What are the most popular dairy products in the world? In this article, we will see 11 of the world's most widely consumed milk products: milk, yogurt, cheese, butter, ice cream, curd, and kefir, among others.
Dairy products are made from the milk of mammalian animals such as cows, sheep, goats, mares, buffaloes or camels; the origin of milk varies according to the livestock available in the region of the world where the preparation takes place. This type of food is very common in the diet of people from virtually all over the world, except for much of East and Southeast Asia and some areas of Central Africa.
Although dairy products are rich in protein (mainly casein type), in carbohydrates (lactose is the most important) and to a lesser extent in other nutrients, they also contain high amounts of fatty acids and if consumed in excess can dangerously increase cholesterol and triglyceride levels - which explains the association of dairy abuse with circulatory and metabolic disorders.
The most popular dairy products are milk, yogurt, cheese, cream, butter, curd, and kefir, among others. Some of these require a fermentation process. Let's take a look at the list of the 11 types of dairy foods most consumed worldwide.
Milk is produced by the mammary glands of female mammal animals - including women. Its evolutionary function is to provide food for the young during the early stages of their lives. However, at present people do not need breast milk to nourish babies as animal milk and other products can act as substitutes.
Curd is made from rennet-coagulated milk, a substance that may come from animals, vegetables, microbes, or be synthetic. It is common to add sugar, honey, nuts, fruit pieces, and other foods to improve its flavor.
Butter is obtained by whipping milk or cream, which can be fresh or fermented. It can be eaten spread on bread, as an ingredient (e.g. for sauces) and as an oil substitute. Despite what many people believe and the fact that it's used as a substitute for butter, margarine is not a dairy product because it is made from vegetable oils and not from any type of milk. Therefore, margarine is suitable for vegans and butter is not, although the latter is usually healthier because it is less processed.
Cream is a variant of milk that can be defined as an emulsion of fat in water and is often used to decorate and add flavor to pastries, to make butter (through a whipping process) or ice cream, among other purposes.
Ice creams made with milk are very popular desserts all over the world. It is common to mix them with flavoring products, usually related to fruits, and sweeten them with sugar or sugar substitutes.
Cheese is one of the most widely consumed dairy products in the world. From a nutritional point of view, its protein and fat concentrations are particularly noteworthy. Many types of cheese are prepared in plenty of different ways; some of the most famous are manchego, gouda, cheddar, Roquefort, brie or provolone.
Yogurt is prepared by fermenting milk with bacteria, which transforms the lactose into lactic acid, giving the resulting product its characteristic creamy texture and bitter taste. At nutritional level, this dairy food is considered particularly rich in vitamin B12 and riboflavin, and also contains significant amounts of protein, phosphorus, and selenium.
Kefir is a product made from milk fermented through bacteria and fungi that is native to the Caucasus, a mountainous region on the border between Europe and Asia. The increase in the popularity of kefir in recent years can be framed in the general boom of probiotic products, which are attributed very beneficial properties for digestion and in particular for constipation problems.
This milk product is prepared by subjecting pasteurized milk to a process of dehydration by evaporation. The milk powder is dissolved in water for consumption, and its advantage over liquid milk is that it does not require cold storage and can, therefore, be stored longer and more easily.
Condensed milk is prepared from the partial dehydration of cow's milk, along with the introduction of sugar; this results in a sweet dairy product, with a long shelf life and widely used in dairy desserts - for example, Latin American dishes such as tres leches cake or Venezuelan flan quesillo. It is also popular as a complement to coffee.
To finish the dairy products list we have baby formula. It is a food derived from milk (usually cow's milk) that is used to replace breast milk during lactation, especially in developing countries.
In recent decades the World Health Organization and other institutions have discouraged the use of formula because its consumption has been linked to a possible increase in infant mortality. Specifically, a study by Anttila-Hughes and collaborators (2018) states that in 1981 alone, Nestlé baby formula caused the death of 66,000 babies worldwide.