For years we have been fed lies and/or inaccurate information about what constitutes a healthy diet.
One of the biggest pieces of misinformation we’ve been told is to avoid unhealthy fats, specifically saturated fat.
As a result, the general public have been terrified into thinking if they eat too much saturated fat it will clog the arteries.
This has led to the mass avoidance of saturated fat. But, has that resulted in a subsequent reduction in heart disease? Absolutely not! In fact, we’re in a worse position now that ever before.
Clearly, something isn’t right!
Vegetable Oils and Margarines
You see, when you reduce your intake of saturated fats like butter, you ultimately replace it with something else.
And, for most people that means a substitute that is much less healthy. Namely, vegetable oils, margarine, and ‘buttery’ spreads.
I would go as far as saying these oils and ‘fake’ fats are some of the most misunderstood and over-recommended foods in our diets these days.
The majority of people don’t even realize they are eating something ultimately worse for them, because these products have been talked-up so much by health professionals.
You’ve probably heard them referred to as “heart healthy oils,” and fully believe they are a good alternative to “artery clogging saturated fats.”
These oils and spreads are supposed to help lower bad cholesterol, and normalize blood pressure, as well as aid weight loss.
The other problem is that when you start eating lower fat foods, you end up consuming lots more added sweeteners.
This is because when you take the fat out of a food, you need to replace it with something, and once again it is being replaced with something less healthy.
Full Fat Dairy is Good for You
If you are still of the opinion that saturated fat is harmful to health, let me remind you, there are no studies which prove conclusively that saturated fat leads to heart disease.
This was also the conclusion of a 2010 meta analysis, which said;
There is no significant evidence for concluding that dietary saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of CHD or CVD (coronary heart disease or cardiovascular disease).
The truth is, you’ve been lied to for years!
At last though, many experts are pointing to the trans fats found in margarine, vegetable shortening, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils as the true villain. But, must of the misinformation about saturated fat continues to be repeated and believed.
Here are some of the reasons why full fat dairy foods are good for you;
- Butterfat is a great source of easily absorbed vitamin A. It also contains the fat-soluble vitamins D, E and K2.
- Butterfat is a source of trace minerals, including manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, selenium, and iodine.
- Milk, cheese (and meat) from grass fed cattle is a good source of omega 3 fats.
- When dairy products come from grass fed cows they contain high levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) — a compound that helps your body build muscle rather than store fat, amongst other things.
- When you eat fat as part of your meals and snacks it helps to slow down absorption, and this means you feel fuller for longer.
The Research on Dairy
The scientific research also indicates that full fat dairy may help reduce your risk of;
Palmitoleic acid, occurs naturally in full fat dairy products and meat, and it is protective against insulin resistance and diabetes.
One study noted that people who consumed full fat dairy had higher trans-palmitoleate levels, and that higher trans-palmitoleate levels were associated with;
- Slightly lower body fat
- Higher HDL cholesterol levels
- Lower triglyceride levels
- Lower total cholesterol:HDL cholesterol ratio
- Lower C-reactive protein levels
- Lower insulin resistance. Trans-palmitoleate was also associated with a substantially lower incidence of diabetes
The researchers concluded;
Our findings may explain previously observed metabolic benefits of dairy consumption.
Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is a fat found naturally in cow’s milk, may help to lower the risk of cancer.
In one study, researchers looked at women who had 4+ servings of high fat dairy foods per day, including whole milk, full fat cultured milk, cheese, cream, sour cream, and butter, and found they had a 41 percent lower risk of colon cancer than those who ate less than one serving.
The authors concluded;
These prospective data suggest that high intakes of high-fat dairy foods and CLA may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.
3. Heart Disease
In another study, researchers found that those who consumed the most full fat dairy were actually less likely to die from heart disease;
Overall intake of dairy products was not associated with mortality.
As I’ve also said, butter contains nutrients like vitamins A, D, K2, and E, lecithin, iodine and selenium. These have a protective effect against heart disease.
There are a number of studies which suggest regular consumption of dairy foods can have a positive effect on body composition.
Interestingly, one study found that women who ate at least one serving of full fat dairy each day gained 30 percent less weight over a nine year period than women who consumed only low or no fat dairy products.
What to Avoid: Margarine, Shortening and Buttery Spreads
Vegetable oils (and margarine made from these oils) are extracted from seeds, such as rapeseed (canola oil), soybean (soybean oil), corn, sunflower, safflower, etc. Basically, the oil is forced from these seeds through a chemical process.
This is very different to the much more natural process of making butter.
As an interesting comparison, take a look at the following two processes…
1. How Canola Oil is Made
That is unbelievably vile!
If you want to avoid vegetable oils, you’ll need to avoid all processed foods, since these oils are used in practically every processed food, from salad dressing, to mayonnaise, to cookies and potato chips.
2. How Butter is Made
I’ll take my chances with the butter, thank you very much!
Which Dairy to Purchase
Grass fed dairy is the most nutritious option, in comparison to dairy products which come from grain fed cattle. Unfortunately, the majority of US produced dairy comes from grain fed cattle.
Also, the health benefits I’ve been discussing relate to full fat dairy foods, not skim, 0%, or 1% reduced fat varieties of milk, yogurts, and cheeses.
Remember, it is the butterfat which contains these beneficial components.
When you remove most of the butterfat in dairy foods, you remove many of the nutrients, and even though they are often synthetically added back in again, it just isn’t as good for you.
I cannot stress enough the need to go for the version the cow creates, not the dairy industry’s inferior version.
So, what dairy foods should you go for?
- Best case: raw, full fat, grass fed, organic dairy products, straight from your local farmer. The Campaign For Real Milk website is really helpful, with information on where you can find raw dairy sources in your area.
- Dairy products made from grass fed milk (for example products from Europe, Irish butter such as Kerrygold, or the Abernethy Butter Company, here in Northern Ireland).
- Pasteurized butter from supermarkets, rather than margarine or buttery spreads.
- Good choices of cheese include mature cheddar, feta and gouda.
- Natural, unsweetened yogurt (organic or grass fed, if possible).
- Fermented milks, such as kefir or Indian Lassi.
What you should avoid;
- Flavored yogurts, which are loaded with sugar or artificial sweeteners.
- Heavily processed cheeses, such as cheese spreads, cheese strings, or cheese wrapped in plastic sleeves.
If you’re really keen on getting back to basics, you could have a go at making your own butter. I love this idea, but doubt I would ever have the time to do it regularly.
Check out Positron.org, for step-by-step instructions on making your own butter using grass fed milk.
At the end of it all, my message is the same as it always is… choose foods that are close to nature, and you won’t go far wrong.
I don’t recommend eating saturated fats with abandon, but moderate amounts of butter to cook with, or eating cheese as a snack, etc. is absolutely fine.
What are your thoughts on eating full fat dairy products?