Did you know dairy products provide our bodies with over 10 essential nutrients?
Dairy foods provide a unique package of more than 10 essential nutrients important for healthy blood, nervous and immune systems, eyesight, muscle and nerve function, healthy skin, energy levels and growth and repair in all parts of the body.
Calcium is only one of the essential nutrients dairy foods provide. Calcium is essential for building and maintaining strong bones. Calcium combines with other minerals – like phosphorus – to form hard crystals that give bones their strength. Because the human body can’t make calcium, it must come from the foods we eat.
If you don’t eat enough calcium-rich foods, calcium will be taken from the bones to be used for other body functions, and over time bones will become weak and brittle, leading to a disease called osteoporosis.
Milk, cheese and yoghurt provide a convenient and readily absorbable source of calcium that contributes around 60% of the calcium in the Australian diet.
The table below identifies the key nutrients found in dairy foods and the role they play in our bodies.
|Vitamin A||Essential for healthy eye sight
Important for growth (particularly in children)
|Vitamin B12||Helps to keep blood healthy
Assists in the formation of nerve cells
|Riboflavin||Helps release energy from food
Helps cells to function properly
|Calcium||Essential for strong bones and teeth
Needed for normal muscle and nerve functioning, and may assist in controlling blood pressure
|Potassium||Assists with blood pressure control
Important for nerve impulse transmission
|Magnesium||Important component in bone structure
Essential for energy transfer around the body
|Zinc||Aids wound healing
Essential for normal growth and development in bones, the brain and many other parts of the body
|Phosphorous||Forms an important part of the mineral structure in bones and teeth
Works with B vitamins to release energy from food
|Carbohydrate||Provides energy for the body|
|Protein||Needed for growth and development as well as repair to damaged body tissues
Forms part of many enzymes and blood components, and is essential for maintaining muscles
Diets restricting dairy foods are not generally suitable for growing children and adolescents as they provide an important source of calcium, protein, vitamins and minerals.
If you suspect a milk allergy in your child, seek confirmation from your medical practitioner. If allergies are diagnosed by a doctor and dairy foods must be avoided, an Accredited Practising Dietitian can advise you on alternative sources of calcium.
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and avoid dairy foods, make sure you include adequate amounts of calcium-fortified alternatives and seek advice from your health professional on meeting your calcium needs.