Dairy nutrition

The following information is brought to you by the many Australian nutrition professionals who regularly contribute to the Nutritionists Network ('Nut-Net'), a nutrition email discussion group.

Do low-fat and skim milk contain the same level of calcium and other nutrients as whole milk does?
 
Lower-fat dairy foods, including milk, generally have less calories and fat than regular dairy products, but are just as nutritionally sound. In fact, many of the lower-fat milks provide even more calcium than whole milk does. You will also get a similar amount of other bone friendly nutrients – like protein and phosphorus – from lower-fat milk.
 
Can a glass of milk before bed help you sleep?
 
Drinking warm milk with sugar or honey before going to bed in the evening can help you sleep better. Milk gives the body a boost of the amino-acid tryptophan, whilst the sugar added causes insulin to be released.  Insulin helps the tryptophan enter the nervous system where it is transformed into serotonin, a neurotransmitter that aids sleep.
 
Does long life milk contain the same nutritional benefits as fresh milk?
 
Like fresh milk, long life milk is a rich source of a number of essential nutrients including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin, zinc, vitamins A and B12, magnesium, carbohydrate and protein. Nutrient losses that occur during the production of long life milk are minimal. However, when compared with fresh milk, long life milk has slightly lower levels of thiamine, vitamins B12 and B6 and folate.
 
How can someone with lactose intolerance ensure that they get enough calcium?
 
It should be easy for those with lactose intolerance to obtain sufficient calcium, particularly due to the fact that most people are able to eat hard cheese (which contains virtually no lactose) and yogurt (which contains natural cultures that assist lactose digestion). Research has shown that even small amounts of milk within a meal should be well tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
 
Many people self-diagnose lactose intolerance. It is important to see a doctor for a proper diagnosis if you suspect you may be lactose intolerant.
 
Why is calcium so important for bone health?
 
Calcium is essential for building and maintaining bones. Adequate calcium is needed to help achieve optimal bone mass early in life and can help prevent bone loss later in life, thus reducing the risk of fractures. In the body, calcium combines with other minerals (like phosphorus) to form hard crystals that give bones structure and strength. In fact, 99 per cent of calcium in the body is found in bones and teeth.
 
Our bodies cannot make calcium; it must therefore be obtained from the diet. If dietary calcium intake is too low, calcium is released from the bones into the bloodstream as needed. When this happens, bone strength is reduced, and the risk of developing brittle bones and sustaining a fracture is increased. 
 
Can calcium from nuts and vegetables replace calcium from milk?
 
It is a common misconception that vegetables and nuts are a rich source of calcium. Whilst these foods are packed with other nutrients,
research has shown that is difficult to rely on plant foods to meet daily calcium needs.
 
Dairy foods (like milk, yogurt and cheese) are the richest source of calcium in the Australian diet. Three serves of dairy each day provides most people with their recommended calcium intake. A serve of dairy is equal to a 250mL glass of milk, a 200g tub of yogurt or two slices (40g) of cheese.
 
To get the same amount of calcium as one serve of dairy, one would need to eat 32 Brussels sprouts, 21 cups of raw chopped spinach, 11 cups of diced sweet potato, 6 cups of shredded green cabbage, 5 cups of cooked broccoli or 1 cup of dry roasted almonds.
 
Can’t I just get calcium from a supplement?
 
It is always best to get your nutrients from food. Each food provides a range of nutrients in a natural setting, rather than a limited and artificial mix of vitamins and minerals as found in a supplement. For example, whilst a calcium supplement provides calcium, a glass of milk provides calcium – as well as at least nine other nutrients (like protein, magnesium, phosphorous, zinc and potassium which are all important for bone health). And of course, food always tastes better than a supplement!
 
Should I give my child whole or low-fat milk?
 
Low-fat diets are not recommended for children under 2 years of age. Babies and young children grow very rapidly and need the fat supplied in whole milk, cheese and yogurt, to provide the energy they need for growth and development. Reduced-fat milk can be introduced after two years of age.
 
Which dairy products are gluten free?
 
In general, gluten free dairy products include full cream milk, low-fat milk, evaporated milk, powdered milk, buttermilk, condensed milk, fresh cream, plain ice-cream, block or processed cheese, cream or cottage cheese and some custards.

Some yogurts and dairy desserts can contain gluten due to the use of thickening agents. Dairy products that most likely contain gluten are malted milk, some cheese spread, and ice-cream in a cone.

It is always best to read the label or contact individual manufacturers to confirm the absence of gluten.

 
Is milk high in fat?
 
No! It is commonly misconceived that milk is high in fat, when in fact, on average, the fat content of milk is less than 3.8 per cent (3.8g fat per 100ml milk). This is much less than most people think. Moreover, reduced-fat milk typically contains 1.4 per cent fat whilst skim milk contains a tiny amount – less than 0.1 per cent.
 

Please see the attachment below for printable information about dairy nutrition.