science of nutrition can be frustrating, when the answers we
get from experts are not as easy as “Eat this, not that.”
In fact, as we learn more about the complexities of the food
we ingest, advice on what to eat is more apt to be, “Well
… it depends.”
Case in point:
Surprising new research shows no health detriment and possibly
some health benefits in full fat as well as low fat milk,
cheese and yogurt.
recent webinar that reviewed these findings was sponsored by
farming families who belong to the National Dairy Council.
Still, the speakers were professionals who know their science.
dietitian nutritionist Matt Pikosky, PhD, reminded us that we
live in a largely inflexible world that wants straight “yes
or no” answers. Yet sometimes good science says we can eat
this and that … and still maintain optimal health. That
seems to be what’s emerging in the case of dairy foods.
research studies over the past decade have led to our current
guidelines that no more than 20 to 35% of our day’s total
calories should come from fat. And one way to avoid excessive
fat (especially saturated fat) is to choose low fat dairy
foods such as cheese, milk and yogurt. This is still true,
many studies have observed that the consumption of milk,
cheese and yogurt — full fat as well as low fat — is
associated with a higher quality diet as well as lower blood
pressure and a reduced risk for heart disease and type 2
Well, it depends. We already know, for example, that all
saturated fat — what is generally thought of as the
“bad” fat — is not all bad. And the fat in dairy food is
more unique and complex than we once thought.
Before we head
out the door for an ice cream sundae, though, here are what
these experts advise:
— Low fat and
fat free dairy foods are still good for us. They contain all
the nutrients of whole milk products with less fat (especially
saturated fat) and fewer calories.
— Whole milk,
yogurt or cheese are OK choices if we can still keep our daily
calories in check. Weight gain from any type of excess
calories, remember, increases our risk for a multitude of
chronic diseases including heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
servings of dairy food per day can supply a plethora of
essential nutrients that is not as easy to get from other
sources. One serving is equal to 1 cup of milk, 1 ounce of
cheese, or 6 ounces of yogurt.
— We are
still smart to avoid excess amounts of saturated fat. This
category of fats should take up no more than 10% of all our
daily calories. But, we can still include special high fat
indulgences on occasion if we don’t go overboard.
— Yogurt and
cheese tend to be “lactose friendly” for those who get
tummy upsets from drinking milk. Products like Lactaid —
which contain enzymes that digest the natural sugar in milk
— are also good choices.
flexible should we be when it comes to high fat dairy foods?
Well, it depends.