(March, 2016) Contrary to public opinion, FULL-FAT dairy is as healthy as it gets, especially if it’s organic and grass-fed. This is exactly what people need, both nutritionally and environmentally.2,16,26 And, if you are trying to avoid allergies associated with dairy, which affect 2-4% of the population, it’s best to go with either goat or brown (A2) cow milk. Unlike the black & white Holstein cows, brown cows are allergy free, do not eat toxic GMO grain and corn, and make a much creamier, more nutrient-dense milk.27 I call them happy cows. In contrast, most dairy comes from poorly managed, factory farms, where stressed animals mass-produce low-quality milk containing antibiotics, hormones and pesticides.9 Milk quality is highly dependent on what goes into it.
It is unfortunate that so many people still fear animal fat. They’ve been told it causes weight gain, raises bad cholesterol, and is not heart healthy.24 Some of this is justified, since there are conditions when animal fat is not fit to eat, like from toxic factory farms. I certainly would not feed conventional dairy to my kids. But, that’s no reason to avoid organic, grass-fed dairy. Many of the nutrients in milk–especially from full-fat, plain yogurt–are hard to get from other sources.
What it comes down to is quality. It’s about wholeness & freshness. It’s about sustainability. It’s about unprocessed food with minimum ingredients. It’s about real food. This is what informed shoppers seek.
The truth is, fat is good for us. It flavors food, boosts immunity and brain function, builds cell membranes, insulates nerves, feeds friendly bacteria in our guts, makes us feel full so we eat less, and provides a cleaner fuel for our energy needs. It also aids absorption of many vitamins and minerals like calcium. It works for us in many ways.8 So, stop counting calories, because fat is not just about calories: it’s what makes us healthy and whole.
Fat is not just one, but many things, some healthier than others. Cholesterol, for example, is part of cell membranes, sex hormones, vitamin D, bile salts & brain fats.8 Without cholesterol, we would not function. Most studies conclude that high cholesterol is not associated with cardiovascular disease, or higher death risk.1,5,24 In fact, nearly 75% of first heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol.28 The US government recently removed limits on dietary cholesterol in their 2015 Dietary Guidelines, acknowledging that lowering cholesterol has little bearing on heart health.30
When fat is skimmed from milk, a host of nutrients are lost, most notably vitamins A, D, E, & K.24 These are essential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and bone-building nutrients that few foods offer.30 There is also an abundance of lutein–an antioxidant that protects the eyes and the brain–in the fat of grass-fed dairy.6 Fat-free dairy is also missing the important omega fats – 3, 6 and 9. Compared to conventional dairy, grass-fed dairy has up to five times as much omega-3s, which are essential for optimum brain function.2,10,17 Omega-3 fats in grass-fed dairy also help curb inflammation.2,3 Another unique fat in grass-fed dairy called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) has powerful immune-enhancing and weight management effects.4, 32 Full-fat dairy also contains healthy omega-9 fats, similar to olive oil, which provide energy.
The saturated fat in grass-fed dairy also works for you.31 It helps raise good cholesterol and lowers dangerous triglycerides.13,14,21,23 These fats help with weight management,25 build stronger bones; maintain liver, lung, brain and metabolic7,11 health and help strengthen immunity.20 It may seem counterintuitive, but eating full-fat dairy actually helps you lose weight.12,15,16,18,19,21
Saturated fat has been wrongly vilified, and for sinister reasons (follow the money). Two powerful interest groups that have profited greatly from making animal fats bad are the edible oil (corn, soy) and the pharmaceutical industries.24 Corn syrup has far surpassed cane sugar in consumption, and contributes enormously to a host of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, dementia, and cancer. A thousand times more soy oil (mostly as trans fats) is consumed today, compared to 100 years ago.33 If you’re looking for the bad guys, and the toxic food in your diet, look no further. Dietary changes in the 20th century, from healthy animal fats to vegetable oils, trans fats and refined carbs have helped grow Big Pharma and our health care burden enormously. This is capitalism at its best, or should I say worst.
Over a hundred years ago, people ate much more meat, butter, eggs and dairy, at a time when diseases like diabetes, obesity and clogged arteries were rare.15,23,30 So, consider bringing an old tradition back to the table. Enjoy plain, FULL FAT grass-fed organic yogurt and dairy, knowing that the fats it provides are the ones we need to be at our best.
- Bowden J, Sinatra S. (2012) The Great Cholesterol Myth. Quayside Publishing, Beverly, MA.
- Chang K. (2016) Organic meat and milk higher in healthful fatty acids. New York Times. http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/well/2016/02/15/more-omega-3-in-organic-meat-and-milk-review-of-studies-says/
- Dangardt, F., et al. (2010) Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation improves vascular function and reduces inflammation in obese adolescents. Atherosclerosis 212:580-5.
- Dhiman TR, Anand GR, Satter LD, Pariza MW. (1999) Conjugated linoleic acid content of milk from cows fed different diets. J Dairy Sci 82:2146-56.
- Díaz-López A, Bulló M, Martínez-González MA et al. (2016) Dairy product consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes in an elderly Spanish Mediterranean population at high cardiovascular risk. Eur J Nutr 55:349-60.
- Domenico P. (2012) The case for lutein. Functional Ingredients 125:26
- Ejtahed HS, Mohtadi-Nia J, Homayouni-Rad A et al. (2012) Probiotic yogurt improves antioxidant status in type 2 diabetic patients. Nutrition 28:539-43.
- Enig MG. (2000) Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils, and Cholesterol. http://www.bethesdapress.com
- Food, Inc. (2008) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1286537/ (documentary)
- Freund-Levi Y1, Eriksdotter-Jönhagen M, Cederholm T, et al. (2006) Omega-3 fatty acid treatment in 174 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease: OmegAD study: a randomized double-blind trial. Arch Neurol 63:1402-8.
- Gao D, Ning N, Wang C, et al. (2013) Dairy products consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. PLoS One 8:e73965.
- Holmberg S, Thelin A. (2013) High dairy fat intake related to less central obesity: A male cohort study with 12 years’ follow-up. Scand J Prim Health Care 31:89–94.
- Howard BV1, Van Horn L, Hsia J, et al. (2006) Low-fat dietary pattern and risk of cardiovascular disease: the Women’s Health Initiative Randomized Controlled Dietary Modification Trial. JAMA 295:655-66.
- Hush PJ, Park KM. (2012) Influence of dairy product and milk fat consumption on cardiovascular disease risk: A review of the evidence. Adv Nutr 3:266-285.
- Jacques PF, Wang H. (2014) Yogurt and weight management. J Clin Nutr 99:1229-34S.
- Kratz M, Baars T, Guyenet S. (2013) The relationship between high-fat dairy consumption and obesity, cardiovascular, and metabolic disease. Eur J Nutr 52:1-24.
- Lai KL, Shahar S, Chin A-V, Yusoff NAM (2013) Docosahexaenoic acid-concentrated fish oil supplementation in subjects with mild cognitive impairment (MCI): a 12-month randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Psychopharmacol 225:605–12.
- Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Sayon-Orea C, Ruiz-Canela M. (2014) Yogurt consumption, weight change and risk of overweight/obesity: the SUN cohort study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis 24:1189-96.
- Micallef, M., et al. (2009) Plasma n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids are negatively associated with obesity. Br J Nutr 102:1370-4.
- Mohamadshahi M, Veissi M, Haidari F, et al. (2014) Effects of probiotic yogurt consumption on inflammatory biomarkers in patients with type 2 diabetes. Bioimpacts. 4:83–8.
- Mohamadshahi M, Veissi M, Haidari F et al. (2014b) Effects of probiotic yogurt consumption on lipid profile in type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci 19:531-6.
- Rosell M, Håkansson NN, Wolk A. (2006) Association between dairy food consumption and weight change over 9 y in 19 352 perimenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr 84:1481–8.
- Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q, Hu FB, Krauss RM. (2010) Saturated fat, carbohydrate, and cardiovascular disease. Am J Clin Nutr 91:502-9.
- Teicholz N. (2014) The Big Fat Surprise. Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet. Simon & Schuster, New York.
- Tobias DK, Chen M, Manson JE, et al. (2015) Effect of low-fat diet interventions versus other diet interventions on long-term weight change in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology 3:968–79.