Read This Before You Switch to Full-Fat Dairy Products


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"For the past few decades, we’ve been told that the best and healthiest dairy products are fat-free or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt. But more recently, this recommendation has been called into question due to a handful of studies that suggest that eating full-fat dairy products can actually be beneficial for your health. If you’re one of many who are stuck wondering whether to switch to full-fat dairy or stay in the low-fat lane, you’re not alone. I’m here to set the record straight on what the studies tell us — and what they don’t.

Read This Before You Switch to Full-Fat Dairy Products

Read This Before You Switch to Full-Fat Dairy Products

Full-fat dairy products are one of the main sources of saturated fats in the American diet. This type of fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, along with other health risks. Additionally, it has been suggested that, because higher fat foods naturally contain more calories, foods such as full-fat dairy products may contribute to an increased risk of obesity. For these reasons, the current recommendations by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society are to choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products as part of a healthy diet.

So where does that leave you? If you religiously choose fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt, you may think that you’re doing a great job of avoiding full-fat dairy. But once you consider all the places that full-fat dairy may appear in small (and sometimes not-so-small) quantities throughout your day or week, you might come to realize that the amount of full-fat dairy in your diet is adding up quickly and consistently. Or if you eat full-fat dairy, you may think that the amount you’re eating is modest. After all, what’s a splash of whole milk or half-and-half in your daily coffee or tea, or the serving of Greek yogurt you eat each day? That’s healthy, right? Maybe. Have you considered the other sources of full-fat dairy you may be eating later in the day: the cheese on your sandwich, in your favorite lasagna, in mac ‘n’ cheese, or in Mexican dishes? The amount of full-fat dairy you’re eating throughout the week may be more than you think.

- Clearing Up the Full-Fat vs. Low-Fat Debate:
So where did the confusion about full-fat dairy come from? Several studies have challenged low-fat dairy as the healthier choice. For example, the findings of a study published in March 2016 in Circulation suggest that having higher concentrations of dairy fatty acids in your blood may lead to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Similarly, a study published in March 2010 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that lower intake of saturated fats was not necessarily associated with decreased risk of heart disease. This led many people to jump to the conclusion that regular consumption of full-fat dairy products had no impact on disease risk.

Upon closer examination, this study demonstrates that when saturated fat intake is reduced (by choosing fat-free dairy products, for example), many people simultaneously increase their consumption of carbohydrates — particularly refined carbohydrates. This combination is shown to significantly increase disease risk. But if these calories are instead replaced by healthy fats, such as monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, disease risk is in fact decreased. So what does that mean, exactly? To use breakfast as an example, an easy swap would be trading butter for avocado on your toast, and that’s not the worst thing in the world, right?

- Remember: It’s Not About One Food Group or Food:
Overall, the most important thing to consider when examining disease risk is diet and lifestyle as a whole. No one nutrient in any given food can ruin or save a diet. Consistency and overall healthfulness are what’s most important. For now, continue to stick to these tried and true rules for improved health and better disease management:

1. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and limit high-fat and full-fat dairy. This will naturally help to cut back on calories and the amount of saturated fat in your diet, making your diet healthier all around.

2. Eat a diet that contains healthy fats, especially monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and omega-3 fats. Use healthy fat sources in place of full-fat dairy for better health outcomes and you won’t even have to sacrifice on flavor! For example, use mashed avocado in place of butter or cheese on bread or a sandwich. You can even give it a try in baked goods!

3. Limit intake of refined carbohydrates since these may increase risk of heart disease, especially when eaten in place of fats.

4. Get up and move every day. This is a good rule of thumb for everyone, but is particularly important if you choose to eat full-fat dairy, because it can help burn off excess calories from these foods. When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, exercise is the other side of the diet equation.

5. Maintain a healthy weight. Staying within a healthy weight range for your height is important for overall health and is generally a good way to make sure that you’re meeting (but not exceeding) your calorie needs as a whole".

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