The Dairy Myth: Fat-Free Yogurt & Milk Doesn’t Do a Body Good

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Written By

Lauryn

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Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.

Greekyyogurt 1 | The Dairy Myth: Fat-Free Yogurt &Amp; Milk Doesn'T Do A Body Good

If you thought you were doing your body a favor by reaching for the low-fat cheese, fat-free yogurt or skim milk, you may want to think again…

Pop quiz. Which is more nutritious?:

  • (a.) Grass-fed butter or (b.) Parkay “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter”
  • (a.)Patured-raised Eggs or (b.) Egg Whites
  • (a.)Heavy Whipping Cream or (b.) Half-and-Half Sugar Free Creamer
  • (a.) Full-fat Yogurt or (b.) Fat-free Yogurt

If you answered “a” across the board, you get an A+.

What?!?!

Newsflash: Although we’ve long believed low-fat and non-fat options are the “good choices”…You may want to think again.

The real full-fat versions of foods, particularly dairy, are actually better for your health (Be it: weight loss, muscle gain, hormone balance, enhanced energy or digestion).

In fact, “authorities”, like US News, CBS News, and Time Magazine are even beginning to agree.

Unfortunately, this is completely opposite of what we’ve been told by the USDA, dietitians and other health authorities for years—claiming, “Choose low-fat, fat-free dairy.”

Where the “Low-Fat”/No-Fat Claims Came From

 

It’s no secret fat has long been the enemy of the American world.

Walk down any aisle in your grocery store today, and chances are for every ‘normal’ product on the shelf, there is ALSO a low-fat, sugar-free or non-fat alternative.

  • Regular Peter Pan Peanut Butter vs. Reduced Fat Peter Pan Peanut Butter
  • Regular Oreo cookies vs. Reduced Fat Oreo cookies
  • Full-fat Greek Yogurt vs. Non-fat Greek yogurt
  • A standard carton of eggs vs. Egg Beaters

OBVIOUSLY, the low-fat, non-fat version is the healthier choice, right?

The claims and campaigns for low-fat, no-fat diet dairy stem back to the 1940’s when the prices for full-fat milk were on the rise. In order to make milk cost-effective, skim milk was born. Although many milk-drinkers were skeptical about the value (and taste) of skim milk, dairy companies enticed them with promises that drinking skim milk would help them lose weight.

Fast-forward to 1960’s when a general “low fat” diet began to be touted in mainstream (not just for high-risk heart patients, but the nation as a whole).

Come the 1980’s, the ‘low fat’ approach became the go-to philosophy preached by physicians, the government, the food industry and health media (with NO real science to back it EXCEPT that, in theory, it sounded better).

As American’s waistlines, poor health and desperation for diets continued to grow (and have STILL continued to escalate), the “experts” resolved that the low-fat diet MUST be the answer (a theory that has continued to live to this day amongst many folks).

Ironically, at the same time that the “low-fat theory” took off, the amount of packaged, processed and convenient foods only began to grow as well. Think:

  • Food additives
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Added sugar (to enhance the taste of the low-fat products)
  • Hydrogenated oils (to preserve foods longer)
  • Low-fat microwave dinners (with a laundry list of ingredients)
  • Diet bars and shakes
  • SUPER processed and ‘watered’ down versions of the original versions of foods (like skim milk or fat-free yogurt)

—You name it.

Hence…TODAY, many Americans (and doctors) are left scratching their heads about the rampant disease epidemics in our country.

 Even though we are eating ‘low fat’ foods, why are the following diseases and ailments so “common”? :

  • Obesity and poor weight management
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Acne and skin breakouts
  • Anxiety
  • Infertility
  • Cancer
  • Mental health decline
  • Autism and ADD/ADHD
  • Digestive disturbances
  • Autoimmune disease

 

Aye aye aye! Why are we so sick as a country?!?!

Answer: The fact that much of our food source and ‘nutrition’ is coming from FAKE FOODS (read this: Not real food).

In other words: We are eating foods that look like food…smell like food…taste like food (and perhaps even taste really good)…but we are eating foods that are not real foods… low-fat and non-fat versions of dairy included.

And that’s where we will come back to the dairy myth.

 

To Eat Low-fat/Fat-free Dairy or Not? That is the Question.

 I get it.

Low-fat and fat-free dairy seems healthier.

It’s lighter.

Maybe you’ve even trained your taste-buds to like it better

BUT the thing about opting for low-fat and non-fat sources of dairy is that we are essentially eating a processed food version of dairy. Not to mention, MISSING OUT on the REAL nutrient benefits dairy CAN provide, including:

  • Healthy fats—Saturated and Omega-3’s (imperative for proper digestion, heart health, cell health, clear skin, nail and hair health, taste, metabolic balance; Saturated fats are also known to be antiviral, antifungal and anti-plague properties—despite old-school artery-clogging theories)
  • Vitamin D (necessary for absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients in the first place)
  • Vitamin A (vision, immune health, normal growth and development of body tissue)
  • Calcium that is ACTUALLY absorbed (you need fat-soluble vitamins, like Vitamin D, found in healthy fat, to absorb it)
  • Probiotics (the FULL-FAT, organic, plain versions of yogurt with Live and Active Cultures provide your body with an excellent source of gut-friendly probiotics)
  • Digest-ability (full fat, less-processed, organic versions are more easily recognized by our bodies, and also contain the enzymes our bodies need to digest dairy in the first place)

 

Low-fat and non-fat dairy sources provide little to none of the above benefits, only leaving you thinking you are eating healthy while missing out on nutrition in the first place.

 

Instead here is what you REALLY get from low-fat or fat-free dairy:

  • Hunger (minutes or a couple hours later): The combo of fat and protein is what promotes a feeling of fullness. If you remove much or all of the fat, you’ll be less satisfied and hungry sooner.

 

  • Sugar: Even though varieties like Greek yogurt tend to be lower in sugar (about 4 grams in 5.3 ounces verses 7 grams in regular yogurt) than regular yogurt – if you buy anything other than plain, you can end up eating up to 18-30 grams of sugar in a serving. Additionally, when you drink skim milk or reach for fat-free yogurt, you miss out on the satiating (blood sugar stabilizing) effects of saturated fat, so your body automatically goes into “sugar and carb (grains) craving mode” to make up for it. And while artificial sweeteners seem like the healthier alternative, artificial sweeteners can have the SAME effects on your blood sugar as regular sugar.

 

  • Poor Source of Probiotics: Many commercial yogurts are not an ideal source of probiotics because they are not fermented long enough. Homemade yogurt is fermented for about 24 hours, but some commercial yogurt is fermented for as little as one hour. A hint that your yogurt hasn’t been fermented long enough is additional ingredients, such as: whey concentrates and modified corn starch, pectin, and locust bean gum (which are sometimes added to give insufficiently fermented yogurt a thicker texture). In addition, many standard yogurts and ‘brand names’, manufacturers often time heat-treat yogurt after fermentation to prolong shelf life (thus destroying the probiotic properties). The FDA requires these products be labeled “heat treated after culturing.” Be sure the container is labeled with “active cultures,” “living yogurt cultures” or “contains active cultures” as the primary ingredient.

 

  • Weight Mis-management: Contrary to popular belief, low-fat and fat-free dairy can actually have the opposite effect on weight loss or body fat loss . If you have goals around weight management, lean muscle gain or body fat loss, full-fat dairy is the way to go. Get this: In a 2013 European Journal of Nutrition research review, 11 of the 16 studies included found that participants who consumed more high-fat dairy products either weighed less or gained less weight over time than their counterparts who didn’t consume fat-laden dairy.

 

Raw and Full-Fat Dairy Benefits

So what to choose?

If you tolerate dairy or want to make it part of your daily diet, the platinum version to choose is the raw variety from grass-fed cows, goats, and sheep that have not been pasteurized. (Pasteurization deactivates the enzymes in milk, making it harder to digest). Raw milk contains greater amounts of vitamin A-rich butterfat, omega 3 fats, healthy unoxidized cholesterol, and CLAs. It also is tolerated better by lactose-intolerant individuals and those who suffer from a variety of ailments (often associated with dairy), including: allergies, anemia, thyroid problems, Autism, and skin breakouts.

However, most of us do not live on a farm and raw milk is pretty hard to come by in your grocery store.

The next best choice?

Pasteurized, full-fat, organic milk from grass-fed animals.

Full fat? Are you sure?

Yes, it’s hard to believe I know.

But it is still healthier to consume for most of us than their further processed, low- or non-fat varieties.

 

Recommendations

Here are some brands and varieties to look out for in the land of dairy:

Yogurt (Look for a plain, organic, full-fat versions of yogurt or Greek Yogurt with “Live and Active Cultures” as the only ingredient)

Avoid:

  • Brown Cow: Clever packaging. Non-organic. No “live and active cultures.” L. acidophilus or Bifidus probiotic strains.
  • Chobani: Whole Foods removed the brand from their stores a couple years ago, because their cows were given GMO feed. Since then they’ve undergone a re-branding but do not offer full-fat and plain.
  • Fage, Greek Gods, Oikos: Comes in plain and full-fat, but is from cows likely fed GMO feed
  • Yoplait: No plain or full-fat versions. Grain-fed cows. NOT authentic Greek yogurt. It contains thickeners, preservatives, food dye and sugar/artificial sugar.

Milk

 

Avoid:

  • Horizon Organic (False marketing. Cows are not pasture raised, and the milking facility houses 4000+ cows on site)
  • Grocery Chain brands-Conventional milk

 

Cheese

 

Avoid:

Steer clear of string cheese, shredded cheese, cheese slices and imitation cheeses; go for the ‘real deal’-block of cheese or cheese in its main form that have been “unpasteurized” and grass-fed

 

Butter

 

Final Thoughts

 

While dairy can totally fit into a balanced diet, like many other foods, it is recommended that you be in touch with truly how it makes you feel, as well as the addictive properties some foods can have—especially when we are intolerant or sensitive to them in the first place (Check out Steph’s interesting post on Stupid Easy Paleo about cheese addiction ) 

No matter if you choose full-fat dairy or fat-free dairy, if you are pre-disposed to have digestion difficulties, leaky gut or other health ailments, like autoimmune disease, anxiety or skin breakouts, giving your body (and gut) time to heal first is recommended (in order to fully tolerate and absorb all the nutrients dairy CAN be provide).

How do you KNOW if you tolerate dairy or not? Or if you have “leaky gut” or not? Maybe you do…maybe you don’t…

Connect with me at [email protected] for a free consult and let’s chat your body, your health and your personal nutrition goals.

 

 

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