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Dairy in Detail

Tick Dietitian Sarah Goonan suggests ways to boost your calcium intake.

Dairy is under the spotlight following Fonterra’s launch of ‘3 Dairy A Day’, a nationwide campaign that encourages calcium intake of New Zealanders. Core milk and milk products (including reduced fat milk, cheese and yoghurt) are an excellent source of calcium and other essential nutrients. It is estimated that in New Zealand, 59% of adults and 65% of children do not get enough calcium in their diet. Let’s take a look at what dietitians have to say about this.

Last year, a group of dietitians took part in a survey on dairy intake in New Zealand. Seventy eight percent felt that Kiwis do not consume enough dairy.  Here are some of their suggestions on why this might be:

  • Lack of awareness of the importance of calcium
  • Misinformation about dairy products
  • Cost
  • A dislike of the taste of milk

Taking a closer look at each of these points, here are a few tips to help boost your intake of this important nutrient.

1. A lack of awareness of the importance of calcium
Calcium offers numerous health benefits, in particular, maintaining strong bones and teeth. A diet low in calcium is a risk factor for osteoporosis, a disease that leads to weakening of the skeleton and increased risk of fractures. Our calcium requirements vary depending on age and gender. Calcium is also present in a range of other foods, including canned fish with bones, fortified breakfast cereals, nuts (such as almond and brazil nuts) and green, leafy vegetables. However, you would need to eat a lot more of these foods to get the same calcium as you do from milk and milk products.

2. Misinformation about dairy products
Have you ever heard that milk causes mucous? Or, dairy products are fattening? Despite strong science to support the health benefits of dairy, there are still some commonly held misconceptions about this food group.

The fact is, there is no evidence to suggest that dairy increases mucous production, nor does it cause allergies or asthma. The Ministry of Health recommends we have at least two servings of low or reduced fat milk or milk products per day. Keep an eye out for Tick approved products in the dairy aisle at your supermarket - this will help you make healthier choices quickly and easily.

3. Cost
When buying dairy products, the food bill can add up. Try using powdered milk in cooking and baking, it’s economical and you will never taste the difference. Keep an eye out for supermarket specials and stock up when you can - milk and cheese are fine to store in the freezer until you need them.  

4. A dislike of the taste of milk
If you don’t like the taste of milk on its own, try boosting the flavour by whipping up a fruit smoothie.

Just remember, reduced fat dairy products should be consumed in moderation as part of a varied, healthy diet. With two to three serves of dairy a day you will be well on your way to achieving your recommended calcium requirements!