You have probably heard the weight loss myth that dairy makes you fat. If giving up dairy was previously ruining your diet, you will be glad to know that dairy alone will not cause you to gain weight. In fact, eating dairy can actually help you lose more weight than you would eating the same number of calories without dairy. The important thing to remember about is is to eat the right kind of dairy. No, you will not lose weight if you eat a pint of ice cream followed by a plate of nachos topped with sour cream. Making healthy low fat dairy choices will help you lose weight.
What Is Dairy?
Dairy is essentially any food produced from milk. Dairy is generally produced from cow's milk and sometimes goat's or sheep's milk. Dairy can include cream, cheese, ice-cream, gelato, yogurt, buttermilk and milk. Dairy can also include products like kefir, which is a yogurt-like beverage and casein (used in many protein shakes and powders). Different sources of dairy contain varying nutrients, but most dairy has some basic components. Dairy contains carbohydrates (glucose and fructose), saturated fat (unless you get fat free dairy), vitamins (like vitamin D), and minerals (like calcium and iron).
You can eat dairy and still lose weight. Low-fat or fat free dairy will give you energy and nutrients without the extra fat. Research has also demonstrated that the calcium found in dairy can actually increase your weight loss. Researchers found that people lose more weight eating dairy than consuming calcium supplements or not eating dairy at all. The cause of this dairy weight-loss mechanism is still being investigated, but it is generally accepted that including three or four low fat servings of dairy each day can facilitate weight loss. Some diet-friendly dairy examples are low fat and fat free yogurt and milk, and low fat cheese.
Some dairy can ruin your diet. Not because it is dairy but because it is high in fat and contains a lot of saturated fat. Saturated fat doesn't help your body the way unsaturated fats do. You could actually never eat saturated fat and be healthier. Saturated fat is also more difficult to get rid of because it is not used for energy like the unsaturated fats which help your brain and heart. Instead, saturated fat just causes health problems like obesity, diabetes and some types of cancer. Foods that should be used very sparingly (or not at all) include full-fat ice cream, cream, hard cheese (typically the harder the cheese, the more saturated fat) and homogenized milk.
Now that you know that the dairy myth is untrue, you can eat (most) dairy guilt-free. Just remember to use moderation and eat dairy with the other food groups like whole grains and vegetables. As a general rule, it is not healthy to only eat one food group or to eliminate a food group. Any "diet" that requires you to only eat dairy or give up dairy entirely is not best for your health.