The 3 most common questions about dairy

By Christina Ross, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

Here are the 3 most common questions I get asked about dairy and my answers…some of which may surprise you!

“Is low-fat better than full-fat?”

This answer depends on your health goals. Although current nutrition guidelines advise opting for low-fat dairy, emerging research suggests that the saturated fat in dairy may not be as detrimental to heart health as other saturated animal fats. Given this, you might like to opt for a full-fat option, particularly if you find it more satisfying. However, full-fat dairy will contribute additional calories to your diet, so if you are looking to lose weight, a low-fat yoghurt would be a better choice.

“Is low-fat dairy full of sugar?”

Dairy naturally contains lactose, the sugar found in milk, so you can expect at least 4-7g sugar per 100g. When comparing full-fat and low-fat, the sugar content may appear higher in the low-fat option as the fat has been removed – so as a percentage, the sugar content appears greater. The best way to know for sure is to scan the ingredient list – if sugar isn’t listed, there isn’t any added sugar in the product. When it comes to yoghurt, most plain natural yoghurts will not have extra sugar added, however the same cannot be said for flavoured low-fat yoghurt, some of which can be quite high in sugar.

“Are dairy alternatives suitable replacements?”

Dairy is a fantastic source of protein and calcium, and possibly probiotics (beneficial gut bugs) if we’re talking about yoghurt, so any replacement should provide comparable amounts of each. Depending on the brand of the substitute, this may not always be the case. For example, soy and almond milks need to be fortified with calcium to provide a comparable quantity to their dairy equivalents, so be sure to check the nutrition information. Another common non-dairy option is coconut yoghurt, however this is lower in protein and can be much higher in fat than dairy-based yoghurt, so nutritionally it’s not a like-for-like substitute.

If you are looking to non-dairy alternatives due to lactose intolerance, nutritionally you are better to opt for a lactose-free milk, yoghurt or cheese, as you will still get the protein and calcium that is naturally found in dairy products.

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