Myth: Milk causes mucus (and other dairy myths)
Fact: Milk seems to attract more than its fair share of myths. This is unfortunate as it puts people off eating enough dairy foods when we know they are an important part of a healthy diet. One of the most common myths is that drinking milk causes mucus. When this has been studied in controlled conditions it has not stood up to scientific scrutiny. The thin coating you feel in your mouth is temporary and a result of the creamy texture. By the same faulty logic, chocolate and shortbread are “mucus-forming” yet no-one is blaming them. The other old chestnut is milk causes asthma, yet diet only affects 2.5% of people with asthma and milk is rarely the cause. The real triggers are allergens such as house pollen and dust-mite, respiratory infections and exercise.
It is also commonly believed that lactose intolerance is very common. In fact, an Australian review estimated that lactose maldigestion affects as few as few as 4% of adult Caucasians. But figures are thought to be higher among people of Chinese or Asian origin and Aboriginal people. African-Americans are also thought to have a greater prevalence. However even people with lactose intolerance can digest small amounts of lactose (like the amount in a glass of milk) without symptoms, especially if consumed as part of a meal. The amount of lactose in yoghurt is much lower because the bacterial cultures break-down the lactose. Hard cheese has negligible lactose. For the super-sensitive there are lactose-free milks and yoghurts available. Having said all this, there are those with milk allergy who must stay well-away from anything dairy-based or they become ill, however this unfortunate group makes up less than 1% of the adult population.
Milk and dairy foods are considered a core food – they even have their own food group. This is because they are nutrient dense and provide a package of nutrients that are not found in the same amounts in other foods. Dairy foods provide a bunch of essential nutrients including protein, calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, riboflavin and vitamin B12. They have a low GI and help lower blood pressure when consumed in a diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits. While whole milk, yoghurt, ice cream and cheese contain quite a whack of saturated fat, choosing reduced-fat and low-fat options gives you all the nutritional benefits without the clogged arteries. Most of us should aim for 2-3 serves a day as part of a healthy diet.