This is a question that is frequently asked by those trying to lose weight or improve their health. It is also one that many experts will have various opinions about as well. So what is the correct answer? To find the answer let’s look at some of the facts we know about dairy.
Dairy is promoted by many health organizations worldwide as being necessary for bone health and proper growth in children. All dairy is not the same structurally nor necessarily good for you. A large part of the benefit of dairy depends on how the animal was fed, under what conditions it was raised and how the dairy was processed. Grass fed dairy is completely different from conventional dairy in it’s fatty acid profile and vitamins. Dairy, milk in particular, is meant to promote growth in animals. Humans though are the only mammal to consume milk after weaning and the milk of another animal. This brings us to why dairy can disagree with many people.
Dairy is very nutritious. After all it contains everything necessary to raise a calf and other mammals to adulthood in the animal kingdom. Let’s focus though on humans and how it is metabolized in our body. Most dairy contains the milk sugar lactose. As an infant we produce the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose. In some people, the gene that produces lactase is “shut off” prematurely and they become lactose intolerant. It can happen by the age of 3, sometimes not until you are in your 20’s or even much later in life. Nearly 65-75% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant. A milk allergy is different from lactose intolerance because in a milk allergy it’s a reaction to the protein in milk not the sugar. Symptoms of lactose intolerance can range from gastrointestinal upset, acne or simply a stuffy nose after consuming dairy. As you can see the signs and symptoms vary greatly among individuals. Those without the very obvious symptoms can still be intolerant. The easiest way to determine if you could be intolerant of dairy is to eliminate it from your diet for 30 days. After 30 days, add it back in and observe for symptoms to return.
As for weight loss, dairy is high on the list of insulinogenic foods. In other words, ingesting dairy will raise the circulating insulin in your blood for the next 2 hours even more so than some carbohydrates. Remember, the goal in weight loss is to keep your insulin levels low by maintaining a stable blood sugar. Secondly, milk (dairy) promotes growth in animals therefore you may want to avoid dairy if you are having difficulty losing weight. Once again, eliminate it for a while and see what happens on the scale.
If you tolerate dairy, consider using grass fed dairy products. Grass fed dairy is an excellent source of saturated fat plus is full of omega 3 fatty acids and conjugated linoleic acid or CLA. CLA has many health benefits ranging from cancer prevention to improving body composition. It is also rich in fat-soluble vitamins we need for many of our bodily functions. Goat’s milk is said to be better tolerated by those who are dairy sensitive because it is structurally very similar to human breast milk. Try some goat’s milk to see if it works for you.
So with all the differing opinions about dairy, it’s best to decide for yourself if it is right for you and your goals. Don’t feel that it is absolutely necessary in your diet. It’s more important to find if it is causing you health issues or impacting your weight loss goals. Choose to use grass fed dairy in moderation if you are tolerant and always use full fat dairy.