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 best. 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?