Studies have linked dairy foods to good bone health, better blood pressure, and protection from cancer. Newer research links the dairy-food connection to weight loss and diabetes prevention, and the advantages of probiotics, or good bacteria, found in cultured products. How much truth is there to these claims?
Milk is a nutrient-dense food with a low glycemic index. Milk and yoghurt are rich in protein; vitamins A, D, B12, and riboflavin; and minerals that many adults are deficient in calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
While there’s no doubt about dairy’s status as a nutrition superstar, the jury is still out on some of the more recently publicized benefits. Here’s some help to sort it all out.
Calcium and vitamin D may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes. Vitamin D and calcium may have direct effects on the pancreatic beta cells to enhance insulin secretion. There may be beneficial effects on insulin resistance, but the mechanisms are not clear.
Though it isn’t proved that dairy foods can help you lose weight or lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, we do know they keep your gut healthy, your bones strong, and your blood pressure down. Those are reasons enough to include dairy in your daily food choices.
You should aim to consume three servings of dairy products a day. When selecting milk and yoghurt, your best choices will be products low in fat and made without added sugar. Try 1 cup of fat-free or 1 per cent milk, or 6–8 ounces of nonfat plain or light yoghurt daily.
Probiotics (from the Greek word meaning ‘for life’) are in the spotlight. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help to process our nutrients, produce important vitamins, support our immune system, and help keep our digestive tract healthy,
Good bacteria are added to pasteurised milk or cream to change some lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid, giving these products a tangy taste, different texture, and health benefits. Yoghurt, acidophilus milk, and cultured buttermilk belong to this family.
Manufacturers may add additional good bacteria, such as Lactobacillus or Bifidobacterium, to yoghurt. Such probiotics may help lessen or prevent antibiotic-induced diarrhoea. They also may help people with lactose intolerance. Kefir, similar to yoghurt, is another cultured milk product rich in probiotics and often is recommended for those who experience heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux, and urinary tract yeast infections.