Is Full-Fat Yogurt Healthy Again?

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Have you heard the news about creamy, delicious full-fat dairy? Yep, it tastes delicious. Beyond that, it’s getting a healthy rep. After decades of guidelines that recommended nonfat and low-fat milk and yogurt as the best dietary choice, the tide is turning. An increasing number of experts suggests we should have been enjoying full-fat dairy all along. (Non-experts, like that friend who just finished a month of Whole30, will tell you the same.)  

Before you develop a new habit of hoovering up creamy full-fat milk and yogurt, here’s a look at the why and the how of this trend.

FAT IS GOOD

Worried that eating fat will make you fat? Think again. Recent research has shown eating full-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, can actually be associated with avoiding weight gain. In a 2016 study of more than 18,000 women, participants who consumed the most high-fat dairy products reduced their risk of being overweight or obese by 8%. One part of the explanation may relate to the richness of fat: Since it quickly creates a sense of fullness, it’s natural to consume less, aiding weight control.

SUGAR SMARTS

We know avoiding sugar — particularly added sugars — should be a top priority when it comes to health. One benefit of consuming full-fat dairy is the natural sweetness and creaminess of whole milk yogurt allows for minimal additional sweetening with delicious results. This means full-fat often contains less sugar; however, that’s not always the case. Make sure to read the label before diving in, since some single-serving yogurts can contain up to 30 grams of sugar per tub, no matter the fat content. If you really want to reduce sugar and carbs, choose unsweetened, plain yogurt and add fresh fruit. Another good option is to switch to Greek, which has less sugar and more protein than other yogurt.

ALL HEART HEALTH

The USDA has for decades — and continues to — recommended avoiding full-fat dairy because of its saturated fat content. The prevailing wisdom is it can raise cholesterol levels, particularly LDL, the “bad” kind of cholesterol. However, new findings published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition challenge this long-established concept. The findings resulted from a study conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center of more than 2,900 seniors aged 65 and over. It concluded that, contrary to the USDA’s advice, dairy fat does not increase the risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults. In fact, the authors of the study found one of the fatty acids in dairy may even lower the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, particularly from stroke.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Although only your doctor can advise you on strategies for staying healthy and keeping cholesterol low, this new research continues to push forward the notion full-fat dairy can, in moderation, be a great choice. Does this mean ice cream is finally healthy, you might ask? Sadly, no. But hey — a little full-fat creamy yogurt isn’t half bad as a substitute.

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