Contrary to public opinion, FULL-FAT dairy is as healthy as it gets, especially if it's organic and grass-fed. This is exactly what people need, nutritionally and environmentally (2,16,26). And, to avoid allergies associated with dairy, it's best to go with either goat or brown (A2) cow milk. Unlike the black & white Holstein cows, brown cows are allergy free, do not eat toxic GMO grain and corn, and make a creamier, more nutrient-dense milk (27). I call them happy cows. In contrast, most dairy comes from poorly managed, factory farms, where stressed animals mass-produce low-quality milk containing antibiotics, hormones and pesticides (9). Milk quality depends on what goes into it.
Unfortunately, many people still fear animal fat. They've been told it causes weight gain, raises bad cholesterol, and is not heart healthy (24). Some of this is justified: some animal fat is not fit to eat, like from toxic factory farms. But, that's no reason to avoid organic, grass-fed dairy. Many nutrients in milk--especially from full-fat, plain yogurt--are hard to get from other sources.
It comes down to quality. It's about wholeness & freshness. It's about unprocessed food and minimal ingredients. It's about real food. That's what informed shoppers seek.
Fat is actually good for us. It flavors food, boosts immunity and brain function, builds cell membranes, insulates nerves, feeds friendly gut bacteria, promotes satiety, and provides a cleaner fuel for our energy needs. It also aids absorption of many nutrients, including calcium (8). Fat is not just about calories; it makes us healthy and whole.
Fat is not just one, but many things. Cholesterol, for example, is part of cell membranes, sex hormones, vitamin D, bile salts and brain fats (8). Without cholesterol, we could not function. High cholesterol is not associated with cardiovascular disease, or higher death risk (1,5,24). In fact, nearly 75% of first heart attacks occur in people with normal cholesterol (28). The US government recently removed limits on cholesterol in their 2015 Dietary Guidelines (30).
When fat is skimmed from milk, a host of nutrients are lost, most notably vitamins A, D, E, & K (24). These are essential antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and bone-building nutrients that few foods offer (30). Also lost is lutein-an antioxidant that protects the eyes and the brain (6). Fat-free dairy is devoid of omega fats - 3, 6 and 9. Compared to conventional dairy, grass-fed dairy has nearly five times as much omega-3, which help curb inflammation (2,3) and are essential for nerve function (2,10,17). Another unique fat in grass-fed dairy called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) has powerful immune-enhancing and weight management properties (4,32). Full-fat dairy also contains omega-9 fats, similar to olive oil, which provide energy.
The saturated fat in grass-fed dairy also works for you (31). It helps raise good cholesterol and lowers dangerous triglycerides (13,14,21,23). These fats help with weight management (25), build stronger bones; maintain liver, lung, brain and metabolic (7,11) health and strengthen immunity (20). It may seem counterintuitive, but eating full-fat dairy actually helps you lose weight (12,15,16,18,19,21).
Animal fat has been wrongly vilified, and for sinister reasons. Animal fats were falsely denigrated by the edible oil (corn, soy) and pharmaceutical industries (24). Corn syrup contributes substantially to diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, depression, dementia, and cancer. A thousand times more soy oil (mostly as trans fats) is consumed today than 100 years ago (33). Dietary changes in the 20th century, from healthy animal fats to vegetable oils, trans fats and refined carbs helped grow Big Pharma and our healthcare burden enormously. This is capitalism at its best, or should I say worst.
Over a hundred years ago, people ate much more meat, butter, eggs and dairy, at a time when diseases like diabetes, obesity and clogged arteries were rare (15,23,24,30). So, consider bringing an old tradition back to the table. Enjoy plain, FULL FAT grass-fed organic yogurt and dairy, knowing that the fats it provides are the ones we need to be at our best.
1 Bowden J, Sinatra S. (2012) Quayside Publishing, Beverly, MA.
2 Chang K. (2016) NY Times.
3 Dangardt, F., et al. (2010) Atherosclerosis 212:580-5.
4 Dhiman TR, et al. (1999) J Dairy Sci 82:2146-56.
5 Daz-López A, et al. (2016) Eur J Nutr 55:349-60.
6 Domenico P. (2012) Functional Ingredients 125:26