If you Google “the benefits of eating dairy” almost all of the first-page results are actually lists of reasons why dairy is evil. Diets like Paleo, Whole30, and the 28-Day No Dairy Challenge all insist that cutting out dairy is some kind of weight-loss miracle. Of course, there are no weight-loss miracles so cutting out dairy isn’t the magic bullet. The truth is that dairy has a plethora of health benefits, especially for those who want to safely and sanely shed a few pounds.
- Dairy protects your bones
Ever since we were kids we’ve heard that calcium is the main ingredient for building strong bones. Bone health is especially important when you start adding more workouts to your routine. It’s easier than you’d think to get a hairline fracture if your bones are brittle from lack of calcium. Dairy is the easiest way to get more calcium in your diet and protect your bones from injury. Calcium can also help prevent osteoporosis as you age.
- Including all food groups in your diet will help you stick to your plan
Extreme diets are a setup for failure because they cannot be sustained for long periods of time. Most people who commit to diets that require cutting out food or entire food groups remain committed long enough to see initial weight loss results, but eventually they feel like they’re missing out on the foods they love. These feelings of deprivation lead them to eat those eliminated foods again. Once they reintegrate these foods they often gain back all the weight they lost. Research shows that it is much easier to stick to a food plan that doesn’t make the dieter feel deprived, so the easiest way to stick to your plan is to keep eating all the foods you love, in moderation.
- Dairy is a healthy alternative to other snack foods
When you hit that mid-afternoon slump, when you’re sluggish and you know what you had for lunch just won’t get you through to dinner, grabbing a yogurt or a piece of cheese is a better choice than grabbing a bag of chips or a package of cookies. Many vending machine type snack foods are “airy” calories. They just don’t fill you up or give you much energy. The dense calories in yogurt or cheese will give you much more energy to make it through the workday and will get you through to dinner better than alternative snacks. If you crave salty snacks, cheese will fit the bill, but if you crave sweet snacks yogurt is the way to go!
- Studies have linked dairy to increased weight loss
A University of Tennessee study shows that three servings of dairy a day led to reduced body fat in subjects that were already obese. Other studies have linked increased calcium consumption to weight loss. Since dairy is a great source of calcium, it’s a great way to increase your calcium intake.
- Eating yogurt may help you lose more belly fat
The same University of Tennessee study found that people who ate yogurt regularly lost 22% more than participants who didn’t consume yogurt. The people who regularly ate yogurt also retained more lean muscle mass during their period of dieting. Often when people are cutting calories for a weight-loss program they end up losing more muscle than fat. The protein in yogurt helps protect lean muscle mass, resulting in more fat loss.
- Dairy can boost your metabolism
Metabolism is the process by which your body breaks down the food you consume, and either uses it for fuel or stores it as fat. Increased metabolism is linked to more food being converted to energy than being stored as fat. Energy that is not needed for current bodily functions gets stored as fat so it can be used later. When people cut calories to lose weight they often aren’t giving their bodies enough energy. The body compensates by slowing down the metabolism which results in more food being converted to fat. This is why it’s important to eat enough food to properly fuel your body! A University of Knoxville study found that calcium and protein are essential for metabolism maintenance during a weight-loss program. Dairy is high in both, so dairy can help with metabolism maintenance and boost your weight-loss efforts.
- Full-fat milk and butter may help you keep the pounds off
A study from two Swedish researchers found that men who consumed full-fat milk and butter were actually less likely to end up obese! This seems counterintuitive, largely because fat has a bad reputation in our culture. The idea that eating full-fat foods will make you fat is actually a myth. Fat is actually a central component of many of the tasks our bodies complete on a daily basis. You need fat to have a fully functioning body! The same study also found that people who consumed low-fat milk and no butter were more likely to be obese in the future. So don’t shy away from that full-fat milk or real butter!
- Cheese helps you absorb more nutrients
Sylvie Turgeon, a food science instructor and researcher at the Université Laval in Québec, says that the protein and fat in cheese is an important part of the digestion process. The rate at which nutrients are absorbed into your system is crucial to ensuring the body has everything it needs to perform its daily functions. When dieting, people often don’t take in the right amount of nutrients, and their rate of nutrient absorption can decline. Eating cheese can help the digestive organs ensure that more nutrients in the foods you eat make it to where they’re supposed to be in your body.
- Dairy protects your muscles and helps build muscle
Muscle growth actually occurs when micro-tears from exertion of the muscles heal over, creating new muscle. Without proper stores of protein, the muscles do not heal properly after exertion. Over time this can lead to the degeneration of muscles, and may ev
en lead to muscle tears, which are serious injuries. When you increase the amount of exercise you engage in during a weight- loss program it is essential to ensure that your muscles can recover after each workout. Milk, cheese, and yogurt all contain the protein necessary to ensure your muscles can heal and grow post workout.
- Dairy will keep you fuller longer
The number one reason to keep dairy in your diet is because it will keep you going for hours! The mixture of protein, carbohydrates, and fiber in milk, cheese, and yogurt are the perfect combination for longer-lasting fullness, which can lead to less snacking throughout the day. The calories in dairy foods are also denser than calories in carbohydrate-rich foods, so the calories you take in provide more fuel than the same amount of calories from another food.