The Fear of Fat (Dairy Fat, That Is)

A lot of people fear dairy. And to be honest, there’s not a lot of convincing scientific evidence either way on whether or not dairy is a wonder food or something we should completely avoid. Everything in moderation, right?? And on top of the dairy-or-no-dairy debate, there are so many different layers as well like fat content in dairy and hormones in dairy. These debates are exhausting, especially when you see a thousand different opinions each way. So what does the science say? Let’s form our opinions around facts.

            There is evidence that full-fat dairy (think whole milk yogurt) makes you feel fuller longer by delaying stomach emptying! And for this reason, full-fat dairy may also help keep your blood sugar from spiking. For me, I choose these full fat dairy options when I need this satisfaction in my meal and I need that meal to stay with me. For example, I typically choose full fat Greek yogurt in order to allow my breakfast to stay with me longer. I may also choose fuller fat cheese when I’m pairing them with my snacks so that it keeps me full until my next meal. There are also studies that show the consumption of higher fat dairy versus lower fat varieties may lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and related complications.

However, nutrition is not one size fits all! There are a few reason why full fat dairy, or dairy in general, may not be a good option for you.

            Some individuals find themselves with stomach problems or acne problems when consuming dairy products. If this is you, dairy may not be your best option day to day. Instead, you can just decide when it is “worth it” to consume, such as that necessary bowl of ice cream every now and then. However if dairy is a true allergy for you (not just something like lactose intolerance), then you should completely avoid dairy.

            Another reason why fuller fat dairy specifically may not be right for individuals is if someone find themselves with high cholesterol. Fuller fat dairy also has a higher amount of saturated fat, which directly increases cholesterol. If you find yourself with high cholesterol, you may want to limit your overall intake of saturated fat, and avoiding full fat dairy may be the easier way to do that for you. Additionally from a genetics standpoint, some individuals absorb more cholesterol than others, causing their cholesterol to be more easily increased. If this is the case for you, avoiding fuller fat dairy is probably necessary. 

            But if you find yourself in a position where you choose to consume dairy without these complications, I recommend maintaining a balance between full fat and lower fat dairy products. For example, you may want to choose fuller fat options for breakfast and snacks such as Greek yogurt. But you may want to choose lower fat options or dairy-free options all together for baking, to add in recipes, to put over cereal, etc. Some dairy free options would be almond milk, coconut milk, cashew cheese, almond-based cream cheese, and dairy-free yogurts.. This will help you maintain an overall balance of nutrients and will ensure you don’t over do the dairy in general. 

            There IS the added layer of hormone-free versus non hormone-free dairy. I try to always choose hormone free dairy as a just in case mentality. There is not significant evidence that this actually impacts our health. However, I do think that the more we can limit the consumption of these hormones, the better off we will find that we are. So when you are financially able, choose hormone-free dairy as well. But do not let the media scare you into thinking that dairy is the enemy.

I choose not to have dairy in excess. I do not drink cow’s milk regularly (but sometimes have it in the form of ice cream..duh) and when a recipe calls for liquid milk I choose a hormone-free, high protein milk option such as Fairlife milk. I also do eat yogurt pretty regularly as you all see quite often, and occasionally top my dishes with cheese. There’s really NO reason to avoid dairy in my opinion. Remember, #FoodFreedom and all things in moderation. 

Addie Abohosh