Moo and Don't Hold the Fat

A couple of our viewers have emailed me about the cream thing.  How do I justify using heavy cream in a dish?  Won’t that raise cholesterol and cause weight gain?

In my mind eating small amounts of full fat dairy seems like a better choice than consuming multiple servings of  fat-reduced products.  Tastes better too.  Fat-reduced dairy is not a whole food.  One of the  naturally-occurring nutrients has been discarded.  My first food teacher, the very wise Annemarie Colbin, taught me that when you eat a food that is not whole, you will crave the missing parts.  In my 25 years of working with food, nutrition and people, I continually find this to be accurate.  When you drink skim milk, your body will likely go looking for the missing nutrients.  And that doesn’t just mean the fat.  Fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K have no way to shimmy into the system without the fat buddies.  But there’s more.

A recent article called “Skimming the Truth: why low-fat dairy may be overrated and why full-fat dairy could have more going for it assuming you can tolerate dairy in the first place” by Courtney Helgoe summarized the issue in a very balanced way (thank you Ms. Helgoe).  I have always known that the link between high blood cholesterol and dietary cholesterol was shaky at milkbest.  Helgoe points out that in 2003 the Dairy Council added to the confusion by insisting that drinking 3 glasses of low-fat milk a day would not only help prevent heart disease but aid you in losing weight.  Turns out facts supporting that are shaky too; or more accurately “biased” as the research used to make the claim were funded by the Dairy Council.

There are other disconnects between low-fat and better health.  In the article Helgoe notes that “During the  period that the consumption of low-fat fare rose in the United States, our rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease multiplied exponentially — a fact that many health experts attribute to our replacing natural whole foods rich in nutrients (including naturally occurring fats) with nutrient-poor, processed foods dense in sugar, refined carbs and commercial oils.”

Helgoe also points out the reasons we are more likely to eat more low-fat foods than full-fat foods resulting ultimately in higher calorie intake.  Satiety is difficult to reach with low-fat foods.  That lack of satisfaction is  coupled with a destabilized blood sugar, bringing on cravings.

Middle ground is not sexy.  The folks reaching dizzying heights of nutrition fame, selling zillions of diet books, tend to preach extremes.  Last year at Bastyr we had T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and Nina Planck (Real Food) speak to our students.  The former insisting that veganism was the way the truth and the light, while Nina  had data to back up the healthiness of eating ample amounts of raw milk, pastured eggs and grass-fed meat.  Students tended to side with one or the other.

I choose neither camp.  Fame be damned.  Small amounts of full fat dairy in the diet seems fair.  Using the best quality higher fat, higher protein foods as condiments or side dishes feels reasonable for the pocketbook and the waistline.  Clearly milk from grass-fed animals is superior.  Raw milk may also have advantages – just know your farmer and the cow very well.  For those that have trouble digesting dairy, try limiting yourself to cultured and fermented dairy where the pesky lactose and casein have been broken down.  If dairy is still a no-go,  belly up to plates of greens, nuts  and olive oil to get your minerals and fats rather than mimicking cow milk with glasses of substitute milk.  And if you holler about what to put on your dry cereal – read Sweetened Kibble and stop going cuckoo for cocoa puffs.

Thoughts? Reactions? Rebuttals?

13 thoughts on “Moo and Don't Hold the Fat

  1. T hank you for this great article….many gourmet chefs will also thank you. If people exercised portion control and exercised, eating whole, healthy food would not be a problem for most.

  2. I’ve thought about this a little, and have come to a slightly different (though perhaps less scientifically derived) opinion. I have nothing against whole dairy. I agree that it makes things taste better, and, in moderation, of course, can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet. I got no beef with the use of heavy cream.

    However, I slightly disagree on the idea that skim milk is not a whole food. Sure, it came out of the cow/goat/sheep with the fat emulsified in there, but let it rest a minute and you get two distinct layers that happen naturally, without any human interference. The cream, also not technically a “whole” food, is used to make butter, which is even less whole than the cream, having had its whey removed, and cheese, which is slightly added upon, but still not just plain whole milk, in most cases. I read a cheesemaking book that said that cottage cheese is traditionally made with skim milk.

    So I believe that skim milk has its place, just like cream does. You can’t have one without the other! Just like egg whites and yolks, they both have their purpose, and can be enjoyed together or separate.

    That said, I tire of the “skim only” crowd. That’s not about moderation. If people (read: me) could just eat good, whole food in the correct amount, we’d be a lot healthier.

    1. I’m with you Sarah. Room for everybody.
      To me, a whole food is one where none of its original edible parts has been removed. Raw milk out of the cow is whole milk; a whole food in my understanding of the term. I can see where the milk straight out of the cow, the cream and the remaining low fat milk under the cream are all whole foods. I imagine that people who milk cows for their own consumption eat all three parts (plus butter and buttermilk) rather than throwing away something edible. Wholeness is achieved piecemeal! But very few people are eating these natural, no human interference dairy products.

  3. Thank you for your thoughts on whole dairy products. I’m all for it, but my body says “no”. When I drink or eat dairy, of any kind, I am sick to my stomach and over the long haul have lots of other health issues that disappear when I stay away from wheat and dairy. I loved the look of the chicken tikki masala . Is there anything that you can substitute that will still give it that rich, yummy flavor, without the dairy?

    1. Try coconut milk – for the marinade and the sauce. Makes the whole dish a little less Indian and a little more Thai but I bet it would be good.

  4. Excellent excellent article! According to Paul Chek a Holistic Lifestyle Coach/fitness guru/nutritionist feeding hogs skim milk will plump them up while feeding whole milk to them will lean them out. Skim milk makes you fat. According to Sally Fallon of the Weston A. Price Foundation eating natural fats are necessary to be healthy. Francis Pottenger’s work explains to us that consuming pasteurized/homogenized milk products has adverse affects to our health. Like always eat things closer to the source it came form, raw, unrefined and whole.

  5. As someone who currently studies Alternative Medicine in a rare bachelors degree program, I’ve come to the grim understanding that milk is just something we should not be consuming on a regular basis. Besides the fact that the hormones they use to manipulate the production of these gentle beast is the fact that we can and do develop all sorts of hormonal abnormalities when we consume milk on a regular basis. The weaker a persons immune system is the more susceptible they can be.

    I’d replace milk with Almond milk or rice milk. Coconut milk is harder to find. but is also good. Stay away from Soy milk too same hormone changes.

    It took alot of years for me to come to this understanding. I used to drink milk daily and never had any real effects from it. If your suffering from acne this could be one of your reasons alone!

    My two cents!

  6. Honestly?

    Moderation in all things… including moderation.

    In the last 6 months both my husband and I have gotten off the insane diet ride and just settled into eating real food – and I’m 60 pounds lighter than I was BEFORE I decided that yes, sometimes I really DO just need a piece of chocolate or the occasional cranberry and vodka after dinner. Real food, as healthy and close to the source as I can get/make it, has made some serious inroads into a healthier life.

    I guess I go with my grandparents on diet – they ate meat (grass fed) drank milk, cooked with butter, and spent most of their lives working hard and their fun was often “relaxing” with a good putter in the garden (and more than a few meals where made out there as well!) and lived to almost 100… and some beyond.

    Keep it real. Keep it sensible. Keep it tasty.

  7. Fascinating how the milk we drink is so divisive an issue. Around my house, we drink skim milk because we have a growing boy who drinks quite a bit of milk at meal time. But, we use half and half in soups and aren’t afraid to use cream where it adds something. And my idea of eggs at breakfast involves butter and salt. My wife and I tend to think the real issue is awareness of everything you eat and Cookus is a good example of that philosophy. If I don’t need the butter for the flavor in something I’m cooking, I use olive oil. Jenna, above, sums it up well when she says “keep it real.”

    Chef Dad

  8. i’m with the more fat the better camp, personally. my waistline is quite nice too, i might add, especially considering i have a 1 year old thats still nursing and am back to my healthy pre-pregnancy weight. whole fat dairy, animal foods AND lots of vegetation do my body good.

  9. Where is the fat that is the flavor.
    I am tiered of the gov. telling me what I can and can not eat.
    They worried about being fat if they stop feed our live stock
    growth harmones it would not be a problem we are what we eat
    The new genaration has this probem just like the live stock growing biger faster so are they. What did they think now they want everyone to go on diets. Give me my fat back and stop thinking you can do it better then mother nature. You can’t that is why we have more things wrong with our bodys then ever before. We weren’t built to digest lab

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