Once upon a time, the health message that we heard over and over again was to reduce our fat intake to lose weight. But recent studies are indicating that in regards to dairy at least, that the opposite may be true.
But I don’t want to get heart disease!
The type of fat that is present in dairy products in saturated fat, which has, for decades been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease), as high levels can lead to the formation of plaques within the blood vessels of the heart.
What has come out in the research recently however is that although in theory dairy does contain saturated fat, and should therefore raise prevalence of heart disease, in fact studies have found that people who drink milk (including full fat milk) actually have a lower risk of heart disease, as well as lower risk of high blood pressure and bowel cancer.
But I’m trying to lose weight!
Again, one of those interesting cases where logic doesn’t equal reality. We would think that because low fat milk has lower calories, that it would be helpful in weight loss. And in a perfect world, it probably would, if the rest of the diet stayed tightly calorie controlled. The issue is, that humans can very rarely stick to a strict diet long term, and will eventually let hunger, cravings, or taste make their food choice decisions for them.
What the research tells us is that people who drink full fat milk feel fuller for longer, feel more satisfied, less hungry, and are less likely to overeat in the hours after. Turns out that in the real world, if we cut out fat, we usually increase sugar/carbohydrate intake instead, which doesn’t satisfy us for as long and is more likely to be overeaten. Sugar/carbs of course, can be converted into body fat, and so weight gain or not losing weight can result when you overeat it.
What about for diabetes?
One of the best strategies for managing diabetes is working towards a healthy weight. So combine the evidence of full fat milk drinkers being less overweight plus new information showing that somehow full fat milk is protective against diabetes independent to weight, helping to regulate insulin and blood sugar levels, and it looks like you are onto a winner! Or are you…
What does all this really mean?
As always, what this information comes down to is that labelling any one food or component of food “bad” and cutting it out in the expectation that it will solve all your health problems is pretty much always going to backfire.
Plus, everyone is an individual, and so if you enjoy low fat milk, don’t overeat sugar or carbs to compensate, have a healthy weight or are losing weight well and content with how things are tracking along, there is no reason you need to swap to full fat milk.
This information also doesn’t mean you have free reign to start overeating dairy foods in general. Or that you should expect that swapping back to full fat milk, not changing anything else in your diet is going to produce incredible weight loss results.
What we should take from all this new evidence, is that if we enjoy dairy in moderation, at 2-3 serves a day as per the dietary guidelines, that you can have regular full fat milk and this is absolutely fine, as long as the rest of your diet is healthy and balanced.
Taking an overall view of being healthy, enjoying all foods in the right amounts, not making any one food or drink the bad guy, and making changes to your lifestyle that you can sustain for the long term is the best game plan.
Frustrated with all this changing advice?
It seems like every week the “facts” about diet that we thought we knew go and change on us, and there is always some new super diet that’s being promoted as the solution to your weight loss problems once and for all. It’s enough to make you want to pull out your hair, and leaves us all in a state of total confusion about what we should actually be doing!
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