Debunking dairy food myths

Debunking dairy food myths

by Glenys Zucco, Accredited Practising Dietitian & Accredited Sports Dietician

Puzzled about conflicting nutrition information or advice? In this era of health and nutrition interest we are bombarded with inconsistent messages about what to eat. Dairy is one food group that attracts a number of misconceptions and myths. But before you cut out your favourite brie or daily latte, we help you sort fact from fiction about milk and dairy foods.

Fiction: Dairy foods are fattening

Higher intakes of dairy foods may actually promote weight loss. In a 24-week study of overweight adults, those who consumed a reduced-calorie diet with three to four servings of dairy foods lost a greater percentage of body weight than those in a low dairy intake group. Experts suggest that dairy calcium may accelerate weight loss by decreasing the amount of fat you absorb. Dairy foods such as milk and yogurt are also low-GI and high in protein, which can help keep your hunger under control.

Fact: Milk can aid sleep

Trouble sleeping? Drinking warm milk before going to bed can help you get that shut-eye you long for! Milk contains the amino-acid tryptophan which has been shown to reduce stress and induce sleep.

Fiction: Plant foods are a good calcium alternative

It is a common misconception that vegetables and nuts are a rich source of calcium. Whilst these foods are packed with other nutrients, it is difficult to rely on plant foods to meet daily calcium needs. Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese contain a lot of calcium per serve and this calcium is well absorbed by the body.  Three serves of dairy each day, which is equivalent to a cup (250ml) of milk, a tub (200g) of yogurt or two slices (40g) of cheese,  provides most people with their daily recommended calcium intake. To get the same amount of calcium as one serve of dairy, you 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.

Fact: Milk is the ideal sports drink

Milk is fast earning a reputation as nature’s sports drink. Milk naturally provides fluids for rehydration and electrolytes, including potassium, calcium and magnesium lost in sweat that need to be replaced after strenuous activity. In fact, research suggests milk can restore and maintain hydration status equally as well as or better than, a commercially-available sports drink. Plus it has the added benefit of high-quality proteins and essential vitamins and minerals.

Fiction: People who are sensitive to lactose should cut out all dairy

The good news for people who are lactose intolerant is that you can still enjoy dairy foods!  Most hard cheeses (such as tasty and cheddar) contain virtually no lactose. And yogurt is generally well -tolerated due to the probiotics or ‘good bacteria’ it contains which assist digestion.

Research has also shown that most people with lactose maldigestion can drink up to two glasses of cows’ milk each day without any unpleasant symptoms, if they drink it with a meal and spread it out over the day.

Fact:  Chocolate milk is the perfect post workout snack

Chocolate milk's combination of carbohydrates and high-quality protein has sports scientists touting it as the ultimate recovery drink. The combination of carbs and protein in chocolate milk matches the ratio found to be most beneficial for exercise recovery. In fact, studies have shown that chocolate milk can help refuel exhausted muscles and speed up recovery. And like plain milk, choccy milk contains high-quality whey and casein proteins which have been shown to help build and maintain lean muscle.

Fiction: Dairy food is mucus producing

Despite its many supporters this myth is scientifically unproven. Milk does tend to leave a slightly filmy coating in the mouth but this is the result of milk’s texture but not mucus.

Fact: Cheese is part of a healthy diet

Cheese is often thought of as a bad guy because it is a source of saturated fat. However cheese is jam-packed with goodness: it is an excellent source of calcium for bone health, is high in protein and significantly contributes to vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, phosphorous and zinc intake. If that's not enough, research has found cheese is not the cholesterol-raising culprit it was once believed to be.  Several recent studies have showed that adding three 40g serves of cheese a day to a moderately reduced-fat diet will not raise blood cholesterol levels, which is great news for cheese lovers.

For more information visit


Comment Guidelines: The FOX SPORTS PULSE Network is made up of players, families and passionate sports followers like you who have a strong opinion about sport. That's great - we want you to have your say and share your thoughts with the world. However, we have a few rules that you must follow to keep it fun for all. Please don't be rude, abusive, swear or vilify others. Apart from some pretty serious sport sanctions, we can also ban you and report you if things get out of hand. So play fair and have fun, and thanks for your contribution.

Find us on Facebook