The importance of getting enough dairy into your day has likely been drilled into your brain thanks to the slogan, "Milk does the body good." Dairy helps support muscle growth. It provides nutrients like vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It helps maintain bone health. It reduces your risk of heart disease, types 2 diabetes and blood pressure.
Dairy can be a tough arena to navigate, though, when you're trying to lose weight. You may avoid it because of its fat content. A gram of fat yields 9 calories, compared with 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and proteins. High-fat dairy products also have long been thought to raise the risk of early death—particularly from heart disease, stroke and cancer—because of their high levels of saturated fat.
However, high-fat dairy products may not be as awful as they've sometimes been made out to be. In fact, in one large review, consuming high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of weight gain over time. And a more recent analysis yielded some conflicting results, indicating that dairy seemed beneficial to circulatory health relating to the brain, and cheese yielded some surprisingly good results; however, milk itself was still associated with a greater risk of death from heart disease.
Confused? So are the experts, who say the jury is still out on full-fat milk and other dairy products.
But, one thing is certain: Dairy contains good nutrients and, with its protein and fat content, can contribute to satiety—that feeling of fullness that lasts a while. If you eat dairy in moderation and consume mostly low-fat dairy, you can enjoy it while also watching your waistline.
Here are some of the best dairy products to help promote weight loss.
Yogurt helps turn up your body's fat burn. Both low-fat and regular-fat yogurts contain probiotics. That's the friendly bacteria that may help reduce how much fat your body absorbs. Cells containing calcium also burn off more fat than those that don't have it. This yogurt-containing orange creamsicle smoothie is the perfect choice for breakfast, dessert or snack time.
Delicious and creamy Greek yogurt increases levels of hormones that promote fullness. It's made by removing whey and other liquids, creating a creamier and richer yogurt. Regular yogurt, especially flavored varieties, contain hidden sugar and additives. Plain Greek yogurt boasts plenty of protein. (Just be sure to opt for ones with little to no sugar.) Its tangy flavor goes well with nuts or berries, which also increases its mineral, fiber and vitamin content. Or, use it as a substitute for sour cream in sauces and dips. It's made by removing whey and other liquids, creating a creamier and richer yogurt. This green smoothie will replenish nutrients and works for breakfast, lunch or a post-workout snack. The healthy fats and protein in the avocado and yogurt will keep you feeling full for hours.
You may think you have to give up cheese to lose weight. However, studies suggest that the calcium in cheese can help ward off fat. It prevents cellular changes in your body that cause fat stores. A study in Appetite found that cottage cheese's filling effects are similar to those from eggs. Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and low in calories, too. It's packed with nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and selenium. Even better is that it's a great no-cook way to get some energy. It's usually high in salt though, which isn't good for your health and can make you thirstier. Seek low-sodium options. Looking for a low-fat snack? Try this Sweet Cottage Cheese recipe. Or whip up this Whole-Wheat Vegetable Lasagna. Veggie lovers will enjoy the fact that it has plenty of vitamins, protein and other nutrients thanks to its mixture of vegetables and cheeses.
Low-fat chocolate milk
Your childhood beverage of choice may do your waistline some good after a hard and long workout. A report found that chocolate milk is a great post-exercise recovery drink. It contains twice as much protein and carbs compared to regular milk or popular sports drinks. The combination of carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes in the milk helps your muscles recover faster. Because chocolate milk is high in sugar, stick with unsweetened milk at other times.
Portioned cheese spreads
A thin slice here, a thick slice there. It can be difficult to control how much cheese we're eating. Portioned cheese snacks like spreadable wedges eliminate that portion control guesswork. Just don't overdo it on the crackers.