Dairy is one of the first things many wellness practitioners, functional MDs, dieticians, etc, will tell you to give up. The bad news is, they really might be right. The good news is that you can figure out for yourself if you can tolerate dairy, and what types of dairy your body might be better able to digest.
Cow’s milk dairy tends to have more protein triggers that trip up digestion than sheep’s milk or goat’s milk dairy. Raw dairy (unpasteurized) often contains enzymes that help people to digest dairy – these enzymes are destroyed in the pasteurization process.
Experiment by taking dairy out of your diet completely and seeing how you feel. Then add it back slowly, observing if anything changes. Experiment with just raw or sheep and goat milk dairy to see if your body tolerates these forms better.
I’ve been talking a lot about the benefits of adding more fat into your diet. And the trend continues with dairy and seeking out full fat versions (none of that 0%, 1%, 2% stuff).
In fact, we (humans, but women especially) need fat. Fat provides a good source of energy. It’s also required for the production of sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Fat is especially important for the synthesis of estrogen, which is why many women with low body fat lose their periods. Additionally, low fat diets can make it difficult for us to digest fat-soluble vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, and K.
A 2007 study has actually shown that a high intake of lowfat dairy products can inhibit ovulation, while eating natural, whole dairy products may decrease the risk of this type of infertility.
Studies also show that women who consume whole fat dairy products tend to have lower BMI’s than women who prefer skim or lowfat alternatives.
Because fat provides such a potent source of energy, our brains have been programmed to seek it out. Traditionally fatty foods that have had fat content removed can inhibit the release of hormones like leptin that cause us to feel satisfied. Additionally, removing the fat also decreases the flavor, so many fat free products have added sugar or other chemical additives to compensate for the compromised taste.
Grass-fed dairy in particular may have a larger impact on keeping your waistline trim due to its high CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) content. CLA has been shown to contribute to fat loss. Additionally, consumption of CLA from natural sources has been shown to decrease risk of various diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes.
Here’s what you should look for:
- Whole milk. 1% means that one percent of the milk’s weight is fat, 2% means that two percent of the milk’s weight is fat. Whole milk has a natural fat content of about 3.4%, so consuming the less processed stuff won’t add that much more fat to your diet, but it may help you feel sated.
- Organic and hormone free – this way you miss out on the antibiotics and hormones that mess with your system.
- Grass-fed. Pastured, grass-fed animals are not only happier, but their meat and milk content is high in healthy omega-3 fats than their grain-fed counterparts. Grass-fed cows’ milk has 300-500% CLA than grain fed animals.
- Raw is better. Raw milk has all of its enzymes intact, providing a nutritional boost and also making it easier to digest.
- Try goat milk! Goat milk is higher in protein and easier to digest.
I don’t think any of us needs to drink milk, outside of adding a bit to our coffee or tea. Here are some of my dairy:
- Organic, raw cheddar cheese
- Organic goat cheese like chevre (raw when I can find it)
- Parmesan Reggiano – authentic Italian Parmesan is made with raw cow’s milk by definition
- Organic, full fat Greek yogurt – ideally made with goat’s milk – this stuff is creamy, delicious and packs up to 17g of protein per serving
For more information on the importance of choosing organic, you can check out Vani, the Food Babe’s post on this topic here.