Dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese have become very controversial. Many popular diets, including paleo and vegan lifestyles, avoid dairy completely. Yet we've also been told we need 3 servings a day to grow strong bones. So what's the truth?
There are a few reasons that we should limit or avoid dairy, but it's not all bad.
Is dairy natural?
Some argue that dairy wasn't part of our ancestor's diets as cow milk was only intended for baby cows and is hard to digest.
It is true that many people are intolerant to the milk sugar lactose, and need to avoid milk and dairy products
However, in many parts of the world, dairy has been consumed for thousands of years and there are studies showing that human genes have adapted to better process dairy products.
Lactose intolerance is especially high among African American, Indian, South American and Asian populations. It is less common in North America, Europe and Australia, so depending on your genetic make up and background, you may or may not handle dairy well.
Experiment: I often have my clients take a 2 week break from dairy. Many women will notice less bloating and generally feel better. Others notice no difference at all.
Our bodies are the expert on us! Let your body dictate what makes you feel good and what does not.
Benefits of dairy: If you are able to handle dairy, there are many benefits to including high quality yogurt, cheese or kefir in your diet. Dairy products are very nutritious- meaning that in a 100-200 calories, you get a good source of protein, calcium, Vitamin D, potassium, riboflavin, B vitamins and phosphorus, among other vitamins and minerals.
With fermented dairy products, you also get a boost of good bacteria which benefits your gut. A healthy, balanced microflora in the gut helps to prevent sickness, boosts mental health and mood and has even been linked to maintaining a healthy weight.
However, you do NOT need dairy to be healthy. You can find all of the same nutrients in leafy greens, nuts, seeds, broccoli, beans, salmon and other plant or animal sources.
Best types of dairy: Grass fed products, fermented dairy like yogurt and kefir and full fat dairy are as close to natural as we can get and have the most benefits. Full fat dairy has even been linked to lower obesity rates, as it provides for satiety and less sugar.
Determine what works best for you and include some dairy if you like it! Yogurt and cottage cheese can be a great way to add protein to your day. Use cheese sparingly as it is more fat than protein, but a sprinkle of sharp cheese can go a long way to boost flavor in a dish.
You do NOT need 3 servings a day. One serving of yogurt and a sprinkle of cheese is fine. One or possibly two servings a day is plenty. Fill up on other lean proteins, veggies, whole grains, beans and fresh fruit.
Most importantly, eat nutritious food that you like! Food is meant to be enjoyed.
Have you ever experimented without dairy?
Do you typically eat dairy or avoid it?