Dairy is usually one of the first things to be sacrificed when people start a calories-and-cholesterol control diet. The jury on dairy seems to be still divided. The anti-dairy lobby has several explanations for abandoning dairy, while most scientific evidence and dietary guidelines do include low fat dairy as an integral part of a healthy diet. Interestingly, besides it’s commonly known benefits including bone-building and extremely valuable nutrition profile (calcium, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B and proteins), its role in weight management has been investigated.
Calcium, one of the most abundant nutrients in dairy, has been found to be useful in weight loss. A recent study reported that people who consumed low-fat dairy had lower body fat percentage and body mass index compared to their counterparts.
Studies state that each 300 mg increment in regular calcium intake is associated with approximately 1 kg less body fat in children and 2.5-3.0 kg lower body weight in adults. Adequate calcium intake has also been shown to play a role in maintaining blood pressure and preventing blood clotting.
Dairy intolerant individuals can try calcium rich foods like soy and soya products like tofu, soya milk, green leafy vegetables, seaweeds and miso, sesame seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds and almonds.
Milk and yogurt contain whey protein, which is rich in amino acid leucine. Whey stimulates building of muscles (fat-free tissue), which helps in increasing metabolic rate. According to studies, it contains peptides (parts of proteins) that uniquely suppress fat synthesis. CLA is found in dairy products such as milk, cheese, and butter, and in the meat of cattle and lamb.
Studies show that CLA reduces body fat by several mechanisms, including increased metabolic rate and a shift in the nocturnal fuel. So, next time you pick up your slice of cheese, don’t drown yourself in guilt, it may not be as bad for you as you think. If you stick to low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, and control your total caloric intake, you may probably lose more weight than you ever did without it.
Aim for at least 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy on a daily basis to achieve a calcium intake of 600-1000 mg/day.