Research out of the UK has found that a fifth of under-25s are eliminating or reducing dairy in their diet and the trend has some experts concerned.
Despite only 239 of the survey’s 2000 respondents being under 25, the UK’s National Osteoporosis Society suggests that the results reflect a growing influence of internet bloggers and vloggers on dietary advice. According to the BBC, the organisation is concerned that although some of this guidance is good, people can become too restrictive in their eating habits.
“From my experience of working with people, particularly females, I would say many are, for want of a better word, experimenting with alternatives to dairy,” Austin says.
“They might come back to it but they’re sometimes misinformed and are changing for reasons that are actually wrong, they don’t have the correct information.”
Austin says there are plenty of myths about eating dairy, particularly when it comes to weight loss.
"Some people think it will make them gain weight but studies have shown that in weight loss, dairy can satiety value because the protein helps fill you and therefore you’re not looking for more food," she explains.
To name a couple of (many) examples, a British Journal of Nutrition study found that eating a high-protein, moderate-fat cheese snack one hour before lunch resulted in participants eating less for the rest of the day while research in the European Journal of Nutrition associated dairy fat with weight loss.
By completely cutting out dairy people are also missing out on necessary nutrients.
“What is crucial is that nutritionally, alternatives to dairy milk are different,” she explains.
“So if you’re going to not have dairy milk and you’re going to substitute it with an almond or an oat milk you have got to realise that you’re not getting as much protein, you’re not getting enough calcium, you’re not getting enough phosphorus and you’ll need to look for other ways of getting that into your diet.”
Losing these essential vitamins and minerals can have significant health impacts, particularly when it comes to calcium and bone health.
Osteoporosis Australia says the average adult requires 1000mg of calcium per day but less than half of Australians are actually getting that.
Calcium is best obtained through easily absorbable, calcium rich food, and consuming three serves of dairy – a glass of milk (250 ml), a tub of yoghurt (200 g) and a slice of cheese (40 g) – is a simple way to reach your quota.
Other options include canned salmon or sardines (bones included), fortified soy products, fortified cereals, broccoli, mustard cabbage, Bok Choy, silverbeet, cucumber, celery and chick peas. But for the most part these have far less calcium per serve.
“In terms of osteoporosis risk, lots of us don’t meet our calcium requirements anyway, let alone if we are cutting out dairy,” Austin says, “We have to be careful with what we’re cutting out and what we’re replacing it with."
So if you're considering a dairy-free diet? Make sure you're doing it for the right reasons and ensure you're getting the equivalent nutrients.