Milk and dairy products




Milk and its derivatives are considered key foods of the Mediterranean diet and for this reason their consumption is strongly recommended, as part of a balanced diet, in all age groups. The food pyramid of the modern Mediterranean diet elaborated by CIISCAM (Centro International Interuniversity of Studies on Mediterranean Food Cultures) in 2009, and nominated intangible heritage of humanity by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), advises the adult population (18-65 years) to consume 3 portions ( 125 grams per serving) of milk and yoghurt per day With such a level of daily intake, milk is able to meet almost half of an adult's calcium requirement.

If compared with the milk of other mammals, in fact, cow's milk (cow's milk) is the richest source of calcium (119 milligrams / 100 grams) and is also an excellent source of other mineral salts such as potassium (150 mg / 100 g), phosphorus (93 mg / 100 g) and sodium (50 mg / 100 g).

Furthermore, the calcium contained in milk and dairy products is easily assimilated by the body.

Fat in milk

Fat in milk

The fats contained in milk are a good source of energy, especially for younger children, and also contain many vitamins such as vitamins A, D and those of group B.

However, many of the fat in milk and dairy products are saturated fats and for older kids and adults to eat too much fat, especially if saturated, can bring an excessive amount of calories (energy intake), cause of overweight or obesity, can increase blood cholesterol levels and the risk of cardiovascular events such as, for example, heart attacks or strokes (read the Hoax).

If, after consulting the doctor, there is a need to reduce the fat content of the diet, you can consume low-fat (skimmed), semi-low-fat (partially skimmed) or 1% fat milk. They contain the same nutrient content (the content of some vitamins decreases) but have lower amounts of fat; skimmed milk is the one that has the least.

All dairy products, from yoghurt to dairy products, to fresh cheeses, to mature ones, contain a certain amount of fat indicated on the nutritional labels.

Different fat and salt content in cheeses

Not all cheeses have the same fat content (lipid content): most, including Parmesan, Brie, Emmenthal, Provolone contain from 20 g to 40 g of fat per 100 grams of food; others have an average lipid content such as mozzarella produced with cow's milk (cow's milk) which contains about 16 grams; still others, including ricotta, cottage cheese and quark contain very few (from 0.5 to 9 grams of fat per 100 grams of product).

In addition, some cheeses may have a high salt content (more than 1.5 grams of salt per 100 grams of product is considered a high content) and should be consumed with caution as they may contribute to blood pressure. To know the fat and salt content of the various cheeses it is important to always read the information on the nutritional labels.

Dairy products in pregnancy

Dairy products in pregnancy

Dairy products are very important sources of calcium in pregnancy because they help the formation and development of the unborn baby's bones.

However, some cheeses and other dairy products should be avoided during this time as they may harm the baby or cause serious illness.

First of all, during pregnancy, milk should only be drunk if it was first pasteurized, i.e. subjected to pasteurization, heat treatment capable of killing microorganisms dangerous to health without altering its nutritional characteristics and flavor.

Furthermore, pregnant women should not drink sheep's and goat's milk, even if pasteurized, nor eat their derivatives; should avoid soft cheeses containing mold (blue) such as, for example, roquefort and gorgonzola, and soft cheeses such as brie, camembert and the like, both pasteurized and unpasteurized, because they may contain high levels of listeria, a bacterium that can cause miscarriage or serious illness in the newborn. Cheeses that are considered safe in pregnancy are ricotta, feta, mozzarella or hard cheeses, such as parmesan or cheddar.

Dairy products in children

Dairy products in children

Milk and dairy products are an important part of a child's diet. They are a good source of energy, proteins and vitamins and minerals such as, for example, calcium which promotes the health of the bones and teeth of children and growing young people.

The Ministry of Health recommends exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of the baby's life; if this is not possible, infant formula should be used, the only valid alternative to breast milk for the first 12 months of life.

Cow's milk should not be given as a drink during the first year of life as it does not contain the right amount of nutrients; however, during this time, children can consume foods that contain it as an ingredient, such as cheese sauces or custard.

After the first year, the consumption of pasteurized whole milk and the dairy products that derive from it is, on the other hand, recommended. The calcium requirement of children between the ages of 1 and 3 is approximately 350 milligrams (mg) per day. About 300 milliliters (ml) of milk can cover this need. Low-fat types of milk are not suitable for such young children as they may not provide the right amount of energy and vitamins.

After two years of age, babies can gradually switch to semi-skimmed milk, as long as they have a varied and balanced diet. Skimmed milk or 1% fat milk is not recommended until the child is at least five years old; in fact, they do not contain enough calories and vitamins such as, for example, vitamin A.

Like cow's milk, sheep's and goat's milk are also not suitable for children under one year of age because they do not contain the right balance of nutrients.

Milk classification

Milk classification

After milking and its collection at the barn, the milk intended for food consumption is generally cooled to + 4 ° C and transported within 48 hours to the plant where, in a short time, it undergoes some technological treatments that have the objective to guarantee its wholesomeness, improve its shelf life and digestibility, with the exception of raw milk, intended directly for consumption, without undergoing any heat treatment.

On the market today it is possible to find various types of packaged milk that differ from each other in terms of nutritional characteristics and qualities and for the heat treatment undergone which also influences the methods of conservation.

Type of milk

Heat treatment

Conservation times

Raw milk



Pasteurized milk

Temperature pasteurization 72 ° C for at least 15 "

Short (6 days)

Microfiltered pasteurized milk

Temperature pasteurization 72 ° C for at least 15 " + microfiltration

Medium (10 days)

UHT long-life milk *

Temperature treatment ≥121 ° C for 2-4 "

Long (90 days)

Heating the milk to boiling temperatures significantly impoverishes its nutritional qualities while the UHT (Ultra High Temperature) treatment, which uses high temperatures (121 ° C) but only for a few seconds, does not greatly change its composition (they decrease some heat-sensitive vitamins) but changes their organoleptic characteristics, that is to say the flavor. The pasteurization temperature (72 ° C) is such as to minimize the loss of milk nutrients in the face of an important benefit for the consumer: the guarantee of product safety in health terms.

Microfiltration is a simple and natural method by which the milk, before undergoing pasteurization, is passed through a ceramic filter with small holes so as to retain over 99% of the microorganisms responsible for the deterioration of fresh milk. The nutrients, on the other hand, pass through the filter because they are very small.

The microfiltration treatment, therefore, allows for a milk that has the same quality and the same nutritional and organoleptic properties of fresh milk but which is kept longer.

Intolerances and allergies

Intolerances and allergies

Milk and dairy products are good sources of important nutrients and should not be eliminated from the diet without first talking to professionals in the field such as your family doctor, pediatrician, dietician or nutritionist. However, the consumption of milk in predisposed individuals can cause unwanted reactions that include:

  • Lactose intolerance, occurs in individuals who are unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar found mainly in milk and dairy products
  • allergy with milk proteins, known as IgE-mediated milk allergy, can cause allergic reactions within minutes of consuming cow's milk
In-depth link

In-depth link

NHS. Milk and dairy in your diet (English)

Council for Agricultural Research and Analysis of the Agricultural Economy (CREA). Guidelines for healthy eating 2018

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