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Dairy Food Myths

Many favourite foods, including dairy, attract unwarranted criticism. The information provided in this fact sheet outlines the truth behind many of the myths associated with eating dairy foods.

Dairy foods include milk, cheese and yogurt and provide at least ten essential nutrients including:
  • protein;
  • carbohydrate;
  • vitamins (A, B12, and riboflavin); and
  • minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and zinc).
Three serves of dairy foods a day will provide the recommended daily intake of calcium for most people. One serve is equal to one glass (250ml) of milk, a tub (200g) of yogurt or two slices (40g) of cheese.
Avoiding or removing dairy foods from your diet may mean you miss out on your recommended dietary intake of many vitamins and minerals essential for good health, particularly calcium.
Before removing dairy foods from your diet, you should seek advice from a health professional such as your General Practitioner or an Accredited Practicing Dietitian.   

MYTH - ‘Milk causes mucus’

  • Numerous studies show that milk DOES NOT cause mucus production.
  • Some people may experience a thin, temporary coating over the mouth and throat after drinking milk. This is often mistaken for mucus but is simply milk’s natural creamy texture. This is not harmful and the sensation lasts for only a short period of time.
  • Too much mucus is typically caused by things such as infection, dry air, dehydration and certain medical conditions.

MYTH - ‘Milk causes asthma’


  • Milk is rarely a trigger for asthma.
  • Common triggers for asthma include allergens such as house dust mites and pollens, viral infections and exercise.
  • Foods, drinks and food chemicals affect less than 2.5% of all people with asthma.
  • The National Asthma Council recommends that people  with asthma should eat a nutritious diet from a wide variety of foods, including milk and other dairy products.
  • Research in preschool children suggests dairy foods may actually reduce the risk of becoming asthmatic.

MYTH - ‘I have to stop eating dairy foods if I want to lose weight


  • A weight loss diet should still include dairy products to help meet nutrient needs. There are many low fat dairy foods available, such as skim milk, low fat yogurt and reduced fat cheese.
  • Getting enough calcium and other essential nutrients is difficult if dairy foods are not included in the diet.
  • In addition research suggests that if you normally have a low intake of dairy foods, including 3 serves of dairy in a calorie controlled eating plan may help you achieve greater weight loss.

MYTH - ‘If you take calcium tablets you don’t need milk’


  • Milk is not only an excellent source of calcium, but also a good source of protein, carbohydrate, riboflavin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc. A calcium tablet won’t provide all these other nutrients that dairy foods add to the diet.

MYTH - ‘Toddlers should drink low fat milk’

  • The Australian Dietary Guidelines advise that reduced fat milk is not suitable for children below two years of age. For children below the age of two years, milk fat is an important source of energy as well as fat soluble vitamins.
  • The fat content of milk becomes less important as children move from infancy into childhood because other foods are eaten that contribute fats and oils to their diet.
  • The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend the use of reduced fat milk for children older than two years, when it is part of a varied diet. Skim milk may be used as a drink for children from the age of five years old. This should not prevent the use of skim milk in family meals, such as custard and ice cream, for children older than two years.

MYTH - ‘Those who have difficulty digesting lactose (lactose intolerance) should avoid milk and other dairy products’


  • Dairy foods do not need to be eliminated from the diet if you have lactose maldigestion (difficulty digesting the carbohydrate lactose in milk).
  • Most people with lactose maldigestion can drink up to two glasses of milk a day without symptoms of intolerance, if they are consumed at separate meal times.
  • Those who suffer from lactose maldigestion can usually eat cheese and yogurt. Most cheeses contain virtually no lactose and yogurt contains good bacteria that help to digest lactose.

MYTH - ‘Drinking milk can cause kidney stones’


  • Milk may actually help protect against the formation of kidney stones (made up of salts called oxalates).
  • The calcium in milk binds to oxalates in food so that they can no longer be absorbed by the body, reducing the risk of kidney stones

MYTH - ‘Eating dairy foods cause acne’


  • Science does not support a link between acne and dairy foods.
  • The American Academy of Dermatology and the Australasian College of Dermatologists state that acne is not caused by diet. Other factors such as skin type, genetics, hormones, and exposure to environmental pollutants are more likely to be involved.
  • Eating a healthy balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and low-fat dairy foods will ensure your skin gets all the nutrients it needs.

Dairy in your diet

Excluding a major food group, such as dairy foods, from your diet without advice from a General Practitioner or Accredited Practising Dietitian can result in nutrient deficiencies and may put your health at risk. So consume three serves of dairy every day to obtain the unique package of ten essential nutrients dairy foods provide.
Nutrition Australia would like to acknowledge Dairy Australia as the original author of this resource.

Published: April 2009

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