Dairy food group FAQs

This section includes a list of frequently asked questions your patients may raise in a consultation and the related facts.

  • I have lactose intolerance – should I stop drinking milk and eating dairy foods?

    There is no need to miss out on the eight essential nutrients found in dairy foods if you’ve been diagnosed with lactose intolerance. Research suggests people with lactose intolerance can tolerate up to one cup of milk without symptoms, especially if it’s consumed with other food.1

    Some dairy foods are naturally lower in lactose – for example, most hard cheeses contain little to no lactose and the bacteria in yoghurt helps to digest the lactose making it a lower lactose option.2

    Australian dairy producers also make a range of lactose-free milks and yoghurts which you can find in the supermarket.

    See Lactose Intolerance for further information.




    1 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

    2 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

  • Do dairy foods cause stomach bloating?

    There are many causes of stomach bloating and digestive issues. Certain factors can ‘trigger’ attacks including infection, general diet, stress, medications or food intolerance such as impaired absorption of lactose.

    Patients should always seek diagnosis by a reputable health professional before making dietary changes.

  • Is overconsumption of dairy something I should be concerned about?

    Most Australian children and adults actually aren’t meeting the recommended serves of milk, cheese and yoghurt as per the Australian Dietary Guidelines.3 Because of this, they are missing out on essential nutrients including protein, calcium, iodine and vitamin B12 which are important for:

    • • Healthy blood, skin, eyes and energy levels

    • • Muscle and nerve function

    • • Building strong, healthy bones

    • • Growth and repair in all parts of the body.

    The latest research continues to show milk, cheese and yoghurt are not linked to weight gain or body fat gain. 4,5,6

    See the milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced-fat) food group for further information.




    3 Doidge J, Segal L. Most Australians do not meet recommendations for dairy consumption: findings of a new technique to analyse nutrition surveys. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2012;36(3):236-40.

    4 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

    5 Chen M, Pan A, Malik VS, Hu FB. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):735-47

    6 Rautiainen S, Wang L, Lee I, Manson J, Buring J, Sesso H. Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016; published online ahead of print.

  • Are there the same amount of nutrients in reduced fat milk and skim milk as there are in regular fat milk?

    Reduced fat and skim milk are made by simply removing some, or all, of the fat from fresh milk. Nothing else is removed, and nothing is added. 

    As it is a fat soluble vitamin, reduced fat varieties of milk are lower in vitamin A – but levels of the other nutrients in milk remain more or less the same. So, whether you choose regular fat, low fat or skim milk, you’re drinking a natural source of essential vitamins and minerals. 

  • Does long life milk contain the same nutrients as fresh milk?

    When long life milk is heated to a high temperature for a few seconds to extend its shelf life, very small amounts of vitamins, like thiamin, B6, B12 and folate, are lost. Other nutrients are not affected by the process, so long life milk is still a source of the same essential nutrients found in fresh milk – with the added convenience of lasting up to six months unopened on the shelf. 

  • What are the health benefits of dairy foods?

    Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt offer much more than a good source of calcium for strong, healthy bones. They are a natural source of eight essential nutrients – including some that Australians don’t get enough of from their diets, like riboflavin, iodine and magnesium.

    The Australian Dietary Guidelines recognise milk, cheese and yoghurt as foods that are associated with a reduced risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.7

    See the milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced-fat) food group for further information.




    7 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

  • Are dairy foods fattening?

    The latest research continues to show milk, cheese and yoghurt are not linked to weight gain or body fat gain.8,9,10

    The great news is this applies to all varieties of milk, cheese and yoghurt, including regular-fat varieties – so you can include the types of dairy foods you enjoy in your diet every day, without feeling guilty. 

    See the milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced-fat) food group for further information.




    8 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

    9 Chen M, Pan A, Malik VS, Hu FB. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):735-47

    10 Rautiainen S, Wang L, Lee I, Manson J, Buring J, Sesso H. Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016; published online ahead of print.

  • Can you take a calcium supplement instead of drinking milk?

    As well as being a good source of calcium that is easy for your body to absorb, dairy foods provide other essential nutrients that are needed not only for strong bones but to give you energy, help you grow and repair tissue and keep your immune system healthy.

    Supplements might be important for people who have trouble getting the nutrients they need from food or who have increased requirements. Calcium supplements only contain a single nutrient and using them to replace milk, cheese and yoghurt means you don’t get the extra health benefits of eating whole foods, so dietary calcium is the preferred source.11

    The Australian Dietary Guidelines further supports this positioning, stating that calcium from foods may be preferable to calcium from some supplements.

    See Mythbusting for further information.




    11 Ebeling P, Daly R, Kerr D, Kimlin M. Building bones throughout life: an evidence-informed strategy to prevent osteoporosis in Australia. Med J Aust. 2013;199(7 Supp):S1.

  • Can you get the calcium your body needs from nuts and vegetables instead of milk?

    While nuts and vegetables are packed with other important nutrients, it’s difficult to rely on them to meet your calcium needs. Most plant foods don’t contain much calcium, and those that do often contain other substances that can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb it efficiently.12

    Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt are rich in calcium and this calcium is well absorbed by the body. To get the same amount of calcium as one serve of dairy, you would need to eat 32 Brussels sprouts or 21 cups of raw chopped spinach or five cups of cooked broccoli or one cup of dry roasted almonds.




    12 Weaver CM, Proulx WR, Heaney R. Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(3 Suppl):543-8S.

  • Should I give my toddler reduced-fat or full-fat milk?

    It’s recommended you choose full-fat varieties of dairy foods for children under two years old, because they provide extra energy needed for growth.13

    Once children turn two, they can enjoy the same varieties of milk, yoghurt and cheese that you and your family prefer.

    See the milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced-fat) food group for further information.




    13 National Health and Medical Research Council. Infant Feeding Guidelines: Summary. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

  • Which dairy products are gluten free?

    Fresh milk is naturally gluten free. There are gluten free cheeses, yoghurts and other dairy products, but if you need to avoid gluten for medical reasons it’s best to always check the label.

  • Is milk high in fat?

    Milk is not a high fat product – in fact even full cream milk is under 4% fat. Put another way, it’s 96% fat free. Reduced fat and low fat milk is usually 1–2% fat and skim milk is even lower with almost zero fat.

  • Do dairy foods cause acne?

    Acne is not linked to diet, including dairy foods. It’s more likely to be linked to other factors like genetics, skin type, hormones and environmental pollutants.

    Eating a balanced diet that includes foods from the five food groups will help your skin get all the nutrients it needs.

  • Does milk cause mucus?

    There is no scientific evidence of a link between milk and mucus.

    You may experience a thin, temporary coating over the mouth and throat after drinking milk. This is often mistaken for mucus, but it’s actually milk’s natural, creamy texture – and research has shown other liquids of a similar thickness to milk also result in this sensation. It’s not harmful and lasts for only a short period.

  • Do dairy foods trigger asthma?

    It is a common myth that dairy foods are a trigger for asthma, but this is not the case. In fact, enjoying dairy foods as part of a balanced diet might actually protect children against asthma. 

    See Asthma for further information.

  • Will eating cheese increase my cholesterol?

    Cheese can be enjoyed in a well-balanced diet without concern for your cholesterol levels. A number of studies have found that eating cheese does not raise levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol, most likely due to the presence of other nutrients such as calcium 14 and the Australian Dietary Guidelines recognises getting enough milk, yoghurt and cheese in your diet is associated with a lower risk of heart disease.15

    See the milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or alternatives (mostly reduced-fat) food group for further information.




    14 de Goede J, Geleijnse J, Ding E, Soedamah-Muthu S. Effect of cheese consumption on blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Rev. 2015;73(5):259-275.

    15 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

  • Is flavoured milk high in sugar and therefore not suitable for children?

    If your kids like flavoured milk, you can be sure it contains the same eight essential nutrients as plain milk.

    Most flavoured milks available in Australia contain no more than 5% added sugar – this means a 250mL serve contains about two to three teaspoons of added sugar. Most of the total sugar in flavoured milk comes naturally from lactose.

    Research shows kids who drink flavoured milk are more likely to meet their nutrient requirements than kids who don’t, without affecting their weight.16

    See the milk, yoghurt and cheese page for further information.




    16 Fayet F, Ridges L, Wright J, Petocz P. Australian children who drink milk (plain or flavored) have higher milk and micronutrient intakes but similar body mass index to those who do not drink milk. Nutr Res. 2013;33(2):95-102.
  • Is yoghurt high in sugar?

    Most of the sugar in yoghurt comes from the natural milk sugar lactose. In some products it might also come naturally from added fruit. Different brands of yoghurt have different amounts of added sugar, and some may use artificial sweeteners. Natural or plain yoghurts are likely to have the least amount of added sugars, or even no added sugar.

    All yoghurts made with cows’ milk will contain the same nutritious package of vitamins, minerals and protein.

  • What’s in permeate?

    Permeate is a technical term for something that is actually very easy to describe – it’s the parts of milk that are left after the fat and protein have been separated. This includes the lactose (natural milk sugar), vitamins and minerals in milk. 

    Separating milk like this and then adding permeate back into milk, is one way dairy manufacturers can standardise the fat and protein levels in milk and provide a consistent product all year round. There is nothing in fresh milk that is not milk, because permeate comes from milk. Whether your milk contains permeate or is permeate-free, it’s a nutritious product that gives you the eight essential nutrients milk naturally provides. 

  • What’s in milk?

    Grab the bottle or carton of milk from your fridge and check out the ingredients list on the label – chances are it has just one ingredient: milk.

    Fresh milk from the cow is refrigerated and taken to the milk factory where it’s pasteurised (to kill potentially harmful bacteria and extend the milk’s shelf life) and homogenised (to give a smooth and creamy texture). The cream can also be separated at the factory to make reduced-fat or skim milk.

    Unless the milk is fortified with extra nutrients for special health purposes, nothing is added – there’s nothing in milk that’s not milk.

  • What’s in cheese?

    Natural cheese is made from four basic ingredients: milk, salt, starter culture and a source of enzymes called rennet.

    The exact composition of cheese varies from one variety to another.  

  • What’s in yoghurt?

    Yoghurt is made by adding live bacteria to milk, which feed on the lactose in milk and produce lactic acid which ‘sets’ the yoghurt. Unique bacteria known as probiotics may be added for their health benefits. Sometimes fruit or flavourings are added to produce the huge range of yoghurt products you find at the supermarket.

  • What are milk solids?

    Milk solids are everything in milk except the water component. They include the fat, protein, whey, lactose, vitamins and minerals. They are a natural component of milk. 

  • References for this page



    1 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

    2 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

    3 Doidge J, Segal L. Most Australians do not meet recommendations for dairy consumption: findings of a new technique to analyse nutrition surveys. Aust N Z J Public Health. 2012;36(3):236-40.

    4 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

    5 Chen M, Pan A, Malik VS, Hu FB. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):735-47

    6 Rautiainen S, Wang L, Lee I, Manson J, Buring J, Sesso H. Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016; published online ahead of print.

    7 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

    8 Abargouei A, Janghorbani M, Salehi-Marzijarani M, Esmaillzadeh A. Effect of dairy consumption on weight and body composition in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2012;36(12):1485-93.

    9 Chen M, Pan A, Malik VS, Hu FB. Effects of dairy intake on body weight and fat: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Oct;96(4):735-47

    10 Rautiainen S, Wang L, Lee I, Manson J, Buring J, Sesso H. Dairy consumption in association with weight change and risk of becoming overweight or obese in middle-aged and older women: a prospective cohort study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016; published online ahead of print.

    11 Ebeling P, Daly R, Kerr D, Kimlin M. Building bones throughout life: an evidence-informed strategy to prevent osteoporosis in Australia. Med J Aust. 2013;199(7 Supp):S1.

    12 Weaver CM, Proulx WR, Heaney R. Choices for achieving adequate dietary calcium with a vegetarian diet. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;70(3 Suppl):543-8S.

    13 National Health and Medical Research Council. Infant Feeding Guidelines: Summary. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

    14 de Goede J, Geleijnse J, Ding E, Soedamah-Muthu S. Effect of cheese consumption on blood lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutr Rev. 2015;73(5):259-275.

    15 National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Dietary Guidelines, Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia; 2013.

    16 Fayet F, Ridges L, Wright J, Petocz P. Australian children who drink milk (plain or flavored) have higher milk and micronutrient intakes but similar body mass index to those who do not drink milk. Nutr Res. 2013;33(2):95-102.