Not All Fats are Equal: Why Dairy Fat Might Have a Place in a Healthy Diet

Doctors, researchers, and scientists agree: saturated fat, in moderation, is not terrible as long as it’s only consumed on occasion. You probably shouldn’t eat a marbled steak every day, but what about other fats, like yogurt? It might actually be good for you.

According to a recent study, dairy fat might not be as bad as we once thought, and this study shows that people who eat full fat dairy are just as healthy, and in many cases, healthier, than those who choose a low-fat version of the same item, such as yogurt.

Animal meat is almost all saturated fat; dairy products also contain saturated fats, and there have been several studies that link saturated fat with heart disease, obesity, and high cholesterol. It has always been assumed that all saturated fat does this, but according to this new study, that might not be true. Only the saturated fat found in animal meat, not actually dairy or plant-based fats, raise the risk of heart issues.

What’s interesting about this is that people who ate saturated fat from dairy have higher levels of fatty acids in their blood. These higher levels meant that they have a lower risk of becoming diabetic. There was also a trial that looked at 164 people. They were given an equal amount of carbs and calories, but given full fat cheese, low-fat cheese, or no cheese. After 12 weeks of this, there was no difference in their LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), nor did they have any other risk factors for diabetes. Additionally, HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) was higher in those who ate cheese as opposed to those who didn’t. This is actually great news for cheese lovers!

This isn’t the only evidence to support eating full fat dairy, like cheese and yogurt, either. A study that looked at women going through menopause showed that women who ate full-fat dairy products had a lower risk of gaining weight during menopause.

Now, researchers aren’t sure why this is the case and that dairy fats are healthier than animal fat. It could be that dairy such as cheese and yogurt help to contribute to a healthy microbiome in the gut. It also could be more filling, which you help the body regulate insulin. Additionally, manufacturers tend to add chemicals and sugar to low-fat dairy to compensate for fat loss, which makes many people gain weight.

Does this mean you should run out and splurge on all of the yogurt and cheese you want? Probably not. Though it might not be bad for your heart or raise your cholesterol, these items are generally high in calories. So, if you are going to eat more cheese or yogurt, you probably won’t be losing weight anytime soon. However, there is certainly a place for high-fat dairy in a healthy diet. A good choice would be to eat your yogurt or cheese with nuts, fruits, or whole grain crackers, and don’t overdo anything.

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