If you’re drinking almond and coconut milk instead of dairy, listen up.
A recent U.K. survey from the National Osteoporosis Society shows that one fifth of young adults are reducing dairy or going dairy-free, possibly because of fad dieting trends and not necessarily because it’s the advice of a doctor.
But experts warn that cutting dairy could have potential health consequences. Young people may be slashing crucial nutrients like calcium during a period when their body needs it most.
“Diet in early adulthood is so important because by the time we get into our late 20s it is too late to reverse the damage caused by poor diet and nutrient deficiencies and the opportunity to build strong bones has passed,” Susan Lanham-New, head of nutritional science at the University of Surrey and clinical advisor at the National Osteoporosis Society in the U.K, said in a statement.
Dairy-based items like yogurt, milk and cheese are typically the easiest way for children and young adults to get their recommended amounts of calcium and Vitamin D. These vital nutrients help with bone growth and tooth health. The nutrients in dairy also help with cholesterol and blood pressure in adulthood.
Adolescents in the U.S., defined as age 9 to 18, should get approximately 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day, according to the National Institute of Health. The recommended goal is about three servings of dairy daily.
There are plenty of perfectly sound reasons for giving up dairy products, as a lifestyle choice or for physical health. It just means you’ll have to be mindful of incorporating other calcium-rich foods into your diet, such as broccoli and kale or fortified options like tofu and cereal.
Another striking finding from the survey? How young people are making dietary choices. Those under the age of 25 were the most likely to follow health and fitness bloggers on social media, suggesting they may get their nutrition information from these sources.
While there’s nothing wrong with consulting the internet for tips and tricks (hi, readers!), information from the web should never take the place of specific medical advice. It’s always a good idea to ask a doctor about any major diet changes. Even if it’s just cutting back on dairy.