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Low Consumption of Dairy Products


Dairy products from a variety of animals, goat, sheep, water buffalo, cow and camel, principally in the form of cheese and yogurt, were traditionally consumed in low to moderate amounts in most parts of the Mediterranean region. The use of small amounts of high-fat, full-flavored cheese grated over pasta is an example of the healthful Mediterranean approach to incorporating these items in a diet that minimizes chronic disease risk. In the early 1960's, per-capita consumption of cheese in Crete was 91 grams ( 3 ounces) a week, with about an additional cup (2.5 deciliters) of milk consumed per day, usually in the form of yogurt. In southern Italy in the 1960's, per-capita consumption of milk was 609 grams per week or the equivalent of about 61 grams (2 ounces) of cheese per week.

In the entire region, very little fresh milk was consumed, and meals were normally accompanied by wine or water. The recent availability of good-tasting, low-fat and nonfat dairy products makes the inclusion of somewhat higher levels of dairy products in the diet possible with little likelihood of adverse consequences. Some full-fat dairy products that may suffer in taste from having their fat removed, such as some cheeses, can be enjoyed on a daily basis in low amounts.

There is insufficient evidence whether the live bacterial cultures of yogurt may have contributed to the traditional good health of the region, but this deserves further research.

Following Mediterranean tradition, butter and cream should be used only in very small amounts or on special occasions. Olive oil is the preferred fat (see note above).

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This page last updated 12/05/2001

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