Are dairy products actually bad for us?
Dairy products have gotten a bad reputation and have been blamed for everything from weight gain to bone injuries. Some sources even claim that humans should never, ever
drink milk or consume dairy.
How true are these claims, though? Keep reading to find out why dairy has gotten such a bad reputation.
Does dairy make you gain weight?
One reason that milk and other dairy products have gotten a bad reputation is due to their high fat content. Let’s set something straight: fat, specifically saturated fat, is not bad for us
Healthy bodies need healthy fats to function, so don’t avoid foods purely based on their fat content.
There are even studies
that have found that drinking 2 percent or full-fat milk caused participants to gain less weight than their skim milk drinking counterparts. Of course, eating anything in excess can cause weight gain and have negative consequences on health. The key is moderation.
Does dairy cause acne?
There have been a number of studies regarding diet and its role in causing acne, and one study in particular
found that “dairy ingestion appears to be weakly associated with acne.” Don’t immediately nix all dairy products from your diet, though. As with all food, reactions are always very individual. If you don’t see an increase in acne when you consume dairy, you likely shouldn’t worry. It is best to talk with your dermatologist and see what he or she recommends. Trial and error is a good way to determine if dairy has any effects on your skin. If you notice that breakouts pop up when you consume more dairy, try reducing consumption to see if there’s a difference.
Does dairy improve bone health?
Calcium is vital for bone health, but experts haven’t reached a unified consensus on whether dairy
is the best food group to give us that calcium to keep our bones strong. The research has gone both for and against dairy, but the overall takeaway seems to be that milk and other dairy products are beneficial for our bones (and so are other forms of calcium like leafy greens).
Three servings of dairy
per day will provide adults with all of their daily calcium needs, so feel free to have that yogurt. Regular exercise also helps slow down bone loss, so staying active is just as important as getting lots of dairy and other forms of calcium to keep bones healthy.
Humans aren’t equipped to drink milk beyond infancy, right?
Breast milk (or formula) is the first food that humans consume and some experts point out that all mammals are weaned off of milk from an early age as a justification to not consume any milk products after that age. While it is true that all mammals wean young, experts also acknowledge that dairy products are a convenient source of vital nutrients like calcium, Vitamin D, and protein. In fact, several areas of the world show adaptation to milk consumption (like the United States and parts of Europe) while others show higher levels of sensitivity (like Asia and South America).
Further, dairy products with live cultures like yogurt tend to be much easier on our human digestive systems than straight milk. It’s unclear why this might be, but yogurt and yogurt based drinks like kefir have a lower incidence of sensitivity.
There are also differences in human sensitivity to different types of milk. Those with lactose sensitivity are sometimes able to enjoy dairy from goat or sheep milk. Your doctor can help you determine if you have a sensitivity, and whether alternate dairies are a good option.
If calcium is your main concern, dark, leafy greens are another excellent source of this important nutrient.
Should I stop eating dairy?
It’s important to note that the studies about dairy are constantly going back and forth
. And many do not consider complex factors to health. The study that found higher rates of osteoporosis amongst milk drinking nations doesn’t note that these countries also have higher obesity rates, or that individuals living in countries like India (with lower osteoporosis rates) get more Vitamin D from sunlight than the average American, which also positively impacts bone health.
If you enjoy dairy products like milk, cheese, and yogurt (and you aren’t lactose intolerant) feel free to continue eating those foods. Unless dairy makes you ill, there’s no reason not to enjoy it in moderation.