be mindful about the type and quantity of dairy that you consume. Dairy products offer protein, calcium, and many other nutrients, but they can also lead to digestive upset and contain high levels of saturated fat and sugar. Here are a few pros and cons of dairy products.
Benefits of dairy products
Dairy products are a convenient source of nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein.
Calcium, potassium, and vitamin D are all essential to good bone health. These nutrients ensure proper bone growth and development in children, increase bone density, and help adults maintain bone mass.
A diet that includes the bone strengthening nutrients found in dairy can help reduce your risk of osteoporosis.
According to the USDA, diets that include dairy are associated with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in adults.
Potassium rich diets may also help maintain healthy blood pressure by limiting the effects of sodium.
Negatives of dairy products
Many dairy foods are high in saturated fats. Saturated fats increases low-density lipoprotein (LDL) – or “bad” – cholesterol levels. Higher LDL levels increase your risk for coronary heart disease.
Some people have a lactose intolerance. Those who are lactose intolerant cannot properly digest lactose, which is the sugar found in milk. This can lead to diarrhea, stomach aches, or other gastrointestinal issues.
Many dairy products, such as cheeses, are high in sodium. Sugar is also added to some dairy products — not just ice cream, but also yogurt, frozen yogurt, cheesecake, and other desserts. Milk contains natural sugar, so when more is added to sweetened yogurt, you can end up with a breakfast treat that’s the equivalent of that frosting-laden doughnut.
There’s been a growing interest in raw milk lately. Some claim that raw milk is better for your health because it’s more natural, or because the pasteurization process eliminates health benefits of milk. According to the CDC, unpasteurized milk and cheese can be dangerous, and do not offer significant health advantages.
So, is dairy healthy?
The type of dairy you consume is important. Whether or not dairy is healthy depends largely on the type of dairy you eat or drink.
Check labels for nutritional information and a list of ingredients. Look for dairy that’s low in fat and low in sugar.
Good health – and even a healthy diet – is not determined by one single food group. Dairy can be included in a healthy diet, but you must eat other healthy foods, manage caloric intake, exercise regularly, and avoid unhealthy habits in order to maintain wellness. Regular visits with your doctor is also important to maintaining wellness. Schedule an appointment with a MANA physician today!