Is dairy the new carbs?

Dr Nick Fuller
Leading Obesity Expert at the University of Sydney and founder of Interval Weight Loss.

For decades – ever since the Atkins revolution in the 1970s - we have been told that carbs are the devil. But, there’s a new culprit to hit the scene – dairy! Social media influencers are trumpeting dairy-free and vegan health fads and it’s having serious consequences. 

A greater number of young adults are risking calcium deficiencies and long-term bone health issues because they mistakenly believe dairy products will make them fat. 

New research shows that 90% of teenage girls and 50% of boys are calcium deficient. And that 2 in 3 children don’t get enough dairy.

There is no doubt that processed carbs are somewhat of a baddie, but giving up dairy without a good reason to do so will cause your health to suffer. 

Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Weight

Research has clearly documented that those who include more dairy products in their diet have lower body weights and better able to manage their weight than those who don’t include them. We still don’t have a controlled trial telling us whether skim is better than full-fat for our waistlines, so until we do, we should stick to skim dairy and base it on milk and yoghurt products. It has the same nutrition - calcium and protein - as the full fat variety with half the calories.

Cheese is better left on the shelves and reserved for special occasions due to the way we typically consume it in Australia – before meals and as an entire meal. The majority of us will relate to the all too common scenario where we get home from work and reach for anything we can get our hands on. Cheese and wine are often high on the list, only to end up eating an entire day’s calorie intake in one afternoon sitting.

2. Bone health

Calcium is critically important for bone health. It is needed to prevent osteoporosis - to build strong bones in our younger years and to maintain bone strength in adults. Without it, our bones become weak and are more prone to fracture. 

The richest source of calcium is dairy, and it’s also a bio-available source of calcium meaning this nutrient is highly absorbed in the body. 

If you are avoiding dairy products, it is essential to include suitable dairy-free alternatives. Calcium-enriched soy products are the next closest nutritionally complete alternative. Avoid all of the other cleverly marketed fads such as almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk and oat milk, which simply don’t match up for nutrition. 

3. Heart health

Those who include milk and yoghurt in the diet have better heart health than those who don’t – they’re less likely to develop heart disease or die from it. And it doesn’t matter if it is full fat or no fat. All that matters is that you include it, and every day.

4. Blood pressure

Hypertension- high blood pressure – is one of the biggest killers across the globe and it affects 1/3rd of the population. Dairy products contain many other important nutrients beyond calcium, such as vitamin D and potassium, which help to keep our blood pressure in a healthy range. 

5. Teeth

99% of the body’s calcium supply is stored in the teeth and bones to support their structure and function. A diet devoid of calcium is going to result in poor dental health and increased chance of tooth loss.

Cutting out dairy is only going to make you fatter and put you at risk of disease and other nutrient deficiencies. If you are excluding dairy for particular reasons, it is important to ensure you are getting enough of this important nutrient from dairy-alternatives and foods such as tofu and almonds.

About Dr Nick Fuller

Dr Nick Fuller is the founder of Interval Weight Loss and is a leading obesity expert at the University of Sydney with a Ph.D. in Obesity Treatment. Dr Fuller is also the author of three best-selling books and his work been published in top ranked journals in the medical field, including JAMA, Lancet and American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.