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Why You Should Avoid Low-Fat Cheese and Milk

Lisa Garber
February 16th, 2013
Updated 05/21/2014 at 12:56 am
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milk 265x165 Why You Should Avoid Low Fat Cheese and MilkIf you thought you were doing your body justice by reaching for the low-fat cheese or milk, you may want to think again. While dietitians and others recommend low- and no-fat varieties, more experts are starting to realize why full-fat milk, cheese, and dairy as a whole should be chosen. If you want to lose weight and be healthy, skip the skim and reach for full-fat varieties of foods instead, especially dairy.

About half of the fat in full-fat dairy products is saturated, which until recently was the villain of many food myths. This so-called fat fallacy was promoted primarily in the 1950s by Ancel Keys and has resulted in, according to a Consumer Reports survey, 51 percent of today’s average American in either consuming or trying to consume less fat.

But not all fats are created alike.

Good Versus Not-so-Good Fats

There are plenty of reasons to avoid trans-fats and refined polyunsaturated fats in vegetable oils (like corn, soy, sunflower, and canola), but the evidence for moderate consumption of saturated fat, such as through foods like coconut oil and grass-fed land animals, is mounting. (Coconut oil and lard got their bad rap from Crisco and the vegetable oil campaigns of the ‘70s.) A 2010 analysis published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that “there is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of [coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease].”

Besides, as dLife points out, if half of the fat in full-fat dairy products is saturated, what makes of the other half? “Dairy fat contains lots of oleic acid (the stuff that makes olive oil so healthy), along with a type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) that may help with weight loss.”

Raw and Full-Fat Dairy Benefits

Arguably, the most healthful kind of dairy is the raw kind from grass-fed cows, goats, and sheep that have not been pasteurized. Not only does pasteurization deactivate the enzymes in milk, but raw milk itself contains greater amounts of vitamin A-rich butterfat, omega 3 fats, healthy unoxidized cholesterol, and CLAs. Raw milk can also be enjoyed by lactose-intolerant people and those who suffer from allergies, anemia, thyroid problems, chronic cough, cancer, and numerous other ailments.

Related Read: Is Butter Bad for You?

Pasteurized, full-fat milk from grass-fed animals, however, are still healthier to consume for most of us than their further processed, low- or non-fat varieties. Saturated fats are known to be antiviral (caprylic acid), antifungal (lauric acid), and antiplaque. But the benefits of these fats don’t end there.

  • They help you lose weight - Because fat helps slow down digestion, you consume more calories but can go longer without eating again—and calories from hyper-frequent snacking that comes from eating extremely low-fat diets add up over time.
  • They encourage heart health - A 16-year study of Australian adults found that those who ate full-fat dairy were less likely to succumb to cardiovascular disease.
  • It may lower the risk of cancer - Subjects in a study who consumed at least four servings of high-fat dairy foods daily experienced a 41 percent lower risk of bowel cancer than those who ate less than one.
  • They may help with diabetes - Palmitic acid protects against inulin resistance and diabetes according to a study involving over 3,500 adults.
  • They aid in vitamin absorption - It doesn’t matter how many vitamins you pop in pill form if you’re not consuming the fat it needs to be absorbed into your body. Vitamins A and D (essential for dental health), E (skin health), and K (skeletal and heart health) in particular call for fat in the diet.

If you’re looking to lose weight, keep the healthful grass-fed fats, olive oil, and coconut oil, and ditch the low-fat salad dressings and non-fat yogurts.

From around the web:

  • Nancy

    This is a very interesting article – goes against popular ideas, but the more I look at nutrition, the more this way of thinking makes sense!

  • Pingback: Harvard scientist urges people to stop drinking “low-fat” milk @ Project Ennea

  • Angela

    This is totally opposite of what we are all taught

  • Mackytack

    I live in Mass and have to drive over an hour to get my raw milk because it is not legal to sell to the public here…
    I would rather drive to enjoy the pleasure of milk the way it is meant to be, than to drink the fraudulent stuff they label 'milk' in the supermarkets!
    Please legalize in Mass!!!!!!!!!!

  • Alan

    Where do you buy dairy products from grass fed cows? This just isn't going to be something you get from Big Dairy.

    • SLH

      Start at famer's markets and health food stores. Ask around. Farmers know each other and can point you in the right direction. I drive 15 minutes to a farm every other week to get all my dairy. Found out about this farm from the cattle farmer I buy beef from. Found out about the cattle farm from the chicken guy at the farmer's market.

  • dr.Rangson tonjunpong

    As refer to 2010 Analysis from American Journal of clinical nutrition ,may Lisa Garber please tell more about which article ? which volume/month/year of published Analysis .I anxiously looking forward to read the whole analysis for complete reference

  • bertie

    i worked in the dairy industry – the biggest problem they had was what to do with the milk once they had taken out the fat for making cream etc.
    In the uk the dairy industry was run by the milk marketing board for many years.
    One of their attempts at disposing of this huge mountain of low fat milk was ski youghurt. It was promoted beyone belief, huge billboards, advertising campeigns, lorries with banners and more, yet the stuff had a bad taste.
    For a long time it was the only youghurt you could easily find.
    Whole generations brought up to believe that youghurt tasted like that because they never had the chance to try the real stuff.