How about milk and cheese for snack today? Kids will usually jump on this suggestion. These dairy foods are indeed loved by many.
We, humans, are the only species that consume milk beyond infancy despite the fact that many of us develop lactose intolerance. Thus, the mammary product of other animals, especially cattle, goats, and sheep are used. This popular white liquid of cows is further processed into the cream, butter, yogurt, ice cream, and especially, cheese. Cheese is actually concentrated milk. Dairy products contain protein, fats, carbohydrates, lactose, vitamin A, B including B12, D, and K; calcium, magnesium, potassium, iodine, selenium, and water.
Milk and Cheese Health Benefits versus Health Risks
1. While dairy calcium has a greater bioavailability than calcium from certain vegetables, such as spinach, its bioavailability is equal to or lower than calcium from kale, broccoli, or other vegetables in the Brassica genus.
2. Studies on the health impact of dairy product consumption show contradictory results.
- Some found conjugated linoleic acid in dairy products to be preventive of atherosclerosis, different types of cancer and hypertension.
- The trans-palmitoleic acid is thought to be able to greatly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
- Some other claim improvement of immune function, muscle growth and post exercise muscle recovery.
3. On the other hand, some studies indicate that large dairy product consumption may elevate the risk of certain health problems or diseases:
- Cow milk allergy (CMA). This is an adverse reaction to one or more cow’s milk proteins.
- Casein, a dairy protein, breaks down in the stomach into casomorphin, an opioid peptide. It may cause or aggravate autism spectrum disorders.
- Parkinson’s disease, Crohn’s, Hirschsprung’s and Behçet’s disease.
- High calcium intake is correlated with prostate cancer.
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has warned pregnant women against soft-ripened cheeses and blue-veined cheeses, due to the Listeria risk, which can harm the fetus or lead to miscarriage.
Research data that contradict each other may cause great confusion to the laymen. It takes a long time for the scientific community to settle their disputes by obtaining rock solid data to draw the final conclusion over an issue. Before that happens, a sound principle to adopt for the preservation and optimization of our health is moderation on everything, even the healthiest food.
Food is not just something we consume for nourishment. It intertwines with our culture and custom, family tradition, childhood experience, past memories and much more. All these factors should be considered other than scientific data.
As for me, I won’t purchase dairy products for family consumption. But when there’s nothing else to eat when I’m away from home, I would sometimes have pizza, bread sticks or other foods that contain dairy products. I won’t freak out nor feel guilty about eating them.
If you really have difficulties giving up milk and cheese for your unique personal reasons, and yet worry about their health risks on you and your family members, try the following strategies:
- Use them alternately with the nondairy substitutes (commercial or homemade).
- Mix the dairy and nondairy versions to reduce the amount consumed.
- Start feeding children with the nondairy substitutes to educate their taste buds.
- Avoid flavored milk for sugar is added to it.
When you do use milk and cheese as snacks, the following guidelines will help reduce their risks:
- Avoid eating them by themselves in large quantity.
- Use dairy sauces and dips sparingly. Opt for the skim or low-fat versions.
- Mix in fresh fruit or fruit juice to increase the disease-fighting components.
- Add the milk to whole grain cereal.
- Add the cheese to salads.
Bottom line, government guidelines suggest that milk and cheese is rich in nutrients. They are low-fat, calcium rich products that are essential for heart health, bone health and help protect against type-2 diabetes. Just avoid full-fat diary products as it increases the risk of coronary heart disease.