I don’t know why but this made me laugh and just keep on laughing.
My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard. No, like literally. Tuesdays are like Christmas here, thanks to our weekly delivery of milk. Every morning we start out with “Is it milk day?” as my boys rush out to check the yard for the Milk Fairy who magically delivers her mammary juice in glass bottles in a cooler. I have never seen my kids get so excited over a food product that doesn’t have a cartoon character on the front or come with sprinkles. Nor have my kids ever been big milk drinkers in the past. Yet thanks to an insanely reasonable price (it’s just a bit more expensive than regular milk at our grocery store and about the same as the organic milk), my kids now pound the stuff like it’s gold.
Not that I blame them. It’s good stuff. I’m lactose intolerant so I don’t normally drink milk but I have taken a few sips here and there just to see what the hullabaloo is all about and it is tasty. Part of it is that it comes from grass-fed, pastured, non-drugged, kissed-by-angels, whatever-is-trendy cows. (And you know I’m glad they’re happy. After breast-feeding four kiddos, I have nothing but empathy for anything with teats. At least milking machines don’t have teeth, right?) But I think a big part of its appeal is that I only buy whole milk.
I made the switch to full-fat dairy several years ago when I discovered that basically everything we’ve been told about dietary is fat is wrong. (Cliffs notes version: saturated fat will not give you heart disease, Canola and other “vegetable” oils are heavily processed and full of Omega-6’s which we get way too much of, animal fats are not the devil.) The early research focused heavily on debunking these common myths but newer research is showing us that not only is eating full-fat dairy not bad for us, it actually has health benefits that low-fat dairy does not.
This week a Scandanavian study showed that eating full-fat dairy (defined as butter, cream and whole milk) led to less “central obesity”, i.e. stomach fat, i.e. the Bart Simpson of body fat – annoying, unsightly and unhealthy. A diet of low-fat dairy led to more belly fat. I like this study because it confirmed what I already believed, er, because with 1,782 subjects it has a decently large sample size and it was carried out over 12 years. The one thing I didn’t like is, like much health research, it was only done on men. Translation: Napoleon Dynamit approves this message.
A European meta-analysis looked at 16 previously done studies on dairy and found that 11 of the 16 showed that eating full-fat dairy was correlated with lower body weight and less metabolic problems. This was great because not only did it look at a variety of studies but that meant both genders were included and they also found a correlation between higher-quality dairy fat (from grass-fed cows) and better heart health. They concluded, “The observational evidence does not support the hypothesis that dairy fat or high-fat dairy foods contribute to obesity or cardiometabolic risk, and suggests that high-fat dairy consumption within typical dietary patterns is inversely associated with obesity risk.” Translation: Whipped cream wrestling for everyone!
Lastly, a study of over 10,000 children published in the British Medical Journal found that mini-humans who drink whole milk grow up to be slimmer than their preschool compatriots who drink low-fat milk. The scientists concluded, “In multivariable analyses, increasing fat content in the type of milk consumed was inversely associated with BMI z score.” and “In longitudinal analysis, children drinking 1%/skim milk at both 2 and 4 years were more likely to become overweight/obese between these time points.” Translation: Kids who drank whole milk had a lower BMI than their classmates who drank skim and also kids who drank whole milk were slimmer two years later while kids who drank skim got bigger. Time to bring back the RED milk cartons, baby!
But… why? The fact that whole milk is how it comes squirting out seems like an obvious answer. In addition, the smart people speculate that the increased fat lead to increased satiety which causes people to eat less overall. Another theory involves alien-sounding “bioactive substances” that could be “altering our metabolism in a way that helps us utilize the fat and burn it for energy, rather than storing it in our bodies.” (Are there probes involved?) Still others theorize the dairy fat greases up our digestive track like a Jell-O slide until all our food just bobsleds right out. (And the gold goes to… beets! For speed and, uh, flair!)
Personally it just makes me happy to see my kids rosy-cheeked and running through our mountain meadows while taking slugs of local moo juice as they reenact my childhood obsession with Heidi. Especially since my own childhood was so tainted by the no-fat craze of the 90’s. Unfortunately for me now the closest I get to the fantasy is wearing my hair in milkmaid braids, thanks to my testy stomach. (Although I do think lactose intolerance is getting better. After I learned that it is sometimes possible to “heal” lactose intolerance by fixing the underlying guy hyperpermeability issues, I’ve been trying to heal and seal my gut. I used to not be able to tolerate even the slightest bit of dairy but now I can have a few sips of milk or a small piece of cheese or even some plain yogurt and be totally fine. So maybe there is something to “leaky gut syndrome“?)
This morning as I made breakfast it occurred to me how much has changed in the past 10 years. A “healthy breakfast” used to be whole grain pancakes with “butter” spray and sugar-free syrup, a side of turkey bacon and a glass of skim milk. I used to feel so virtuous eating that! Now I won’t touch processed margarines or fake sprays, avoid artificial sweeteners and hate nitrates. I’m trying to eat foods as close to the way nature made them as possible. So today my kids got coconut pancakes topped with butter and real syrup, a strip of nitrate-free bacon and, their favorite, a glass of whole milk. And not only does it make them happier but our switch to eating more fat (a lot more fat!) has made me healthier by every objective measure. Who knew joy was freshly whipped cream? (Okay, dumb question. Somebody get me a strawberry, stat.) See, Katy Perry and her whipped-cream-shooting-boobs were really just a public service announcement!
What’s your stance on dairy? Has it changed over the years?