Dairy Nutrients

Many people know that dairy foods are high in calcium, which is important for building and maintaining strong bones. However calcium is just one benefit of eating dairy foods. Dairy foods also provide a unique package of over 10 essential nutrients which provide a wide range of benefits.
Three serves of dairy should be consumed every day as part of a balanced diet to get the calcium and other essential nutrients your body needs. One serve of dairy is equal to:
  • 1 glass (250mL) of milk;
  • 1 tub (200g) of yogurt; or
  • 2 slices (40g) of cheese.
In more recent years, there has been rising interest in the health benefits that food can provide. Research has identified a number of components in dairy foods that offer potential benefits over and above their basic nutritional value. Evidence to support such exciting possibilities is growing every day.


Whey protein is a high-quality protein derived from cow’s milk. Whey has traditionally been a by-product of cheese making; however, it has become a valuable food ingredient in its own right based on a growing weight of evidence. Whey protein contains a high amount of essential amino acids (the building blocks of protein which the body cannot make itself) which makes it more nutritionally desirable compared to many other protein sources. Further research, including human clinical trials, is expected to increase our understanding of its health benefits.


Casein is the other major type of protein found in dairy foods. Casein can be broken down to a number of smaller proteins (peptides) which have been shown to have specific benefits.


While excess fat in the diet can have negative effects on our health, we still need a certain amount of fat in our diet to perform important functions in our body. Fat provides the structure for our cells, protection for our nerves and delivers fat soluble vitamins such as vitamins A and D and essential fatty acids. Approximately 30% of our energy should come from dietary fat. Dairy fat is made up of a mix of saturated (62%), monounsaturated (30%) and polyunsaturated (4%) fatty acids.
Dairy fat may also provide additional benefits. New research has identified individual fatty acids with specific biological activity.


Carbohydrate provides the body with energy. The main carbohydrate in dairy foods is lactose. Cow’s milk contains approximately 5% lactose, compared with 7% in human milk. Dairy foods are a truly unique package of nutrients and benefits. Now there are even more reasons to consume 3 serves of dairy every day.
Please see the attachment below for more detailed information about the vitamins and minerals found in dairy foods.
Nutrition Australia acknowledges Dairy Australia as the original author of this resource. 
Published: April 2009
Dairy Nutrients_Printable PDF.pdf190.49 KB


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