How Much Dairy Food do Women Over 50 Really Need?
Do any of you remember the days of the milkman? Can you recall the jingle jangle of the milk cart as it pulled up outside your front door, very early in the morning, and the milkman (often with a jolly whistle) would deposit fresh milk at the doorstep?
“One pint or two, Madam?”
Fresh fresh milk, delivered daily, which by the time your Mum had collected it each morning had formed a thick rim of cream on top.
Then there was school milk at primary school. We’d be given our daily dose at morning break. Crates of tiny bottles with silver tops waiting to be distributed by elected milk monitors (Dave was one, I wasn’t) and each and every child had to drink their milk. Compulsory. Free.
At the time I wasn’t always keen especially during summerttime when the milk could be warm and creamy. In winter it was often so cold it was like crushed ice.
But it meant we were getting a necessary part of the dairy requirement our bodies needed each day.
Looking back it seemed a much simpler world we lived in. I’m not saying it was better, but it was different. And living in the country dairy foods played a significant part in our diet because they were deemed good for us.
Now, times have changed, and dairy has been given a bad rap for a number of reasons. In this series of 10 blog posts, we’re going to uncover some myths and look at up-to-date research about the reasons Dairy products are actually really good for most of us, in the correct portions (unless of course you have Doctor’s reasons to say otherwise).
You can read the first post in the series here : The Importance of Dairy foods in your diet
So How Much Dairy is Enough?
As a result of the updated scientific evidence, the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend higher intakes of the dairy food group, for most age groups than previous dietary guidelines.
Current dairy food group recommendations for women over the age of 50 is 4 serves a day and this they say should comprise of milk, cheese and yoghurt.
Here are some quick guides for recommended portion sizes.
- milk 1 cup (250 ml)
- cheese 2 slices (40 g)
- yogurt 3⁄4 cup (200 g)
- ricotta 1/2 cup (120 g)
It’s recommended that more than 50% of intake from dairy foods is reduced-fat varieties.
- 1 cup (250 ml) soy beverage or beverages made from rice or other cereals which contain at least 100 mg calcium per 100 ml.
- Other ways to include enough serves from the dairy food group include:
- 1 cup of fresh, flavoured, UHT long life or reconstituted powdered milk
- 1⁄2 cup (120 mL) evaporated unsweetened milk
Current research suggests that dairy products are nutrient rich, not necessarily linked to obesity, and foods such as milk, cheese and yogurt are one of the five food groups the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend we eat every day. The other four food groups are:
- Vegetables and legumes/beans
- Grain (cereal) foods
- Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds and legumes/beans.
I think as women over 50 we all know that dairy foods have been known for their role in bone health, but research over the last decade has shown that consumption of milk, yogurt and cheese can protect us against heart disease and stroke, can reduce our risk of high blood pressure and some cancers and may reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes. The Dietary Guidelines also recognise that these foods consumed in recommended portions are not linked to being overweight or obesity.
Aussies are not getting enough!
Unfortunately, it seems that many Australians are missing out on the health benefits of consuming milk, yogurt and cheese as they don’t include enough in their diet. Research suggests that 8 out of 10 Australian adults need to increase their intake of dairy foods to achieve the levels recommended by the Australian Dietary Guidelines.
“Once women hit 50, their calcium requirements jump from 1000 to 1300mg per day. This is to help compensate for the rapid decline in the hormone oestrogen associated with menopause causing bone loss,” says Amber Beaumont*. “To reflect this, dairy food group recommendations also jump from 2.5 serves per day to 4 serves per day, which is compensated for from a kilojoule perspective by a drop in grain and lean meat serves.”
Despite this, only 0.5% of women aged 50 – 69 meet these recommendations (New Australian Dietary Guidelines for consumption of Dairy Products). Many women are unaware of the recommendations, or trying to reduce their intake due to misconceptions around weight, cholesterol, intolerances etc.
Or they don’t know how to incorporate that amount of dairy in their day and don’t know what a serve is.
Contrary to popular belief, research suggests that consumption of three to four correct portion controlled daily serves of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, as part of a balanced diet is not linked to weight gain and that including three to four daily serves of these dairy foods within a kilojoule- controlled diet can help accelerate loss of weight and body fat, improve muscle retention and reduce waistlines.
Most people need to cut down on foods that are not found within the five food groups. These foods are called discretionary choices (or junk foods). Examples of these foods include: fried potatoes, cakes and muffins, soft drinks, alcoholic drinks, meat pies, biscuits, cakes, ice cream, high fat take- away items and confectionary. Swapping these foods for milk, yogurt and cheese is one way to increase your intake of the dairy food group.
How to get enough dairy in your daily diet
There are lots of ways we can get more dairy into our diet if we’re not having enough.
- How about having a caffe latte mid morning?
- Switch your sugary breakfast cereal for a bowl of fresh fruit and yoghurt in the morning.
- For lunch, how about a cheese sandwich or cheese salad?
- Dollop a spoonful of yoghurt on your soup, or on a jacket potato in place of sour cream.
- Love a smoothie? Add some yoghurt and milk to fresh fruit and ice cubes.
- Add some parmesan or mozzarella as a topping to your pasta dishes.
- To help you sleep, how about a warm glass of milk before bedtime?
I caught up with lovely Natalie Scott * an Accredited Practising Dietitian who lives in Perth, who kindly agreed to answer some of my questions.
Please can you tell us why Dairy foods are important in our diets particularly after the age of 50?
Dairy foods are a great source of calcium which is an essential nutrient for keeping bones strong and healthy. This is particularly important for women over the age of 50 as after menopause rate of bone loss and thus risk of osteoporosis is increased. Dairy foods are also a great source of protein which helps to fill us up as well at meal times. Protein also plays a role in preserving muscle mass which starts to decrease as we age. This means that our metabolism slows down as we age as muscle burns more energy than fat.
How much do we need on a daily basis?
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that women over the age of 50 consume 4 serves of dairy foods per day. 1 serve is equal to 1 cup of milk, 2 slices (40g) of cheese, 3/4 cup (200g) of yoghurt or half a cup of ricotta. If you are unable to drink cows milk (eg lactose intolerance), 1 cup of soy/rice or other cereal based milk with at least 100mg of calcium per 100mL is equivalent to 1 serve of dairy.
Could you offer 3 easy and healthy ways to incorporate dairy foods into our daily diet?
– You could also add coconut flavored evaporative milk to curries as a healthy alternative to coconut milk or cream.
I’m very grateful to Dairy Australia and the dietitian’s below for their advice and knowledge while compiling this blog post.
* Amber Beaumont is an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) at Dairy Australia and is passionate about educating older women on the health benefits of dairy foods to ensure they achieve their daily recommendations. Amber has over 10 years’ experience working in areas including public health, food industry, community and clinical nutrition. She is also an active member of the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA).
NB: Please seek independent medical advice where appropriate, or advice from a qualified dietitian, before making changes to your dietary intake. The information in this post is intended to be used as a guide only.