Are Dairy Products Good for Me?
There seems to be some confusion about whether dairy should be part of the American diet. While some dietitians recommend dairy, specifically milk, because it’s a good source of calcium and vitamin D — nutrients that contribute to bone health — researchers say that the science behind milk consumption and bone health is not conclusive. So, what are the benefits of dairy products?
While there is nutrient value to dairy products, most are available from eating other foods. There are benefits to consuming dairy products, some of which are contrary to what we previously believed about dairy. For years we were told to consume no fat or low fat products to manage weight and reduce health risks. While our misguided thinking about no or low fat products has begun to change, we still think of dairy as “bad”. For years there has been a belief in America that full fat milk and cheese make you gain weight and cause heart disease. Here are the facts we have about dairy products as they relate to our health.
Dairy fat can help you lose weight. Two recent studies show that fat can be part of the weight management solution, rather than the source of the problem. A 2013 review published in the European Journal of Nutrition found that people who eat full-fat dairy tend to be leaner than those who choose low-fat dairy. A long-term study of 18,438 middle-aged women released earlier this year, revealed that consuming high-fat dairy, not low-fat dairy, was associated with reduced likelihood of becoming overweight through the years.
Dairy fat may reduce your risk of diabetes. Research suggest that dairy fat may improve metabolic health. A 15-year study at Tufts University found that people who eat the most dietary fat have a 46 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes compared to people who eat the least dietary fat.
Yes Virginia, cheese can be part of a healthy diet! Research published this year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consumption of full-fat cheese raises healthy HDL cholesterol levels, or your good cholesterol, better than consumption of low-fat cheese. One reason may be that cheeses have over 400 fatty acids, some of which may be anti-inflammatory. Inflammation is a risk factor for developing heart disease.
Low fat often means high sugar. Sugar is now being identified as a major health culprit in our diet. When low fat reigned supreme, sugar was often used to add flavor (and calories) when the fat was removed. We are now learning that the sugar industry paid scientists to downplay the effects of sugar and put the blame on saturated fat.
Protein, baby. Greek Yogurt — a thicker variety than traditional yogurt with a tangy flavor — has up to twice as much protein as regular yogurt. One 6 oz. serving of Greek yogurt has 17 grams of protein. Two percent or even whole milk versions will leave you feeling fuller and more satisfied. Recent research shows that organic milk contains more heart-protective omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally raised milk, so go organic when possible.