Why Full-Fat Dairy is Better
- Mel’s weekly food pick: Siggi’s Yogurt
- Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Earthfood-Loaded Yogurt Bowl
Memories still haunt me to this day, of fat-free Frosted Flakes drenched in skim milk for breakfast, a slice of fat-free cheese blanketing my fat-free cold cuts (sandwiched between two slices of fat-free bread) for lunch, and a mid-afternoon snack of fat-free, artificially sweetened yogurt (with my fat-free pretzel sticks).
And please don’t even get me started on that fat-free cottage cheese I used to eat! The stuff could seriously double as spackling paste. I’ll bet if you flicked a spoonful of fat-free cottage cheese at the wall before work, I’m pretty sure it would still be there when you got home.
Listen, when your cat turns her nose up at fat-free cheese…you know there’s a problem.
It’s no wonder I didn’t enjoy dairy products back then; they lacked fat, and therefore tasted terrible!
So why the obsession with low-fat dairy?
Poorly designed studies of the 1970s are to blame for the “full-fat dairy leads to heart disease” message. Their findings prompted the USDA to recommend that all Americans switch to low-fat dairy, and until recently, we rule-abiding consumers diligently followed suit like good little soldiers. We ditched the cream and used skim milk in our coffee (blech!) and “enjoyed” fat-free frozen yogurt for dessert.
Fast-forward to 2019 and you’ll notice a rise in the number of full-fat dairy products flooding the coolers in your local grocery store.
Full-fat dairy is back baby!
Recent studies aimed to challenge the low-fat dairy recommendation, and with promising results.
A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed no link between high-fat dairy and mortality, and was actually inversely associated with cardiovascular disease and stroke mortality. In other words, it may in fact offer protection against them.
The saturated fat naturally found in dairy is mostly palmitic acid. Although palmitic acid raises LDL cholesterol, it also simultaneously lowers triglycerides (the fat in your blood) and increases HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol). Unfortunately we’ve been scared into focusing only on individual cholesterol numbers–such as LDL and triglycerides– and if they are out of range we assume it’s all downhill from there…bring on the statins!
Your cholesterol ratios are what matters most– most notably your total cholesterol/HDL ratio and triglyceride/HDL ratio. To learn more about these ratios, read THIS POST. For an even deeper dive, check out Dr. Mark Hyman’s free mini-eBook, The Cholesterol Solution.
Another positive: full-fat dairy also contains medium chain triglycerides, a fat linked to improved health.
Thank God for research, although simply reflecting on the diet patterns of our grandparents is, in my opinion, proof that we need to stop screwing with Mother Nature and get back to our roots. Whole milk is what naturally comes out of cows…until we manipulate it and remove the fat! The result? Blue/gray skim milk.
Other benefits of full-fat dairy (compared to low-fat/fat-free)
Compared to low and no-fat dairy, full-fat dairy slows the release of sugars into your bloodstream, which is not only better for your blood sugar, but it’s also more filling and can prevent overeating.
Another bonus: the fat in whole milk dairy aids in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins present in dairy, such as vitamins A and D.
And let’s just be honest…full-fat dairy tastes better. Period.
Best full-fat dairy choices
- cream: choose organic when possible or at the very least, hormone, antibiotic, pesticide and GMO-free
- pasture-raised, hormone-free, full-fat milk: as with cream, choose organic or at the very least, hormone, antibiotic, pesticide and GMO-free
- unsweetened yogurt and kefir (both are good sources of beneficial bacteria)
- fresh, unprocessed cheeses (click HERE for a full list)
- 4% milkfat cottage cheese (I like Daisy and Kalona Super Natural brands)
- grass-fed butter and grass-fed ghee
The bottom line on full-fat dairy
If you choose to include dairy products in your diet, go for full-fat and enjoy it in small amounts in the context of a well-balanced, Earthfood-rich diet. Adding full-fat dairy to a SAD diet (Standard American Diet) of ultra-processed convenience foods and crappy carry-out, is not going to offer you any health benefits whatsoever. Just thought I’d mention that. ??
Hungry for more information on the fascinating (and misunderstood) topic of saturated fat? Check out this podcast episode featuring Dr. Mark Hyman as he interviews Dr. Aseem Malhotra, a leading thinker in cardiology who has challenged the status quo around fat, calories and conventional wisdom around statin use.
Mel’s weekly food pick:
Siggi’s is also called “skyr”– the traditional yogurt of Iceland. Similar to Greek yogurt, skyr is made by straining the whey (water naturally found in milk) to make for a much thicker yogurt. The final product is rich in approximately five strains of live active cultures– friendly bacteria that can boost the health of your digestive tract, immune system, and more.
It takes four times the milk to make one cup of skyr compared to regular yogurt, which means it contains 2-3 times more protein.
Although Siggi’s plain 4% milkfat is your best option, they also offer flavored varieties with only a fraction of added sugar compared to other brands out there, and no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup. If you’re in the mood for an even creamier skyr, they make a ‘triple cream’ (9% milkfat) too!
To verify their products are non-GMO, Siggi’s conducts their own testing with one of the leading international food testing organizations.
My favorite way to enjoy Siggi’s is to make a yogurt bowl loaded with all kinds of Earthfoods. Check out this week’s recipe pick below.
Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Earthfood-Loaded Yogurt Bowl