Most dairy products are produced from the milk of cows, sheep, goats and occasionally from yaks, buffalo, camels and horses.
Cows' milk is an important source of calcium and riboflavin with smaller quantities of other vitamins and minerals. It contains close to 4% fat.
Low fat milks have lower levels of fat and vitamins A and D but the same amount of calcium. Low fat milk should not be given to young children.
Most people of European origin are able to digest milk easily but some people produce little or none of the enzyme lactase that digests the sugar in milk. The undigested sugar feeds bacteria which cause discomfort in the abdomen. If this is the case the quantity of milk in the diet should be restricted. Most children are able to digest milk without difficulty.
Fresh milk and long life milk once opened should be kept under refrigeration for no more than two days.
Fresh milk or dried milk can be used in baking to improve the taste and texture of a wide range of breads, cakes, pancakes, biscuits, soups and stews.
Single cream is 21% fat, whipping cream is 21% fat and double cream is 48% fat. Cream is a good source of vitamin A with smaller quantities of vitamins E and D. Cream is a major component of many sweets and is used as a filling or topping for many other sweet dishes. It should be stored under refrigeration and any dishes using it should also be stored under refrigeration for a maximum of two days.
Cheese is an excellent source of calcium, protein and riboflavin and a good source of most minerals and many other vitamins. It may contain up to 35% fat.
The hardest cheeses such as Parmesan can be stored in a cool place for several years. These are usually grated as a topping on savoury dishes.
Semi-hard cheeses like Cheddar are best kept refrigerated but can be kept in a cool place if allowed to dry out. They make excellent cheeses for savoury cheese dishes.
Softer cheeses like Edam need to be refrigerated. They tend to go very stringy when cooked.
Soft cheeses like Camembert become very soft when ripe and cannot be stored beyond this point.
Cottage cheese contains only 4% fat and must be kept refrigerated and eaten quickly. It can be served with salad or hot as a filling for rolls or pancakes.
Cheese does not give rise to the same digestive disorders as milk as it contains no lactose.
Roquefort cheese contains breadcrumbs and should be avoided.
Always buy natural yogurt and add your own flavourings as sometimes wheat flour is added as a filler to cereal flavoured yogurt.
Yogurt will keep longer than milk and contains lower lactose levels than milk. It is an excellent source of calcium, protein and riboflavin. Like milk it also provides many other nutrients. Yogurt can be eaten on its own, with fruit or jam, or added to bread, cakes, soups and stews, or used to thicken sauces. It should not be boiled.
This is a low fat soft cheese made from skimmed milk. It is a good source of calcium. It can be used in place of cream in many recipes.
This is the almost pure fat component of milk. It gives an excellent flavour to any baking that includes it. Butter is an excellent source of vitamin E.