Dairy Food Group: Get To Know About Dairy

Dairy food group

The dairy food group is one of the most consumed food groups around the world. Experts and nutritionists recognized the nutritional benefits of dairy foods. This article will explore the importance of dairy food, the advantages of nutrients that are beneficial for your diet, and how much dairy you should consume.

But, before anything else, it is essential to know what foods are included in the dairy group.

What is Dairy Food Group?

Any food which is made from milk or contains milk comes under the category of the dairy food group. The milk is usually obtained from mammals such as cows, goats, buffaloes, and sheep (1).

This group includes normal milk, low-fat or skim milk, lactose-free milk, yoghurt, cheese, and other products made from milk, such as whey products, cream cheese, ghee, butter, and ice cream.

Although the demand for milk products is increasing, liquid milk is still the most consumed dairy product throughout the world. Worldwide, over 6 billion people consume milk or milk products, and most people from developing countries consume more dairy foods as compared to developed countries (2).

According to a report, worldwide, most fluid milk is consumed in India, where people consumed about 83 million metric tons of milk in 2021. European Union comes second in this list, where people’s consumption of milk was about 23.9 million metric tons in 2021 (3).

Since milk has perishable nature, it has a short shelf-life, which means it can get spoiled easily. Therefore, milk is passed through heat treatment, commonly known as pasteurization/sterilization, in order to reduce the load of harmful microorganisms.

Other dairy-based products are made through different processing methods and techniques, which assist in achieving desired qualities and properties (4).

Importance of Dairy Food Group

Now the real question is why the dairy food group is important for us? The answer lies within the rich nutritional profile of dairy products. In fact, out of 22 essential nutrients, 18 are present in milk. Hence, milk and dairy products are known for their vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, and especially calcium content (5 , 6).

Dairy foods are a rich source of minerals like calcium, zinc as well as iodine. Moreover, protein and various vitamins such as A, B12, B2, and D are found in these foods (6).

Besides, fats are also present in dairy food; however, the content of fats varies in each product, mainly depending on the diet and treatment of the original animals from which it comes. Other macronutrients like carbohydrates (mostly lactose) are also commonly found in milk (7).

It should be noted that nutritional content in dairy foods may vary; for instance, cheese and ice cream have high-fat content and different nutrient composition as compared to whole milk. On the contrary, fat is kept minimum in low-fat or skim milk.

Advantages of Dairy Food Group

The importance of dairy food groups can be examined by the fact that they provide various health benefits. Milk, yoghurt, and cheese are considered part of a balanced diet, which provides various advantages. Some of the most important ones are given as follows.

Benefits for bones

Dairy foods are one of the rich sources of calcium, which can be easily absorbed and utilized in the human body. Thus, it helps in supporting and improving your bone health. Especially in combination with high protein and Vitamin D, the calcium content in dairy ensures the maintenance of strong bones.

Interestingly, 2-3 servings of dairy per day are recommended in order to achieve a suitable amount of calcium and lifelong bone health. In addition, the bone density of the body can be improved by dairy foods, therefore, reducing the risk of osteoporosis (8).

Reducing the risk of obesity

Dairy foods, when combined with a reduced calorie diet, have the potential to lower fat mass and enhance lean body mass. That simply means dairy improves body composition, thus decreasing the risk of obesity (9).

Reducing blood pressure

In fact, a suitable dietary intake of low-fat dairy with fruits and vegetables can reduce blood pressure in patients with high blood pressure. Most importantly, this could be as effective as some medications in reducing blood pressure (10).

Reducing the risk of diabetes

Scientific research showed that dairy foods group, such as yoghurt, can be important in reducing the risk of diabetes, especially Type 2 diabetes. However, this effect may be different from one dairy product to another. Yogurt, in this scenario, is especially helpful due to the presence of unique composition of probiotics (11 , 12).

Reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases

Dairy foods like low-fat products may contribute to decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Probiotics, which are an essential part of fermented dairy foods like yoghurt and kafir, are helpful for health as they enhance the good bacteria in the intestinal tract and could reduce the risk of heart diseases (13).

How Much Dairy Should You Consume?

The debate on the importance of dairy food groups raises the question of how much dairy is sufficient for us. Before this, you should understand the concept of servings in dairy. It should be noted that milk, yoghurt, and cheese are mostly recommended for a healthy diet. Accordingly, one serving from a dairy group is equivalent to the following:

1 cup of milk (250mL)
Two slices of hard cheese (about 40g)
¾ cup of yoghurt (which is equal to 200g)
1 cup of soy milk (enriched with calcium), rice, or cereal milk (with a minimum of 100 mg of calcium per 100 mL) (14).

The dietary recommendations from USDA guidelines suggested that daily dairy consumption of children and adults should be as follows:

For Children aged 2-3 years = 2 Servings of low-fat, skim milk, yoghurt, cheese, and fortified soy beverages.
For Children aged 4-8 years = 2.5 servings
For adolescents (9-18 years) and adults = 3 servings (15).

However, the amount of dairy you should eat also depends on your height, weight, gender, age as well as level of physical activity. This amount can also vary for women if they are pregnant or breastfeeding.

It is also necessary for babies up to 12 months of age to drink either breast milk or formula, and they should not consume milk from cows or other mammals. Moreover, alternative dairy can never replace milk for children under the age of 24 months (14).


The importance of the dairy food group is quite evident from its beneficial nutritional aspects, such as the presence of calcium, vitamin, minerals, protein, and carbohydrates. Mostly, dairy foods are associated with positive health effects; however, one should be aware of the occurrence of lactose intolerance.

Nevertheless, dairy foods are important for a healthy balanced diet, and if you are able to tolerate dairy products, they are really enjoyable. Moreover, it’s easy to consume dairy foods.