The latest science There’s a lot to recommend milk, cheese and other dairy products – if your body can handle them. In populations where milk consumption’s been historically high (that’s most of Northern Europe) lactose intolerance is rare, and if tossing a half-pint into your whey doesn’t produce any side effects, it’s probably worth doing. You’ll benefit from a host of nutrients and amino acids.
If you are intolerant, it can be tougher, but there are options. The fermented milk drink kefir, probably available in your local corner shop, gives you the same nutrients alongside probiotic benefits for the gut. In fact, the only thing you won’t get from a glug of the white stuff is the one you’ve probably been told about the most: recent study reviews suggest that milk doesn’t actually help to maintain calcium levels in bones or reduce the risk of fracturing them. Still, you can skip the food intolerance testing – if you feel good on dairy, stick with it.
The expert take “Dairy products are often avoided due to the fear of saturated fat, but they’re so nutrient-dense that it makes sense to include them in your diet in moderation,” says James Rutherford, a nutritionist and Bio-Synergy ambassador. “Dairy products are excellent sources of calcium and vitamins, which support muscle function. Potassium, magnesium, vitamin A and a host of B vitamins – crucial for energy metabolism – are also provided through dairy sources, before you even mention that they are a great source of protein. Dairy foods such as yogurt that contain bio-active live cultures provide probiotics that enhances the good bacteria in the gut, essential for digestive processes and nutrient absorption.”
Do eat French cheeses – think Comté, Reblochon and Beaufort – which studies suggest can help maintain the diversity of your gut microbiome, thanks to their diverse populations of microbes. Greek yogurt, too – it’s high in vitamin B12 and calcium, and packs 10g of protein per 100g.
Don’t eat Processed cheese, which is boiled and treated with emulsifiers so it can be kept for longer via added preservatives, and fat-free fat yogurt, which typically adds sugar or artificial sweeteners to make up for its taste deficiencies.