Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dairy products

Milk, cheese and yoghurt are some of our main dietary sources of calcium, a mineral essential for healthy teeth and bones. Butter, cream and most cheeses (as well as full cream milk and yoghurt) are high in saturated fats, so the semi-skimmed (low fat) is better and the skimmed (fat-free) versions are best.

I occasionally use low-fat cheese spread, and I always buy fat-free cottage cheese. I have tried the fat-reduced cheddar, but I didn’t find it very palatable. I would rather use less of a strong flavoured full-fat cheese, such as Black Crow, for cooking.

Dairy products also supply us with phosphorous and magnesium, as well as good quality protein. Just because the fat has been removed doesn’t mean that the products are any less nutritious. 250ml of low fat milk contains almost 20% of your daily protein and calcium needs.

Cow’s milk is, of course, designed for calves and not for people. The digestive enzyme required for the proper digestion of milk – rennin – is only produced in humans up to the age of about two years. Some children initially suffer with lactose intolerance, though they often outgrow this. Soy milk is a convenient substitute, it has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk but has very little in the way of digestible calcium. To overcome this, most manufacturers now enrich soy milk with calcium carbonate. Soy milk has little saturated fat (about 2%) and no cholesterol.

The South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 400-500ml of milk per day (for adults). 250ml of milk is equivalent to 30gm cheese or 175ml yoghurt. Without even realising it, you probably use at least 125ml of milk in your tea and coffee throughout the day, and another 125 – 250 ml on your breakfast cereal.

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