In recent days there is much talk in the media and social networks about the fact that dairy products are essential in a healthy diet or not. It is clear that milk and its derivatives are rich in nutrients such as calcium or vitamin D, especially important for bone health, but does this make it mandatory to take them in our day to day? We analyze what food guides and nutritionists tell us about this controversy.
The studies that we have available to date have not been able to give a firm ruling on whether milk and milk are beneficial or harmful to our body. Most of these studies give us inconclusive results on the subject, so that not even the scientific community agrees on these terms.
What we do know is that milk consumption has been drastically reduced in our country in recent years : in 2015 it had already fallen by 15%, decreasing by 5% in 2015 and reaching 27% today. This may be due to a current of thinking that is committed to the elimination of dairy products from the diet, and also due to the growing number of diagnoses of lactose intolerant people.
In the last few days a media campaign has appeared that urges us to take at least three dairy products a day . It is a campaign promoted by INlac and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture and the European Commission to “stop the fall in the intake of dairy products”, according to The Confidential informs.
Is it then a pure marketing campaign or are the essential dairy products in our diet?
The reasons to include dairy products in our diet
Milk is a food with a large amount of nutrients that can be accommodated in our diet. Among other things milk consumption makes a good contribution of minerals : calcium (between 120 and 125 milligrams per 100 milliliters of milk, depending on whether it is whole, semi or skimmed), phosphorus (about 100 milligrams per 100 milliliters of milk) and potassium (between 145 and 150 milligrams per 100 milliliters of milk). In addition, it also offers proteins of high biological value (approximately 3 grams of proteins per 100 milliliters of milk).
Milk also provides vitamins such as vitamin A, related to growth and vision, and vitamin D, important to ensure the absorption of calcium in our body.
Milk and dairy products have traditionally been associated with correct growth and bone health, with special emphasis on their consumption at certain ages in which this issue is more of a concern to us, such as childhood and adolescence (when we are still growing). and menopause in the case of women (when osteoporosis is common).
As we have said, milk and dairy products provide us with vitamins and minerals that can contribute to the health of our bones and our growth, but does this make them essential?
Other alternative sources of calcium and vitamins
Milk and dairy products could be essential if they were the only source of these minerals and vitamins in our diet. Not only is this not the case, but we also have other easily accessible foods (which can be found in any market or supermarket and locally produced) that contain greater amounts of these micronutrients than milk.
In the case of calcium, which seems to be the star mineral of milk and dairy products, there are many foods that contain it in greater quantity than milk: 100 grams of watercress contain 220 milligrams of calcium (almost double what is contained in the milk). same amount of milk), 100 grams of chickpeas contain 145 milligrams of calcium and 100 grams of pistachios contain about 135 milligrams of calcium. Here is a list of a few other foods that have more calcium than milk.
As for vitamin D, which helps us to fix calcium, there are also many foods that contain it in a greater proportion than milk: a large number of fish, including salmon, sardines, conger eel or palometa, plus from other sources such as cod liver oil.
We must also bear in mind that there are many people, including vegans, who do not consume milk or dairy products and live a healthy life : dairy products are not essential for a healthy diet.
Does this mean I do not have to drink dairy?
No: we can drink milk and dairy as long as they do not feel bad and that they are to our liking. The nutritional guidelines of Harvard University include a maximum daily dairy consumption recommendation of two servings.
It is also worth remembering, as Sánchez points out in the same interview, that nowadays we tend to understand “dairy or dairy derivative” not only as milk, but as ultra-processed products that we find in the supermarket and that are rarely healthy : smoothies, ice cream with milk base, sugary dairy desserts (custards, yoghurts …) and even industrial pastries that contain the claim “rich in calcium” or “contains calcium” as a healthy statement.
If dairy products are not a problem for our body, if we feel good (we are not lactose intolerant or have no allergies ) and if we like them, we can include them in our diet always looking for healthy sources (whole milk, plain yogurt, fresh cheese ) and knowing the recommendations based on science.