Dairy…What is the deal? Is it good or bad?

Dairy…what the heck?  We get SO many questions about dairy.  Is it good?  Is it bad?  If you are “paleo” can you have dairy?  Let’s get one thing straight….dairy is different for everyone.  Dairy falls into an extremely gray area, and the research is pretty much all over the place.  Personally, we do consume high quality, full fat dairy such as grass fed butter, cheese, and yogurt.  No one in our family is sensitive to it, so we eat it.  What???  But, you’re “paleo.”  No, we aren’t.  We eat a “paleo-ish” diet full of real, whole, nutrient dense foods.  This means, sometimes we eat some dairy, and occasionally some {gasp} grains such as wild rice and quinoa.  Here’s a very basic breakdown of dairy and some resources if you want to dig in further.

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It's all about YOU.

When it comes to how you eat, it’s a personal thing.  I might tolerate dairy fine, but you might be someone that is extremely sensitive.  As with anything, the only way to know how you tolerate dairy is to remove it for 3-4 weeks and then slowly add it back.  Did you feel better without it?  When you began to add it back, did you notice any negative side effects?  If you felt better without dairy or noticed any not so great effects when you added it back in, maybe dairy isn’t right for you.

You are the only person that knows how you feel.  When you eat, you should eat foods that make you feel good.  If you remove dairy and then feel great after adding it back in, go for it.  High quality, full fat dairy has some great benefits and can be a good addition to your diet if it works for you.

Not all dairy is created equal.

I will be listing some pros and cons of dairy, but is important to understand that not all dairy is created equal.  When consuming dairy, we believe that it is important to consume organic, grass fed, full fat dairy products if at all possible.  Remember that dairy affects everyone differently, so if you don’t tolerate dairy well, just stop reading, go get some veggies, and find another great blog post like this one to check out or go knock out one of our Wednesday workouts.

The most tolerated forms of dairy seem to be butter and ghee.  Other forms that are tolerated well include cheese and yogurt.  Butter, cheese, and yogurt are likely tolerated well because the main problems with dairy {lactose, casein, and whey} are either not present or lessened by the fermentation process.  If you aren't familiar with fermented foods and the health benefits that they provide, check out this article.

Why full fat instead of low fat or non fat?

Most of the research that has shown positive health benefits with dairy has been done with full fat diary.  The fatty acids and vitamins present in full fat dairy are beneficial.  The non fat dairy products are stripped of the healthy saturated fats.  These low fat or non fat products are often full of added sugar.  This article from Mark's Daily Apple has some great information on full fat vs. non fat dairy.

Benefits

Dairy does have some great benefits.  On top of the benefits, it tastes great, and it can add some really nice flavor to your meals…hello veggies with butter!  Here are a few benefits that have been shown.  Keep in mind that these benefits are for FULL FAT dairy.  We aren’t talking dairy that’s been stripped of fat and left with sugar.

Dairy is a great source of fat, fatty acids, and quality protein.

Dairy packs a good amount of fat.  When we did six weeks of keto, our dairy intake increased quite a bit.  For those that are following a low carb diet, dairy can be a great addition to your meals.  Full fat dairy contains healthy, saturated fats such as conjugated linoleum acid (CLA), which is known as the “good trans fat.”  Dairy also contains beneficial fatty acids and high quality protein.

Dairy contains fat soluble vitamins and important minerals.

Full fat dairy products contain essential nutrients, particularly the fat-soluble vitamins A and vitamin K2 {if your source is grass fed}.  Vitamin A is used for a variety of functions in the body such as  bone metabolism, gene expression, cell division, fetal health, skin health, immune system regulation and vision.  When you look at vitamin K2, dairy fat is one of our only reliable sources of this nutrient.  Vitamin K2 helps transport calcium to where it needs to be and remove it from where is doesn’t need to be. 

Other beneficial vitamins and minerals found in dairy include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin E, and selenium.

Some dairy contains probiotics.

Probiotic foods contain live and active bacterial cultures.  Yogurt, cheese, and kefir are dairy products that contain probiotics.  Probiotics have been shown to improve gut health.  The fermentation process of dairy also breaks down the lactose, or milk sugar, making these diary products easier to digest.

Studies are showing a link between full fat dairy and improved health.

More and more studies are coming out linking a consumption of full fat dairy {note that non fat diary is not included here} to better health.  Some of the benefits shown include reduced markers of inflammation, reduced blood pressure, and reduced body fat while maintaining lean mass.  The saturated fat in full fat dairy has not been shown to increase the risk for heart disease or increase cholesterol.

Potential Problems

Dairy can come with an array of potential problems.  Most of these are taken care of if you buy high quality dairy products, but if you don’t, here are some things to watch out for.   

Lactose

Lactose is basically milk sugar.  In order to digest lactose, an enzyme called lactase is required.  Unfortunately, many people stop producing this enzyme after childhood.  Up to 75% of the population may have lactose intolerance…the inability to digest lactose properly.

Casein

Casein is a milk protein and is a common allergen.  In fact, casein actually shares some structural similarities with components of gluten.  It causes autoimmune problems that comprise digestive and immune function in sensitive people.  For those with leaky guts, casein can be a bigger problem.

Dairy causes a pretty big insulin spike.

Dairy does cause a fairly large insulin spike.  The spike can be attributed to not only the lactose but more likely, it’s the combination of the protein {the whey} plus the milk sugar. 

Many dairy products contain some scary stuff.

So many of the dairy products on the shelves of our grocery stores contain added hormones, pesticides, GMOs {genetically modified organisms}, and antibiotics.  Many cows are treated with growth hormones.  The growth hormone {rBGH or rBST} increases insulin-like growth factor {IGF-1}.  IGF-1 has been linked to multiple cancers such as breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancer.

The GMOs used in cows increase our resistance to antibiotics.  They have also been shown to trigger allergies and contribute to reproductive problems.

Dairy can flare up acne in some individuals.

Acne is a common side effect of dairy consumption.  Whether dairy affects your skin will be something that only you can determine.

Yep, it's still gray.

Dairy - it all goes back to what works for you.  We highly encourage you to eliminate all forms of dairy for a period of time and then add them back in.  This way, you have a concrete measurement of how dairy affects you.

If you are eating healthy, exercising, managing your stress, and sleeping, yet you find that your fat loss has stopped or hit a plateau, dairy could be the problem.  The proteins in dairy promote growth.  Maybe give up your creamer and cheese and see what happens.

It’s very important to consume good diary.  We don’t love milk, but we do eat organic, full fat dairy.  If we can find grass fed or raw dairy, we go for that.  Good sources of dairy can include butter, cheese, heavy cream, yogurt, and kefir.  Also, goat milk and cheese is a great option.  In fact, research has shown that dairy from goats is the closest to the structure of human milk.

If you want to dive in a little deeper, make sure you check out the articles we linked above.

Don’t get caught up in the details.  If you can tolerate it, dairy can definitely provide benefits in your diet.  If you find that you are one of the people that doesn’t do well with dairy, get rid of it.  It’s that simple.

~KP

Kenzie Presnell

Loving life, enjoying the ride, and trying to live life as healthy as I can.

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