Any serial dieter will have an inbuilt fear of dairy, I bet. They'll have been indoctrinated...
"It’s full of saturated fat that's all so bad for your heart and waistline."
"You should just have low-fat processed spreads, skimmed milks and fat-free cheeses instead."
Not strictly true!
Fat is not the villain we once thought it was. There is no doubt we have to watch our fat intake, and saturated fat does seem to be linked with heart disease – but I suspect that it is as much to do with the way that fat is packaged up as the fat itself.
Consider a bacon butty, with white bread, lashings of butter, loads of ketchup and salt and washed down with a cup of frothy, sugary coffee from one of the many high-street chains.
Then, think of fresh goats cheese, on top of a pile of salad, wholegrains and avocado, and a live yoghurt to follow.
Both meals full of saturated fat but one is packed with additives, preservatives and sugar - all of which will add to heart disease risk. The other is full of vitamins, fibre and probiotics that will boost many aspects of health.
What’s more, a scientific review of the results of 29 studies into the link between dairy consumption, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and deaths, found no increased risk when related to dairy consumption. In fact, there was possibly a slightly lowered risk (2%) of cardiovascular disease and death from eating fermented dairy products such as good cheese or live yoghurt. And a recent state-of-the-art review from the American College of Cardiology even proclaimed that several foods relatively rich in saturated fat, such as whole-fat dairy, dark chocolate (yes!!!) and unprocessed meat, are not associated with increased heart disease or diabetes risk.
So, dairy isn’t necessarily bad for you and provides the added benefit of calcium which is good for bone-health. In fact, the Royal Osteoporosis Society has warned that steering clear of dairy could lead to an increase in osteoporosis (bone-thinning) in the future. And with 1 in 2 women over 50 experiencing a bone fracture at some point, we need to take care.
But, some people are intolerant of the lactose sugar in dairy. That varies depending on whether you come from a country that is used to milk products. Estimates in the UK suggest only around 5% of us are truly intolerant. Even if you are, that doesn't necessarily rule out all dairy products - those that have less lactose sugar, including fermented products, may be better tolerated. Otherwise, you need to get your calcium from other sources!
More on all of that, and dairy alternatives, in a later blog!
So should we be wary of dairy? I say no. Have it in moderation and prioritise good quality dairy above some over-processed version. Make sure you have it as part of a generally healthy diet – cheese on a pizza or whipped cream on a huge chocolate cake doesn’t count! And beware the baddies that can be added to it…..think sugary yoghurts, overly salty cheeses. Try to choose the better alternatives.
Finally, remember the other types of good fat too, found in olive oil, nuts, avocados, oily fish and more, which also provide a whole heap of health benefits.
It can be so confusing, knowing what to believe when it comes to eating healthily!
I go through it all in detail in my Weight Loss for Life programme.