What Kind of Dairy Is Best?

It’s time for us to wrap up the topic we started last week: dairy.

In my last post, I discussed how dairy increases inflammation in those who are allergic or intolerant to it. (Not sure if you’re intolerant? One way to tell is to do the “30 day elimination test.”)

The bottom line is: if you have gut issues, it’s best to avoid dairy.

However, for those who do tolerate dairy, it can actually be a nourishing food!

But here’s the catch: it needs to be high-quality dairy for it to be considered a nutritious and nourishing part of your diet.

And that’s what we’re going to discuss today...how to identify the best kind of dairy.  

What kind of dairy should you choose?

I’m here to rock your world and tell you that FULL FAT dairy is the best. (Can I get a hallelujah?!)

Contrary to the USDA Dietary Guidelines, saturated fat (also found in butter and cheese) is not the villain it is made out to be.

In fact, quality sources of saturated fat, such as butter from grass-fed cows or the fat in grass-fed beef, can be healthy for your brain, bones, liver and overall cell structure.

And as ironic as it seems, saturated fat is actually essential for heart health as well! (Stay tuned for more about the Cholesterol Myth on the Gut Instinct Blog.)

Again, I’m rockin’ your world, I know.

Many people tend to reach for “low fat” dairy because they think it is better and healthier. But here’s the thing...low fat dairy is not as good for you as full fat dairy.

Why? Low fat dairy is higher in lactose, a common allergen and gut irritant, and is also known to raise blood sugar levels. This kind of dairy is also processed, which means important nutrients were stripped from it when the fat was being removed.

However, those essential nutrients are still found in full fat dairy. Some of these nutrients are:

  • Butyrate: a potent anti-inflammatory proven to be beneficial to the health of the digestive tract (yay!)
  • Phytanic Acid and Trans Palmitoleic Acid: Studies show they both help with blood sugar, insulin issues and lowering triglycerides. They’re also high in important fat soluble vitamins A and K, which aren’t often found in foods! And trans palmitoleic acid is proven to lower blood pressure and the risk of diabetes.

I know I may be throwing around some big words here, but it’s mostly important for you to understand the benefits of these powerhouse nutrients found in full fat dairy.

Have I convinced you yet?!

Other kinds of high-quality dairy products:

There are also significant benefits from fermented dairy, like yogurt and kefir. (You can choose the full fat, unsweetened, whole milk version of these.) These foods are a great way to restore the microbiota (your inner ecosystem) with beneficial bacteria!

And, of course, ORGANIC dairy. The hormones, antibiotics and pesticides that cows are subjected to at industrial dairies are downright scary and bad for your health.

Dairy from grass-fed, pastured cows is also the healthiest, as it is high in Omega-3s (which are beneficial for the brain, heart and lowering inflammation) and CLA (which helps the bones, heart, aids in weight loss, and helps prevent cancer.)

One of my favorite brands is Kerry Gold Irish Butter, which is widely available these days.

So, let’s recap what you’ve learned:

  1. Dairy is not good for people who are intolerant to it or have certain digestive conditions

  2. If you can tolerate dairy, full fat is the best, and full fat fermented is the best of the best

Guidelines for enjoying dairy:

  • Choose whole milk yogurt

  • Replace your half-and-half (or skinny latte) with cream in your coffee.

  • Read the label on your cheese and make sure it doesn’t say “skim milk.”

  • While I advise against drinking milk because it is higher in sugars (lactose), if you do have some, go for whole milk.

  • Don’t go too crazy with dairy, use it like a yummy condiment!

Even if you can tolerate dairy, it is still a very common food sensitivity, so it’s best to enjoy it in small doses and not overwhelm your system with it.

Our favorite things here at Gut Instinct are to improve digestive health and the gut-brain connection, so we’ll be taking good care of those of you who are dairy intolerant. I’ll keep a mostly dairy-free approach as I post delicious recipes for you to try out!

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