Heart patients may benefit better from dairy

Dairy is an essential part of your daily dietary consumption. Dairy includes milk, cheese, butter, yoghurt and cream. The daily recommended levels of dairy consumption in Sri Lanka is 1-2 portions but the average adult only consumes 0.39 daily. A Sri Lankan study conducted on public health nutrition indicates that one third of the population does not consume dairy products at all while only 5% takes the recommended levels.

Why is dairy important?

It contains Calcium that is necessary for healthy bones while milk provides proteins, vitamins and minerals for your body. Insufficient dairy consumption may increase your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases (CVD) and osteoporosis. Low dairy consumption can affect insulin resistance syndrome. Adults who consume two or more servings of dairy daily indicate 22% lower risk of heart disease, 34% lower risk of stroke and also a 23% lower risk of death caused by heart diseases. However, less saturated fats and nonfat or low-fat milk, yoghurt and cheese with fewer calories are recommended.

Potassium and Sodium are essential minerals. Most of the Sri Lankans consume a higher quantity of Sodium and a lower quantity of Potassium, which do not adhere to recommended levels. Higher sodium intake leads to hypertension and related illnesses while Potassium found in milk, fruits and vegetables is beneficial for healthy blood pressure.

Are you a high BP patient?

High Blood Pressure (BP) can lead to severe health complications. According to NHS.

  • High BP
  • 140/90mmHg or higher
  • 150/90mmHg or higher (above 80 years of age)
  • Ideal BP – 90/60mmHg to 120/80mmHg

Cholesterol is a fatty substance created in your liver. Your body needs cholesterol as it makes Vitamin D and steroid hormones in order to keep your bones, teeth and muscles strong. It enables you to digest fats.

Knowing your LDL and HDL values will allow you to understand your cholesterol levels:

  1. LDL Cholesterol (low density lipoproteins) – Known as bad cholesterol as high levels of this in your blood causes heath issues as it can build up in the arteries, clogging them. This makes it harder for the heart to pump blood, causing high BP. 
  2. LDL takes cholesterol to the cells where it is needed.
  3. HDL Cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) – Known as good cholesterol as it is made up mostly of proteins and very less cholesterol therefore helps to keep you healthy. It takes cholesterol back to the liver where it will be broken down to enable the body to get rid of it.

Ideal levels of HDL cholesterol for women is higher than 1.2mmol/L while for men it is higher than 1mmol/L. Women tend to have higher HDL levels compared to men. Pregnancy and menopause can raise cholesterol levels.

Higher LDL can lead to heart attack or stroke.

How to lower LDL?

  • Diet – Reduce simple carbs such as sugar and white flour, and high saturated fats while you consume more fibre and plant sterols
  • Exercise – Target weight loss
  • Stop smoking
  • Medicines – Consult your doctor to keep your cholesterol levels under control

Which types of dairy is right for you?

Recommended dairy consumption is as follows:

  • Those with high cholesterol should opt for low-fat unflavoured milk, yoghurt and cheese. It is advised to use fish, olives, seeds, nuts and oils as primary sources of fat despite including dairy in your diet.
  • Unflavored milk, cheese and yoghurt are healthy choices for snacking, especially when you also have adequate intakes of vegetables, wholegrain and fruits.
  • Dairy such as butter, cream, ice cream and dairy-based desserts are not healthy for you therefore avoid consuming these if you have high LDL levels (dyslipidemia).
  • 2-3 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy for adults per day. This includes fat-free or low-fat milk, milk powder, buttermilk, yoghurt, frozen yoghurt or drinks made with milk and cocoa.
  • For cheese, low-fat such as dry curd or cottage cheese, natural cheeses or processed cheeses (all made with nonfat or low-fat milk).

Alternate sources of Calcium during a low-fat diet:

  • Orange and dried fruit
  • Sardines, pilchards, tinned salmon and whitebait
  • Sesame seeds and nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts and brazil nuts
  • Breakfast cereals with Calcium
  • Bread and foods made from white, brown and wholemeal flour
  • Milk alternatives such as rice milk, oat milk, soya milk and soya yoghurts

Pay special attention to your dairy intake as high blood cholesterol leads to heart problems. Follow proper guidance to distinguish between dairy that is safe for you to consume and those that you should avoid. Ensure adequate levels of healthy milk foods are included in your regular diet.

Do you have your own story to share about using dairy products as a heart patient? Let me know. Write to me on [email protected]


Jinadasa, K. Food_consumption_of_Sri_Lankan_adults_An_appraisal_of_serving_characteristics. ResearchGate Publications, 2018 August. Link: www.researchgate.net/publication/229074014


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