Full-fat dairy or low-fat dairy?
It seems to be a dividing issue when it comes to nutritionists, dieticians, doctors, and other nutrition experts.
I had heard from different places (news reports, my brother) that whole fat is the way the go. The studies often suggest that people who consume full-fat dairy generally have less problems with obesity and diabetes. However, when my son would go to his pediatrician, because of his BMI, she would often suggest that we switch to 1% or skim milk. Then, when he ended up with high cholesterol, the dietician that we met with at the children’s hospital said to avoid saturated fats, which meant we officially made the switch to 1% in order to follow her guidelines.
During one of our library trips, I stumbled across The Great Cholesterol Myth, which opened my eyes to why we have the ideas that we have about cholesterol and saturated fat, i.e. that these are bad and that they cause heart disease (HINT: the root of these beliefs is due to money, politics, and deceptive research practices–surprise, surprise). Sugar is the real “demon in the diet,” as the authors put it.
This led me to request a bunch of books about sugar, sugar versus fat, and detoxing/quitting sugar. You would think that these books would all agree about dairy, but of all the things they do agree on (i.e. fructose is bad news), they are still divided on dairy. I wondered if that was because of when they were published, if maybe the discoveries about full-fat dairy were more recent and just hadn’t fully spread. Here’s what I found:
The g.i. Diet Cookbook (2005) – favors skim and low-fat dairy
The Sugar Fix (2008) – favors low-fat dairy and says to avoid too much saturated fat
The Sugar Blockers Diet (2012) – appears to encourage full-fat dairy. It’s the only type of dairy listed.
21-day Sugar Detox (2013) – favors full-fat dairy and says no low-fat dairy
I Quit Sugar (2013) – says fat is good and to choose whole fat dairy
The Sugar Smart Diet (2013) – the recipes contain fat-free dairy
100 Days of Real Food (2014) – is for whole fat dairy because it is less processed
Sugar Savvy Solution (2014) – is definitely pro skim milk and nonfat diary
The Great Cholesterol Myth (2015) – is okay with lard but never takes a stance on dairy
The Sugar Detox Plan (2016) – says to avoid most saturated fat and opt for low-fat dairy
Eat Fat, Get Thin (2016) – You would think with this title, the book would be in the full-fat dairy camp, but actually, it says no dairy at all, except for grass-fed butter and lard.
So my hypothesis was wrong. It’s not about dates.
Time to turn to some primary sources.
The following are results from academic journals and are mostly from peer reviewed scholarly journals found by searching a university library database. Just read the blue to skip to my summary of each of the research findings.
- “Effects of High and Low Fat Dairy Food on Cardio-Metabolic Risk Factors: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Studies” by Benatar, Sidhu, and Stewart, published in PLOS ONE (2013):
In other words, you might gain some weight by eating dairy whether it’s low-fat or whole-fat.
- “The effect of low-fat versus whole-fat dairy product intake on blood pressure and weight in young normotensive adults” by Alonso et al., published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics (2009):
The amount of fat in dairy did not affect blood pressure, though the whole-fat dairy did cause some weight gain.
- “Intake of High-Fat Yogurt, but Not of Low-Fat Yogurt or Prebiotics, Is Related to Lower Risk of Depression in Women of the SUN Cohort Study” by Perez-Cornago et al., published in the Journal of Nutrition (2016):
Whole-fat yogurt lowered the women’s risk of depression. (That’s a cool side effect.)
- “Total and Full-Fat, but Not Low-Fat, Dairy Product Intakes are Inversely Associated with Metabolic Syndrome in Adults” by Drehmer et al., published in the Journal of Nutrition (2016):
That’s a mouth full, but basically, more dairy, especially full-fat dairy, decreases the risk for metabolic syndrome, at least in middle-aged and older adults, which goes against the current dietary guidelines.
- “High full fat dairy products intake is associated with increased blood glucose levels among hypertensive people” by Vallianou et al., published in Atherosclerosis Supplements (2011):
So, if you have high blood pressure, full-fat dairy, especially yellow cheeses, could have a negative effect on your blood sugar levels.
- “Dairy Intakes at Age 10 Years Do Not Adversely Affect Risk of Excess Adiposity at 13 Years” by Bigornia et al., published in the Journal of Nutrition (2014):
“Adiposity”–had to look this one up. It refers to being severely overweight or obese. So, although they apparently aren’t totally confident about the results of the study, it showed that full-fat dairy seems to protect against being overweight.
- “Involvement of dietary saturated fats, from all sources or of dairy origin only, in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes” by Morio et al., published in Nutrition Reviews (2016):
This one also comes to the conclusion that full-fat dairy doesn’t affect risk of diabetes. It does, however, suggest limiting total saturated fat since that might change the effects. The paragraph after this is also very careful to point out that studies that making any sweeping generalizations about a specific part of a food, like saturated fatty acids, shouldn’t be done since other aspects of a particular food could also influence a person’s health.
What do other diets that are considered healthy say?
U.S. News ranked the best diets overall and rated the DASH diet as the healthiest, followed by the Mediterranean diet. The DASH diet clearly states that low-fat dairy is preferred, and the Medterranean diet is focused on limiting saturated fat, suggesting that it is also in favor of low-fat dairy options.
Additional thoughts from across the Internet
Articles saying that full-fat dairy may be good:
- From NPR: The Full-Fat Paradox: Dairy Fat Linked To Lower Diabetes Risk
- From Cooking Light: Low-Fat vs Full-Fat: What Science Now Says About the Dairy You Eat
- From Dr. Weil (known for the anti-inflammatory diet): Rethinking Saturated Fat?
And there are many more. It was actually difficult to find any general website not talking about the recent studies showing benefits for full-fat dairy. Still, the following groups still say you should opt for non-fat or low-fat dairy:
- The United States Department of Agriculture
- The American Heart Association
Full-fat dairy contains more calories, so I think this may be why most of the diet books go for low-fat and nonfat. If you’re trying to sell a diet book, people that try it need to lose weight; otherwise, you won’t sell many books. People are more likely to lose weight if they reduce calories from dairy, so it makes sense.
However, the books that aren’t focused on weight loss and just generally mention that you might lose a few pounds following their way of eating tend to lean towards the full-fat dairy camp. This could explain, too, why the research falls that way as well but admits that it could cause weight gain.
So perhaps a happy compromise would be to use low-fat and nonfat dairy until you get to your goal weight. Then, once weight loss is not a goal, switch over the full-fat stuff. And if weight isn’t an issue for you, go full-fat, baby!
Feel free to share your views on dairy below!
(NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.)
Don’t you just love the library? I love it more now that I know there’s a 75-book limit! Plus, just like a book store, it’s arranged by topic, so I just browsed the diet books and cookbooks again. And once again, I stumbled upon some interesting finds, one of which was The Chia Seed Diet book.
I had kind of slacked off on my chia use, so I had lots of chia laying around the house that I had just recently started trying to use up, and when I browsed the book, I saw lots of recipes using chia and no sugar. Perfect.
So this book, of course, touts chia as a superfood, full of protein, fiber, and Omega-3s, but I’d say the main idea is that if you add chia to your foods throughout the day, you’ll fill up faster and for longer. Since chia absorbs water and turns to gel in your stomach, (1) you have to drink more water, which will fill you up, and (2) the gel sits in your stomach for awhile, which makes you feel fuller longer.
How I Followed the Diet
The first few days I was determined to add chia to everything that I could mix it into or get it to stick to. However, it didn’t really affect my appetite, so by the second week, I had settled in to adding chia to pretty much the same staples: cereal, yogurt, salads, smoothies, peanut butter, whipped cream, sauces, and bananas. I was getting anywhere between 1 teaspoon to 2 Tablespoons each day.
What I Learned from Doing the Diet
- Again, a diet without a lot of commitment, especially since I already had a lot of chia on hand. I didn’t need to purge my kitchen or stock up on a bunch of new food items. I was also somewhat familiar with chia, so I didn’t have any real qualms about trying to add it to foods in new ways.
- It flexed my creativity trying to figure out how to work chia into my meals. I put chia in my cereal, yogurt, salads, and smoothies, which is all pretty typical. But for a packed lunch for work that consists of a sandwich (with no sticky condiments) and carrots (no dip)? There was nothing for the chia to hold on to, so I took a banana, too. I took a bite and then dipped the end in chia seeds. It worked! I also added chia to the top of my peanut butter and apples, and between the sauce and cheese of my pita pizzas. I often stirred it into whipped cream, ketchup, and bbq sauce, too.
- I increased my Omega-3 intake without having to resort to eating salmon. I’m not a big fan of it, and it’s expensive. This was much more palatable for me. Plus, I can add chia to my food without forcing it on everyone else. If I buy salmon, everyone is eating it.
- Fiber….and regularity. Actually, I wasn’t irregular before, but this definitely increased my productivity in this area.
- Those little suckers end up stuck in my teeth (and my permanent retainer). Every. Single. Time. I decided that carrying some gum with me when I was going to consume chia outside the home was a must.
- I have to add a little more chia to the dish than what I actually want because many of the seeds stick to the side of the bowl or dish and are hard to get to.
- It was easy for me to get distracted and forget to add the chia until right at the end of the meal, meaning I didn’t get as much as I had originally intended. I even took a little baggie of chia with me to Chipotle, ordered a burrito in a bowl so that I could sprinkle it on, and then after getting the kids settled and eating, completely forgot to add any chia at all. This is one of the reasons that I just stopped trying to add it to everything.
- I never felt the extra fullness described in the book. In other words, chia was not making me eat less, and as a result, I didn’t lose weight.
Overall, I think adding chia as much as possible to my day is not a bad thing. For me, it didn’t aid weight loss, but I never thought it would. After a few days of starting this “diet,” I started using MyFitnessPal to get an idea of calories, macronutrients, and micronutrients consumed, and generally speaking, I can tell exactly why I’m not loosing weight: too many calories. I’m not gaining either, though, just maintaining, which is something at least. However, it felt good to see that I was almost always getting 40+ grams of fiber, and part of this was due to the chia. I like it in my cereal. I like it on a banana, and it’s fine in salads and smoothies. In the end, the diet made me aware of the many ways to cram chia into my daily diet, so it was well worth giving it a try.
I was at the library with my family, picking out healthy recipe books, when I stumbled upon a book called The 8-Hour Diet. I skimmed it, looking for the gimmick, but didn’t immediately see it. I showed the cover to my husband, who said, “That’s where you eat for 8 hours.” I kind of rolled my eyes and said, “Noooo.” But it turns out, he was exactly right.
In the 8-Hour Diet, you eat for 8 hours of the day and you fast for 16. The 8 hours that you eat can be any 8 hours of the day, and the books says you can pretty much eat whatever you want during that time. There are 8 types of food that the author, Zinczenko, suggests eating with every snack or meal, which are broken into two groups: the health boosters (fruits, veggies, whole grains, etc.) and the fat busters (lean protein, low-fat dairy, beans, etc.). However, multiple times throughout the book, he says that you don’t have to worry about “cheating.” You don’t even have to do it every day; just 3 days a week is enough. In general, the idea is if you don’t deprive yourself of any certain type of food, i.e. if nothing is off limits, then you’re more likely to be able to stick with it in the long run.
How I Followed the Diet
For the first week, my 8-hour eating period went from about 11:30-7:30. Since I already try to incorporate the “health boosters” and “fat busters” into my daily diet anyway, I really didn’t have to alter my eating habits.
During the second week, I extended the eating from 8 hours to 9 or 9 1/2 hours. I’ll explain why below.
What I Learned from Doing It
- It’s easy to jump right in to. I didn’t have to go buy special foods or rid my house of the foods that weren’t part of the diet. As a result, I could start immediately and was able to say, “I’ll just try it tomorrow and see if I can actually go 16 hours without eating.” There was no initial financial investment and, therefore, there was no feeling that I had to commit to it for any certain amount of time. Really, there was no pressure with it all. Just, I’ll give it a try. If I can do it, great. If I can’t, oh well; it’s not the one for me.
- The best thing, though, about doing this diet for a couple weeks is that I learned I can actually go long periods of time without eating. I was really afraid of feeling horrible–growling stomach, headache, etc.–like I usually do when I don’t eat often enough. However, I just did what the book recommended and drank lots of water and caffeinated tea. That kept the growling under control, and I never got a headache.
- Water. I drank so much water. I started each morning with nearly 20 oz instead of having breakfast. Then, I would have my normal during the day, plus some, so that most days I was getting 40+ oz of water, which was much more than I was having before–actually over twice as much!
- I went to bed earlier. If I waited too late to go to bed, then I knew I’d be hungry and want to eat, so I tried to get to bed earlier to avoid that, which, of course, resulted in more sleep.
- This diet could easily be done with any other diet to see better results. (This is mentioned in the book, too.) Just follow the other diet’s rules for the 8 hours that you’re eating.
- Fasting at least 12 hours at night is supposed to be really good for you. (Just Google “12 hours fasts” and start reading.) It’s not the first time I’ve heard this concept, so I feel like it’s something I would like to continue doing when possible.
- For the first week, I had a difficult time adjusting.
- It was hard not to overeat, especially as I got close to the end of my 8-hour window. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to eat again for 16 hours, so I wanted to stock up while I could. I will say that the book mentions that you can’t stuff yourself and expect to see results. You have to eat until satisfied, not full. This is something I struggle with anyway, but this diet made me really more aware of this problem. I felt fuller quicker and longer but often ignored these signals.
- We would eat dinner around 5 or so and be finished by 6. I knew I would need a snack before bed, but I wasn’t actually hungry before 7:30, which made me either force a snack, making me overly stuffed, or skip a snack, meaning I was hungry right at bedtime, and had to cheat with a glass of milk so that I could fall asleep. (Drinking a bunch of water at bedtime to stave off hunger pains was obviously not an option since I didn’t want to be up a million times during the night to pee.)
- I take iron at night to help with restless legs, and I have to take it with food; otherwise, I get massive stomach pain. If I take it too early, I often still end up with restless legs, so if I took the pill at 7:30, the end of my window, and didn’t go to bed until 10, then it didn’t work like it should. This, in the end, is why I extended my window an extra hour or so. That way, I could take my nighttime pills closer to bedtime. I also felt less pressured to eat when I wasn’t hungry or to overeat at dinner, so I was definitely doing better with this during the end of the two weeks, which is why I think, in the end, I didn’t gain weight.
- However, I didn’t actually lose much at all (like less than 1/2 pound in two weeks). I was hoping it would be a miracle, but for me, it just didn’t work out that way. After 10 days, I was back down to my starting weight. That’s right. I gained while I was on it at first. But in the end, making it through all the Easter candy and treats and my husband’s birthday during the first week and still netting a small loss? I suppose that is a miracle after all.
Although it’s not a diet I will probably stick with as written, I do want to continue the 12- to 16-hour fast, and now, I know that even if I stop eating at 9 and, therefore, can’t eat until 9 or later in the morning, as long as plenty of water is available, I can skip breakfast and just wait for lunch. I’ve made it 16 hours for goodness sake!
I would love to hear if you’ve tried the 8-Hour Diet and how it went for you!
So these aren’t the best pictures of me in the world, but they do demonstrate that since the beginning of January I’ve lost some weight, and if you remember, in the last post, I asked you if you thought I was able to reach my goal of losing 10% of my body weight by Easter. Well, it’s almost Easter, and looking at those two pictures, before on the left, after on the right, what do you think?
At my home weigh-in on March 9, I had officially lost 11% of my starting body weight, so I was able to reach my goal almost a month early. Now, I’m working on the next goal: another 10% lost by October.
As I mentioned, I have been doing the “best of diets,” cutting out sweets and desserts except on special occasions and doing Weight Watchers (WW) for free. It’s really the combination of these things that has made losing weight possible while at the same time not feeling deprived. I eat out. I make “cookies” out of nuts and dates, and I make “ice cream” out of bananas and strawberries. And I still lost weight, so I wanted to share the resources that I’ve been using to help me. If you’ve done Weight Watchers before, then it’s fairly easy to do it for free with the right tools.
If you haven’t done it, then it might be a little more challenging since you’re not familiar with the basics, but here’s the blog that made me realize that it’s very possible to do:
On this blog, she shares helpful links. The first one you’ll need is a calculator to figure out how many points you can eat each day:
Then, once you know how many points you can have, you’ll need a way to calculate points for foods:
If you’re having a food that doesn’t include nutritional information (because it’s fresh/not packaged), then you might use Spark People:
Then you can use the calculator to find points for it. Luckily, there are many fruits and vegetables that are 0 points and are, therefore, free foods. WW provides a nice list:
If you exercise, you earn activity points. I have found that I can’t actually eat my activity points and still lose weight, but each person needs to experiment with what they can and can’t eat:
Finally, besides your daily points, you also get 49 points. Again, you have to experiment with what your body needs and can handle. I can’t use the full 49, or I won’t lose. I’ve set my weekly allowance at around 40 so that I can continue to lose larger amounts. The weekly allowance allows you to splurge when you need to without having to feel guilty.
Consider giving WW a try if you’re trying to lose weight and eat healthier. As I learned during my time paying for WW and participating in the online communities, WW really isn’t a diet; it’s a lifestyle. I hope you give it a try. To make it easier on you if you decide to try to do it for free, I’m sharing the Google Spreadsheet I use to track points and measurements. It’s a Google Doc, so please create a copy of the spreadsheet first before entering your information; otherwise, everyone will be able to see it!
At the end of last year, I talked about the concept from a book called Eat Move Sleep about choosing the healthiest and best part of diets that you’ve done in the past and doing those things instead of following any one diet. As I thought about it and talked to others about it, I realized I hadn’t really hit the surface with some of those diets. Here’s an updated list of the “best of diets”:
- helps avoid having too many carbs, especially refined ones like flour, pasta, and sugar
(Gestational) Diabetic Diet
- opts for a balance of carbs, protein, and fat to reduce insulin spikes
- completely eliminates sweets and desserts
- requires tracking of food (in the form of a journal/point totals)
- helps with portion control
- allows “cheating” as long as you have to points to use on the food–in other words, no food is off limits so that you don’t feel deprived
- encourages exercise since you can earn extra (activity) points by working out
- encourages fruits and vegetables because they are “free” foods that don’t cost any points
- requires weekly weigh-ins to track progress
As you can see, Weight Watchers (WW) really does have a lot of good things going for it. I thought about joining up, but since we were trying to get out of debt as soon as possible, I couldn’t rationalize spending $17 a month to lose weight. Luckily, I’ve done it a couple of times and know the basics of it, and with a little help from the Internet, I’ve been able to do it for free. (Stay tuned for a future post with the details.) I’ve also been avoiding sweets completely except if it’s a holiday or a birthday (so less than once a month), and I haven’t had pop or diet pop at all since January 1st–cutting out artificially sweetened drinks or things that are mostly sugar. I still have things with sugar like ketchup or jelly, but in limited amounts.
By doing these things, the goal I set on January 1st was to lose 10% of my weight by Easter. Do you think I’ll do it? Or maybe I’ve already done it? Wait and see!
I’ve been doing pretty good about trying out some of the diet recipes this week, so here’s another one I tried, except that it was actually “Beef and Rice-Stuffed Eggplant.” If you haven’t noticed, I often sub (or forget) ingredients. This time, I used brown rice simply because I thought I had quinoa in the cupboard, but I apparently had used it all up. Ada is a huge quinoa fan, so I should’ve known we were out. I also forgot to add grapes because I was just way too excited to get to the part about stuffing the eggplant. Oh well.
Beef and Rice Quinoa-Stuffed Eggplant (A Phase 2 Recipe)
4 small eggplants (I used 3 to save some money.)
1 3/4 cups water
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup instant brown rice
3/4 pound lean ground beef (I used a pound.)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I reduced this greatly, probably by half, because none of us like a strong cinnamon flavor in savory dishes.)
3/4 teaspoon salt (I didn’t measure. I just added salt at various stages of the cooking process.)
1 can crushed tomatoes
20 red seedless grapes, halved (Again, I forgot these and just ate grapes on the side.)
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
Directions: (This is the way I did it, not the way it’s written in the original recipe.)
- Halve the eggplants. Scoop out the middle, leaving a slight edge. Dice up the scooped out eggplant.
- Placed the eggplant halves cut side down on a baking sheet. Add half cup water, and place in a 400 degree preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes.
- While the eggplants are cooking, heat the oil, add the beef and season with some salt and cinnamon.
- Cook until brown and then add the eggplant and 1/4 cup of water. Cook for a few minutes before adding the rice, the tomatoes, and 1 cup of water.
- Bring to a boil. Cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. (After this, you would add the grapes if you wanted to.)
- Fill each of the eggplant shells with the beef and rice mixture. Bake for 10 minutes.
- Sprinkle with chia seeds.
I have to say that it was pretty good. For me, it was edible. Ada, as always, ate it up. CJ, who normally doesn’t eat what we’re eating, even ate most of his, and of course, my husband thought it was pretty good, too. He thought it probably needed the grapes, though, for sweetness, so although I’m not in a rush to try it again, it might be worth trying with the grapes and the quinoa, the way it was intended to be made.
Let me know if you try it, if you tried anything different, and how it went over at your house!
I am a dessert-every-day person. Some days, I’m a dessert-every-meal person. I love my sweets, and now that I know I’ll be trying out the 21-Day Tummy diet in the near future, it feels like my appetite for sweets has increased. It may also be partly related to the fact that just recently I’ve gone from not being able to have soy, dairy, or eggs to being able to have all three (except for dairy in large amounts since not having had dairy for over a year seems to have made me fairly lactose intolerant). Now, I can have that donut. I can have that twinkie. I can have that chocolate bar (though I may suffer a bit for it). The freedom of being able to have most everything again has made me a little careless about what I put into my mouth, and I just simply want to have it because I can…and well, it tastes good.
On the first phases of the diet, though, there is no dessert. That’s going to be a bit of a tough one. By phase 3, it’s dessert every other day. That sounds like a happy medium to me.
Let’s try to cut back on the amount of sweets and desserts we have. If you’re like me and eat them every day, try cutting back to every other day, which is what I’m going to do. This is not going to be easy, and the trick will be having just ONE dessert on those days and not binging because the next day is going to be dessertless. Let’s find some willpower, and in the process, improve our health!