A position statement on dairy
Posted by kathryn in Uncategorized
It’s a topic guaranteed to get people commenting.
Recent comments and discussion got me thinking – that it was time to write a longer post on my attitudes to dairy
Dairy as a natural food
People regularly comment to me that full fat dairy is more natural than low fat.
It’s something that makes me slightly uneasy. While it’s technically true, I think we run the risk of romanticising dairy. It’s important to remember that what we buy from the supermarket is quite different from what comes out the cow.
In the Western world milk undergoes two stages of processing, before it’s sold to consumers: pasteurisation and homogenisation.
In pasteurisation, milk is heated for a short period of time, to destroy bacteria and microbes. It’s a safety measure to prevent illness, but also has the benefit of prolonging milk’s shelf-life.
The second stage of processing is homogenisation, where milk is forced at high pressure through a tiny nozzle onto a hard surface. This process forces apart the globules of fat which are found in milk. This stops the fat from aggregating together, separating out and forming a layer of cream at the top of the container. It means the final product we buy is more even, more . . . homogenous.
Low fat versions are made by centrifuging the milk prior to homogenisation. This seperates out the fat, enabling it to be skimmed off the top.
Structural changes in dairy
During this processing, milk undergoes several structural changes. For example:
- Pasteurisation inactivates enzymes that naturally occur in milk
- Homogenisation changes the way fat exists in milk. It breaks the large globules into smaller units, which are held apart by proteins.
- Skimming milk removes the fat soluble nutrients – this includes Vitamin A and the carotenoid antioxidants.
Full fat vs skim milk
If you’re consuming reduced fat milk products you are missing out on some of the vitamins and antioxidants available in the full fat versions.
Despite this, I still support and recommend many clients use reduced fat milk products.
In nutrition, as with many areas of life, there are trade-offs. Compromises to be made. Between the best diet imaginable, and what is practical and do-able for individuals.
In my ideal world everyone would be eating a variety of different foods. People would balance out their vegetarian and meat proteins. Five serves would be considered a laughable minimum intake of vegetables. People would avoid KFC because they didn’t like the food.
And in my ideal world dairy would be just one of multitude of foods we ate during the week.
But that’s not the current situation here in Australia. Our diet is too high in fat, particularly saturated. Most people consume too many kilojoules for their activity level. The majority don’t get anywhere near the recommended intake of fruit and vegies.
And our diets are dominated by a small number of foods – wheat, dairy and red meat. These are what most people consume every day. These are the foundations of most peoples’ diet.
Given that, I think there is a place for reduced fat dairy in many people’s diets. Despite the reduced amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. Despite the extra processing. Changing the intake of this foundation food can change a person’s diet for the better.
Yes, it’s a compromise. It’s not my ideal. And yes I would ultimately prefer people to reduce their over-reliance on dairy. It’s why on this blog I talk about more unusual ingredients like tahini and barley. It’s also why I advocate variety as a fundamental dietary concept.
But while I’m plugging away at getting people to make these big changes to their diet, switching to reduced fat dairy is a practical, realistic change that most folks can do now. And I’m satisfied with that.