Is it safe to eat dairy with fish? (3 risks)

In this article, we will discuss whether it is safe to eat dairy with fish, the risks and benefits of eating dairy and fish, the drawbacks of eating dairy with fish and how can you eat dairy with fish safely.

Is it safe to eat dairy with fish?

Yes, it is safe to eat dairy with fish, unless one of the ingredients is spoiled or in the case of food allergies to fish or dairy (5, 6, 7).

Fish and dairy are both sources of proteins and minerals and eating fish and dairy has many benefits and drawbacks, as well as risks (5, 6). Fish and dairy can be eaten together, although their separate consumption may be a better option, due to nutritional factors (3, 4). 

Is the risk of eating dairy with fish a myth?

No, the risk of eating dairy with fish is not a myth. The concerns regarding eating dairy with fish can be found in some Jewish eating traditions, which require that milk sources should not be cooked together with any food in the category of meat (8).

However, the explanation to this concern can be explained by biological facts, as the mixture of different sources of proteins may prolong the digestive process and impair the absorption of nutrients.

What are the possible risks of eating fish and dairy?

The possible risks of eating fish and dairy are present in the following cases: microbial spoilage of fish or dairy, allergy to fish or milk products and lactose intolerance. The possible risks are summarised in the table below:

Microbial spoilage of fish or dairy

Products and dairy products are perishable and host of many pathogenic microorganisms. The consumption of contaminated fish or contaminated dairy can cause foodborne illnesses (5, 7).

Allergy to fish or milk protein

Allergy to fish protein is less common than allergy to milk protein, however, both are possible and lead to allergic reactions, such as skin rashes, asthma and anaphylaxis (5, 6).

Lactose intolerance

Ingesting dairy may be a risk to individuals who are lactose intolerant, depending on the amount of lactase present in the dairy.

Aged cheeses are lactose-free and many other processed products, such as yoghurt, are lactose-free or contain a very low amount of lactose in their composition (6). 

What are the benefits of eating fish and dairy?

The benefits of eating fish and dairy are the many nutrients provided by these food sources. Fish and dairy products both contain a considerable amount of proteins of high quality and good assimilation by the human body (3, 4, 6).

Proteins are sources of amino acids, which constitute the muscles, bones, body tissues and enzymes and their consumption is essential to maintain a good functioning of the body (3).

Insufficient ingestion of proteins can lead to many diseases, weakness, bone loss, anaemia and cardiac failure.

Fish proteins as well as dairy proteins have a high biological value, good protein digestibility and a high quantity of indispensable amino acids. In addition, fish and milk contain minerals and vitamins, such as calcium, and vitamin B12 (3, 4, 5, 6).

Can you eat fish and dairy in the same meal?

Yes, you can eat fish and dairy in the same meal, however, there are some drawbacks (8). Examples of fish with dairy meals are “fish with cheese sauce”, “cream of salmon soup” and “smoked fish baked in milk” (9).

The drawback of eating milk and fish in the same meal is the possible lower protein absorption and the lower absorption of the minerals iron and calcium, when compared to the ingestion of these two protein sources separately (1, 2).

Effective protein digestion depends on many factors, including the types and quantity of enzymes that are released into the gastric system.

Once proteins are ingested, the proteolytic enzymes are released. They attach to the proteins, and begin the hydrolysis process, cleaving proteins into amino acids.

When different sources of protein are consumed together in the same meal, a greater number of enzymes are required to properly digest these proteins.

However, the amount of enzymes is limited, which may result in an impaired digestive process. As a consequence, the digestibility and assimilation of the proteins can be blemished.

How to consume fish and dairy safely?

To safely consume fish and dairy, consider consuming fish in one meal, such as lunch or dinner, and dairy in another meal, such as breakfast or in between meals.

Consuming fish or other meat with dairy products or milk can result in an incomplete digestive process and lowered protein absorption when compared to the ingestion of these protein sources separately (1, 2, 8).

In addition, it is important to choose fresh ingredients with a good appearance and free from signs of microbial spoilage. Spoiled fish is identified by its unpleasant ammonia-like “fishy” or rancid odour, loss of texture and gas production (5).

Spoilage of milk and other dairy products can be identified by the production of gas, the presence of off-odours such as rancid, fermented or “fruity” and, in the case of cheeses, the growth of coloured mould formations (7).


In this article, we discussed the possible risks of eating fish and dairy, the possible drawbacks of eating fish and dairy in the same meal and the benefits of fish and dairy.

Fish and dairy are important sources of proteins, minerals and vitamins for the human diet, however, many risks are associated with their consumption, when eaten separately or together.

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