Dairy fat is back in people’s diets this year, be it in milk, yogurt or even cheese. Once regarded as bad for your health, the trend has changed again, which begs to ask the questions: How good is dairy fat for you and what is the best way to consume it without packing on the pounds?
The reason people have been wary of making dairy fat a regular part of their diet is because it carries a lot of calories, which can lead to weight gain, especially for those who lead a more sedentary lifestyle.
However, consuming low dairy fat often leads to even more weight gain. The key lies in satiety. The fat in whole dairy products satiates us faster and we feel fuller longer, thus consuming less food during the course of a day and reducing the chances of binging or overeating.
“The first thing we do when we give up on fat is we give up the good fats in our diet, and in lieu of that increase our intake of carbohydrates that are harmful to our body,” Garima Batra Sharma, holistic health coach and founder/trainer of The Yoga Lounge, said. “This does not mean that you gorge on butter and ghee. It simply means when making a choice between low-fat milk and full-fat milk, choose the latter.”
Ruchika Behal, certified health coach and graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, said, “When fat is removed from dairy, often sugar or artificial sweeteners are added to create a feeling of satiety.” And that leads to a number of other health problems.
Sheena Pradhan, registered dietitian and nutritionist, added, “There was quite a bit of research published this past year that stated, too much sugar is worse for your health than too much fat. Many people do not know that increased sugar intake can cause health problems such as high cholesterol and heart disease.”
Moreover, dairy fat has a host of benefits. The fat found in whole dairy products is complex and consists of a number of fatty acids that are essential for a healthy lifestyle.
Organic whole milk, for example, contains essential omega-3 fatty acids. When fat is removed from milk, fatty acids like Rumenic fatty acids are also removed.
“Dairy’s fatty acids play a big role in hormone regulation among women,” Garima said.
Behal added, “Dairy, with its fats removed, may not support the absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins D and A.”
The best way to reap the benefits of dairy fat without gobbling up calories is to consume it smartly and in moderation.
“Fats from milk, cheese and yogurt, are good when compared to fats in butter. Then again, you should restrict your daily consumption of fat to 25 percent of your diet,” Garima said.
“We have to strike a balance between natural sources like nuts and oilseeds and fat from dairy sources,” said Dr. Shikha Sharma, who offers a solution to consuming dairy fats. “Dairy fat being a saturated fat has its health challenges, and if consumed as a sole source of fats. The overall intake of dairy fat should be balanced and should not exceed the overall saturated fat requirement. 50 percent of dairy fat milk taken as a meal replacement for dinner is a good way to lose weight while satisfying one’s taste of fat.”
Besides quantity, quality is an important factor to keep in mind while consuming dairy fat.
“Eat organic dairy fat only and take non-colored natural dairy fat, not the yellow colored and artificially colored fats,” Shikha added. “Avoid highly processed fats/butters which may come loaded with other compounds which your body doesn’t need.”
Behal sums it up well, “Dairy, to be useful in the body must be of high quality—ideally freshly milked from well treated grass-fed cows, no hormones or antibiotics, and not homogenized, and taken in moderate quantities.”