Think you can get away without consuming dairy products? Think again. Dairy products provide vital nutrients. Yet, there are many false beliefs about dairy products, such as dairy products being fattening, causing phlegm build-up or acne. Others simply don’t like the taste of dairy products or find that they cause GI issues. As a result, many people do not consume enough dairy products on a daily basis. However, the importance of milk and other dairy products cannot be overstated. Milk and alternatives should be consumed on a daily basis.
One of the main reasons that it is important to consume enough dairy products is to meet calcium requirements. As most of us know, calcium is important for maintaining strong bones and preventing osteoporosis. For athletes, this helps to prevent stress fractures. Calcium also plays an important role in muscle contraction, nerve conduction and normal blood clotting.
To meet calcium requirements, 19-50 year olds should consume 2 servings of milk and alternative each day. For those over 50 years, 3 servings of milk and alternatives should be consumed each day. Children and teens need even more, with 9-18 year olds needing up to 4 servings per day.
One serving is equal to:
- 1 cup milk or soya milk
- ¾ cup yogurt
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 50 grams cheese
Think back to yesterday. Did you consume your recommended serving of dairy products? Don’t overestimate your intake and the little bit of milk in your coffee doesn’t count! A 100-gram container of yogurt isn’t close to ¾ cup. Most people fail to meet their daily dairy requirements.
Another important reason, particularly for athletes, to consume ample dairy products is that they provide high quality protein. The proteins found in milk are casein and whey. Whey protein has the highest biological value of any protein. This means that it’s highly usable by the body. Whey protein is also a rich source of the branched chain amino acid leucine. Leucine plays a key role in initiating muscle building. This is why it’s recommended to select protein powders that are made from whey protein isolate.
One of the top reasons that people fail to consume enough dairy products is they feel that they don’t tolerate dairy products well due to lactose intolerance. Lactose is a sugar found in milk products. In the gut, an enzyme called lactase breaks down lactose. For those who are lactose intolerant, they don’t produce enough of the lactase enzyme. As a result, lactose isn’t completely broken down, causing GI issues like bloating and diarrhea when dairy products are consumed.
People with lactose intolerance can usually tolerate a little lactose without any issues. One tip is to select lower lactose foods, as not all dairy products contain equal amount of lactose. Yogurt and hard cheeses contain less lactose and can usually be well tolerated. Another option is to select lactose free alternatives like lactose free milk or soya milk. Please note that almond milk is not a good alternative to cows’ milk as it contains minimal protein.
Don’t neglect dairy products. They provide extremely important nutrients. Make sure that you’re consuming at least your recommended number of milk and alternative servings each day. After a hard workout, jump start the recovery process by refueling with a smoothie made with yogurt, cereal with milk or a glass of chocolate milk. Dairy products are truly the perfect refueling and recovery option for athletes.
My June nutrition newsletter will be going out soon so be sure to sign-up. Go to megankuikmanRD.ca, scroll to the bottom of the page and enter your name and e-mail address.