Dairy foods and calcium and cancer risk
Dairy foods such as milk, yoghurt and cheese are a rich source of dietary nutrients. They provide a good source of dietary calcium and contain protein, vitamin A, vitamin B 12, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, riboflavin and zinc.
Dairy foods have health benefits which include:
- reducing the risk of bowel cancer. Calcium taken as a supplement may also reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer.
- contributing to stronger bones and teeth.
- reducing the risk of heart disease.
- helping to manage weight.
How do dairy foods protect against bowel cancer?
As the risk of bowel cancer reduces with higher intakes of calcium rich foods, it is thought the high calcium content and lactic acid producing bacteria may provide protection. Other bioactive factors present in dairy products may also provide protection, however more research is needed.
How much should I eat?
Cancer Council supports the Australian Dietary Guidelines, which encourage people to eat at least two and a half serves of dairy foods (milk, yoghurt and cheese) or alternatives each day. Cancer Council encourages people to choose reduced fat varieties.
What is a serve of dairy?
One serve of dairy equals:
- 1 cup milk
- 200g yoghurt
- 40g hard cheese (roughly the size of a matchbox, or 2 slices)
- ½ cup ricotta cheese
For those who prefer to avoid dairy products, it is recommended that alternatives foods that are either a source of calcium or have added calcium are chosen.
The following non-dairy foods are equal to a serve of calcium:
- 1 cup calcium fortified soy or rice milk, or other cereal beverage with at least 100mg added calcium per 100mL
- 100g (about ½ cup) almonds
- 60g sardines or ½ cup (100g) pink salmon with bones
- 100g firm tofu
Read more information on milk, yoghurt, cheese and their alternatives food group.
Easy ways to include dairy foods in your diet
Practical and healthy ways to increase the intake of dairy foods in the diet include:
- Enjoy a berry smoothie made with reduced fat milk and berries.
- Drink a glass of low fat milk for a snack.
- Enjoy a bowl of high-fibre cereal at breakfast with low fat milk and chopped fruit.
- Make ice blocks by freezing milk or yoghurt on a stick. Blend with fruit for greater variety.
- Choose desserts made with milk e.g. rice puddings, custard pudding, junkets, milk jellies, jelly whips.
- Add skim milk powder to cake mixtures, soups, mornays, mashed potato, casseroles and sauces.
- Try a healthy banana split pot.
- Use low fat yoghurt as a dip with vegetable sticks.
- Have a fruit salad and top with low fat yoghurt.
- Try serving minty yoghurt dip as an accompaniment to lamb or Indian flavoured dishes.
- Choose a tub of low fat yoghurt as a snack.
- Make your own toasted sandwich or open melt with low fat tasty cheese and fillings such as chicken and asparagus or grilled vegetables and pesto.
- Cook a vegetable lasagne or pasta bake and top with grated low fat tasty cheese.
- Crumble feta cheese over a salad like this Moroccan lentil salad.
- Slice low fat tasty cheese into cubes and serve with rice crackers as a snack.
- Bake potatoes in the oven and stuff them with vegetables and grated low fat tasty cheese.
- Add a cheesy sauce to vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli mac n cheese.
- Include low fat tasty cheese in an omelette.
- Make a pizza with wholemeal Lebanese bread and top with lots of vegetables and some mozzarella cheese.