TO DAIRY OR NOT TO DAIRY?
Because I’m so fed up with so much misinformation in this industry, I’m really thankful when I first heard from Precision Nutrition some years ago. Why? It’s very simple, they follow a 100% scientific approach and always put everything in context. At the end they leave it up to you to decide what’s right or wrong for you.
- Just as the category of “meat” includes everything from wild-caught elk to hot dogs, “dairy” is a pretty large group of foods and come along in different qualities. So it greatly depends on what kind of dairy you eat.
- Even if dairy is theoretically “good”, depending on your unique genetic makeup, it may or may not be “good” (or the right choice) for you.
- Dairy’s IGF-1 connection to cancer is not consistent or strong enough. Likewise, fears that “milk’s got all those nasty hormones” isn’t a scientifically backed concern.
- Some folks can tolerate and benefit from milk, and choose to drink it. Some can’t, and don’t. If you choose to consume milk: As with all foods, it’s probably best to have milk in moderation, noting whether it causes any symptoms and discontinuing it if it bothers you.
- The verdict: Evidence strongly suggests that cultured and fermented dairy products provide many health benefits. Include them in your diet, if you want.
- Aged and cultured cheeses likely provide some health benefits. Enjoy processed cheese as an occasional treat, if you want.
- While a little butter is definitely okay, it is certainly not a superfood. Enjoy in small to moderate amounts, if you want.
- The short answer about dairy and health is:
- It depends.
- It’s complicated.
- Health (or the lack of it) comes from a complex interaction between many factors — our overall diets, our activities, our lifestyles, our environment, our genetics, our age, and so on. Additionally, nutritional research can be complicated.
- Bear this in mind: There is no “magic food” or “demon food” that will be the single factor determining your health, fitness, or body composition. Dairy is one small part of a much bigger picture.
- If you choose to eat dairy, it can be a helpful part of a fat loss or weight management program.
- If you choose to eat dairy, it can be a helpful part of a muscle gain or athletic recovery program.
- In general, dairy consumption can help bone health. But you can get enough calcium and other bone-friendly nutrients without dairy.
- If you are active and eat a well-balanced diet, moderate dairy consumption is unlikely to put you at risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke, and might decrease risk (depending what dairy you choose).
- Current research indicates that overall dairy intake does not pose increased risk of several types of cancer, but this is certainly an area where we need more research.
- If you have a dairy allergy, you should avoid dairy.
- If you are lactose intolerant, you can experiment with different options to see what you can tolerate. If your symptoms are persistent, avoid dairy.
- If you have another type of dairy sensitivity, you can experiment with different options to see what you can tolerate. If your symptoms are persistent, avoid dairy.
- Importantly: The risk of bacterial infection from raw milk, in general, outweighs any speculative health concerns about pasteurization .
- Environmental and ethical concerns are legitimate reasons to abstain from dairy if you feel passionately about them, but make sure to also research the alternatives if you’re seeking truly ethical and/or environmentally sustainable options.
There’s no “right choice”. There are only choices that work more or less for you.
Your body is unique. Your life is unique. You don’t need dairy in order to be healthy. As the evidence currently stands (read: not yet definitive), the known health benefits of dairy most certainly outweigh the suspected harms, on average.
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