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Dairy Products

Milk and its products, such as Yogurt, and cheese constitute major dairy products. They are considered to be the main dietary source of calcium, which is an essential element for good health and bone and teeth density, particularly in children.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the daily recommended calcium intake is 500 to 1300 milligrams for children, 1000 milligrams for adults, and 1200 milligrams for older people. These amounts could be obtained with approximately one serving of dairy product per meal.

Dairy products
Fresh milk and its products.

List of dairy products along with the illustration of their nutrition facts and health benefits:

american cheese slices
American cheese
Brie cheese
cheddar cheese
colby cheese
Cottage cheese
Cream cheese
Cream cheese
feta cheese
Halloumi cheese
Milk nutrition
mascarpone cheese
muenster cheese
parmesan cheese
provolone cheese
ricotta cheese
swiss cheese
Swiss cheese/a>


Milk is the nourishing liquid produced by the mammary glands of female mammals. While cow's milk is the most commonly consumed, sheep, goat, buffalo, and camel milk can also be utilized.

Cow's milk and dairy products enjoy widespread consumption in the United States, Canada, Western and Northern Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.


Buttermilk is a clear white liquid with a tart flavor that separates from cream during butter production. It can also be produced by fermenting skim or low-fat milk with a lactic acid culture.

Buttermilk has a thinner consistency than cream and naturally separates into two layers when left undisturbed. The lighter layer consists of whey, while the heavier layer contains curdled casein in fine lumps.


Cream is the fatty portion that rises to the surface of non-homogenized milk during the initial stages of butter production.

Sour Cream: Sour cream is intentionally cultured to achieve a sour flavor. It is made from pressurized cream cultured with bacteria, resulting in a smooth and consistent texture.


Butter is a concentrated form of milk composed entirely of fats. It is a semi-solid, fatty substance with a smooth, greasy texture produced by churning cream.

Butter is primarily derived from cow's milk, containing 80% milk fat. It is graded based on factors such as flavor, texture, color, and salt content, similar to milk.


Yogurt is a fermented dairy product made by inoculating milk from cows, goats, sheep, or buffalo with bacterial cultures that convert lactose into lactic acid. The milk coagulates to form yogurt once enough lactic acid is produced.


Cheese is a product obtained by coagulating and draining milk, cream, or a combination of the two. The characteristics and nutritional value of cheese vary depending on the type of milk used (cow, goat, sheep, buffalo) and the production method (fresh or ripened).

Cheeses are typically categorized based on their firmness:

Fresh cheeses are curdled through the action of lactic acid bacteria. They are unripened and should be consumed promptly. Examples include cottage cheese, ricotta, mascarpone, and Petit Suisse. These cheeses are generally low in fat (1-10%) but can become higher in fat and energy when cream is added (as in the case of cream cheese, which contains 34% fat).

Soft cheeses undergo a relatively short ripening period, during which they are drained and molded. Fats make up 20-26% of the cheese's weight. The fermentation process begins on the surface of the cheese and gradually progresses towards the center.

Soft cheeses are divided into two categories.

  1. Bloomy rind cheeses feature a delicate, velvety layer of mold on their surface, exemplified by varieties such as Camembert, Brie, and Coulommiers cheese. While this rind is edible, its strong taste may prompt some to remove it.

  2. Washed-rind cheeses, on the other hand, are subjected to light brine washes during their production, resulting in cheeses like Livarot, Munster, Bel Paese, and more. These cheeses are characterized by their subtle flavor and robust aroma.

Semi-firm cheeses are uncooked, pressed cheeses that undergo an extended aging process. Examples in this category encompass Cheddar, Cantal, Gouda, Edam, Monterrey Jack, Tilsiter, and others. They possess a denser consistency and a pale yellow interior.

Firm cheeses, also known as hard cheeses, undergo pressing and cooking. Varieties such as Emmental, Beaufort, Parmesan, and Romano may or may not have a hard rind. The interior texture is generally firm but can occasionally be quite grainy, as seen in the case of Parmesan and Romano.

Blue cheeses are crafted by breaking the curd into pieces, molding, draining, salting, and then fermenting with molds. The fermentation process commences from the interior and progresses outward, forming a network of blue-green veins that intensify with time. These cheeses offer a sharp, peppery flavor and an exceptionally crumbly texture.

Health benefits of Milk and its products

  1. Milk and its derivatives hold a significant role in promoting overall health and well-being. Milk, renowned for its abundance, affordability, and rich nutritional content, serves as an essential food source, providing an excellent supply of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

  2. Dairy products offer a comprehensive nutritional profile, containing all the necessary amino acids and essential fatty acids that facilitate muscle growth, especially in children.

  3. Milk's protein content is notably high in the amino acid lysine, making it a valuable supplement when combined with cereal grains, nuts, and seeds.

  4. The carbohydrate composition of milk primarily consists of lactose, constituting 97% of its carbohydrates. However, much of this lactose is transformed into easily digestible lactic acid through processes such as fermentation, as seen in yogurt, cheeses, and buttermilk.

  5. Derived from milk, dairy items naturally serve as an abundant source of calcium. Calcium plays a crucial role in ensuring proper dental development, supporting the function of heart cells, nerves, and muscles, promoting bone growth, and contributing to the prevention of conditions like osteoporosis, potentially colorectal cancer, and hypercholesterolemia.

  6. Beyond calcium, dairy products also boast an impressive content of B-complex vitamins, including riboflavin, pyridoxine, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin-B12, magnesium, and zinc.

  7. In addition to their calcium content, dairy items are rich sources of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

  8. Natural grass-fed cow's milk stands out as a potent source of vitamin-A and β-carotene, with β-carotene responsible for the characteristic yellow hue seen more prominently in butter.

  9. It is worth noting that, for the general population, the absence of dairy products, particularly milk, from the daily diet increases the risk of deficiencies in calcium, riboflavin, vitamin-D (when fortified in milk), and Vitamin-B12.

Buying and storage

Milk and dairy products hold a significant position in the culinary traditions of numerous countries, particularly in the Western world. Cow's milk is typically available in various forms: pasteurized, homogenized, and, in certain cases, sterilized, including whole, reduced-fat, skimmed, evaporated, and powdered varieties. Always be sure to check the use-by date indicated on the packaging.

When selecting cheeses, opt for those with a uniform color and texture that aligns with their respective types. They should be soft, creamy, and exhibit an even coloring, avoiding options that appear desiccated or possess off-flavored, chalky white interiors with hard rinds.

Below are some guidelines for proper storage:

  • It is essential to pasteurize milk by boiling and cooling it before consumption.

  • Avoid leaving milk, cream, and soft cheeses exposed to room temperature. However, some solid cheeses may tolerate temperatures ranging from 4 to 30°C without a significant risk of microbial contamination.

Serving ideas:

Milk plays a significant role in the culinary traditions of many countries, particularly in Western cuisine.

  • Milk can be enjoyed as a beverage or used in various culinary applications. It serves as an essential ingredient in the preparation of both delicate and hearty dishes, including soups, sauces like béchamel, cakes, pastries, and desserts such as flans, custards, sweet dishes, purees, and some savory dishes. Additionally, milk is transformed into yogurt and cheese.

  • Yogurt is consumed as is or incorporated into cooked dishes. It can enhance the flavors of soups, salads, meats, poultry, fish, pasta dishes, desserts, and flavored beverages. Yogurt also plays a foundational role in both hot and cold soups, and it contributes to making cold sauces for grilled skewers. It is often used for marinating and tenderizing meats, poultry, and game, and it holds a prominent place in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine.

  • Cream finds its specialty in coffee vinaigrettes, soups, sauces, omelets, sweet desserts, and digestive beverages.

  • Butter is a versatile ingredient employed in sauces, pastries, creams, and soups. It serves as a fundamental component in cooking, spread on bread and toast, and used in sandwiches.

  • Cheese serves as the primary ingredient in desserts or as a stuffing and topping for meats and vegetables. It is a staple in savory dishes such as salads, sauces, soups, pizzas, pasta dishes, fondues, soufflés, cheese sandwiches, and omelets, as well as in sweet treats like cakes, pies, and donuts.

  • One type of cheese can be substituted for another within the same category. Cheese can be enjoyed at the conclusion of a meal or as an appetizer, often accompanied by wine.

  • For blue cheeses, select varieties with varying numbers of veins, depending on your preference. These veins should be evenly distributed throughout the cheese's interior, which is typically white and should not be overly crumbly, dry, or excessively salty. Always check the "use-by date" on the packaging and avoid cheeses that have been left at room temperature for extended periods.

Safety profile

Lactose intolerance, a condition characterized by the inability to digest lactose due to a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, can lead to various gastrointestinal discomforts such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, and cramps. Reduced-lactose milk products, with a 90% reduction in lactose content, are readily available in the market.

Oxytocin and bovine somatotropin (sometribove or rBST) hormones are frequently used to stimulate increased milk production in cows. Residues of oxytocin in milk can potentially cause hormonal side effects in humans.

Milk is generally lacking in iron and vitamin C, making it important for infants and young children to receive iron supplementation to prevent iron deficiency anemia, as detailed in this iron deficiency anemia resource.

Cheeses, including cheddar, have high tyramine content. If an individual taking Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) medication like Phenelzine (Nardil) consumes cheese, they may experience a severe medical emergency known as a "hypertensive crisis," characterized by symptoms such as severe headache, sweating, nosebleeds, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, blurred vision, shortness of breath, and confusion. Immediate medical attention is necessary, and individuals should continue following a low-tyramine diet for several weeks after discontinuing these medications.

When seasoning dishes, it's important to consider that cheese, especially blue cheeses, tends to be salty, with its saltiness often intensifying during cooking. Please refer to our medical disclaimer for additional information.

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Further Resources:

  1. US Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. (pdf-opens in new window).

  2. Bovine somatotropin. (opens in new window).

  3. Vitamin D for Milk and Milk Alternatives.. (opens in new window).

  4. Queensland Governament- low tyramine diet..