Is Dairy Good for You?
Have you been wondering what to make make of all the seemingly conflicting information about milk and dairy products? Can dairy play a role in healthy diet? Should it? It’s becoming increasingly clear that the answer is a resounding “yes.” Provided you are not lactose intolerant, research shows that most adults should try to get 2-3 servings of dairy daily.
Milk is the sole source of nutrition for the babies of mammals, of course, so it’s highly nutritious. Whole cow’s milk contains water, protein, fats, carbohydrates and calcium. Milk and dairy products made from milk are a rich source of calcium, which is an essential nutrient needed to build and maintain strong bones, among other things. One cup of milk provides, on average, about one-quarter of an adult’s daily value for calcium.
But what about full-fat versus low-fat? For decades we’ve thought that it made good sense to consume reduced-fat, or low-fat dairy products. Skim milk, low-fat cheese, etc. But recent research threatens to turn this dogma on its head. In fact, when it comes to weight loss and weight control, most studies show that dairy actually help keep the pounds off. Furthermore, some newer research suggests that choosing low-fat over full-fat may be counterproductive. Full-fat dairy may be better for you than we used to think for other reasons, too. A substance in milk fat has been shown to help prevent type 2 diabetes. And people who consume plenty of dairy tend to to have lower levels of inflammation, better blood lipid profiles, lower blood pressure and better blood sugar control than people who avoid dairy.
A recent, long-term Scandinavian study concluded that men who avoided full-fat dairy more than a decade ago were significantly more likely to develop “central obesity,” meaning they were obese, and carried the weight around their middles. This type of excess weight gain is linked to a higher risk of heart disease and other health problems. The implication of this 12-year study is that avoiding full-fat dairy is actually counter-productive when it comes to weight control, at least among men. Another recent study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, examined data from numerous studies on the question. Their conclusion? High-fat dairy is actually associated with a lower risk of obesity. Bring on the butter.
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