The benefits of a single glass of milk

PHOTO: The benefits of a single glass of milk

Unlike in the West, dairy has not traditionally been a staple part of our diet and can become overlooked in our daily eating habits.

Dairy forms one of the five food groups essential for a balanced and healthy diet. By excluding this group completely, people are missing out on vital nutrients essential to maintaining good health.

There are common concerns among the weight conscious that dairy products are fattening, as well as many people believing that they cannot consume dairy due to lactose intolerance.

However, all of these concerns can be overcome once the facts are examined.

The key to enjoying a nutritious and varied diet that includes dairy is all about moderation and making sure that consuming milk, cheese and yoghurt is balanced with other food groups.

A single glass of milk

Strong bones are essential for supporting movement and good posture. However as the ill-effects of weak bones, such as increased risk of fractures, difficulty with day to day movement or stooping are not realised until later in life.

It is easy to forget in our hectic schedules that bones need caring for everyday with the right nutrition.

There are a whole host of hidden benefits that can be realised from a simple glass of milk.

It has high calcium, vitamins and complete protein content. In fact, one glass of milk can provide up to 15 essential vitamins and nutrients.

The invention of fortified milk means that consuming nutrients essential for maintaining strong bones is now never more convenient and easily integrated as part of a healthy diet.

Those looking to reduce the fat content of their diet are still able to benefit from the many nutritional properties dairy offers such as energy, proteins, minerals and vitamins1 due to the variety of low fat dairy products available.

In fact, contrary to popular belief, lowering the fat content in milk actually increases the calcium content - so  you can still get enough calcium a from lower-fat high calcium milk.

Calcium can help you lose weight

Calcium can help you lose weight

Many people know that dairy is good for the body, with calcium being required to build strong bones in childhood and helping to maintain bone strength in adults as well.

It also prevents bone related diseases, such as osteoporosis.

However, few people are aware that calcium can increase the rate at which your body burns fat.

A number of studies have shown a direct correlation between increased calcium and low fat dairy intake and reduced body weight

It is an effective weight management strategy, attributing higher calcium intake to improved metabolic efficiency.

In addition, milk in particular, is also a great food for building muscle. Milk contains high-quality proteins that are quickly broken down into amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream. This makes it an excellent choice to consume after exercise, particularly when aiming to build lean muscle.

Foods for a calcium rich diet

Dairy products and milk have not traditionally been a part of the Asian diet.

A recent International Osteoporosis Foundation report showed that the average dietary calcium intake for adults in Asia was 450 mg/day, well below the FAO/WHO recommended calcium intake of 1000-1300 mg/day.

People who remove dairy products from their diets may have difficulty meeting their daily calcium requirements.

There are many food sources that can be consumed to obtain optimal calcium levels, although some of these may need to be taken in moderate-large amounts:

  • Cheese, especially hard cheeses
  • Yoghurt
  • Calcium-fortified soy products
  • Calcium-fortified cereals and orange juice
  • Fish with edible bones, like canned salmon and sardines
  • Some nuts (chicken cashew stir-fry)
  • Some seeds (sesame chicken with spicy dipping sauce)
  • Dried fruit (dried mangos)
  • Dark green leafy vegetables (Bok Choy).

However milk, in particular high-calcium milks which are fortified with essential nutrients vital for strong bones, are an extremely convenient and effective means by which to fulfill your calcium needs on a daily basis.

Therefore, dairy is an important part of maintaining a balanced diet and one that offers considerable benefits for overall health.

This article was contributed by Joanne Todd, a nutritionist and senior health platform manager at Fonterra.