we love being CCW (Counter Conventional Wisdom :) full-fat dairy is another one of those topics that everyone seems to be completely confused on.
on one end of the spectrum we’ve got the anti-dairy groups:
- paleo because dairy is “neolithic” and considered a relatively recent entry into the human food supply. even tho most “paleo” people I know and follow consume butter, cheeses, and heavy cream???
- those who say dairy is bad for you, and if you consume it, you want to consume the low-fat and non-fat versions.
on the other end of the spectrum, you have the supporters of dairy as an ancestral superfood:
- Weston A. Price Foundation who advocates high quality, full-fat dairy in all its varieties. in fact, Dr. Price found that most ancestral populations consumed dairy on a regular basis.
- Primal methodology, which advocates full-fat dairy such as butter, heavy cream, full-fat cheeses, and yogurts in moderation. check them out here and here.
- holistic and functional health experts such as Chris Kresser.
- the SHT!!! we see dairy as an extremely healthful complement to a real food way of eating.
there’s no question dairy is ancestral. dairy is about as real as real gets. dairy comes straight from an animal and is either consumed raw or churned, fermented or soured, which makes it even more tolerable and digestible.
- humans have been consuming dairy for about 10,000 years. the longer we consume it, the better we adapt at digesting it as measured through increasing lactase persistence in populations that consume dairy regularly.
- most healthy ancestral populations consume full-fat dairy.
- just because we didn’t consume it over 10,000 years ago, doesn’t’ mean it isn’t good for us! olive oil wasn’t first produced until 8,000 years ago ;)
for those who tolerate it, full-fat dairy is an extremely healthful addition to a real food way of eating:
- complete amino acid profile.
- contains medium-chain triglycerides which are a fat-based source of energy that is easy to use and doesn’t require much digestion. this makes full-fat dairy such as butter, heavy cream, and cheeses the perfect complement to our way of eating.
- contains the all-important fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, and K2.
- contains butyrate, phytanic acid, trans palmitoleic acid, and conjugated linoleic acids, all extremely beneficial as written by Chris Kresser here.
what determines if you tolerate dairy or not? just like with other foods in the real food realm, dairy doesn’t work for some people. just like nightshades don’t work for some people, just like eggs don’t work for some people, just like spinach doesn’t work for some people. just because eggs don’t work for some people, doesn’t mean we would recommend everyone give up eggs! and just because dairy doesn’t work for some people, doesn’t mean everyone needs to give up dairy!
- strong digestion usually leads to tolerating more variety of real foods. we’ve seen it happen many times in our progressions. someone comes in and can’t tolerate dairy at all, and within a few weeks, after eating real food and strengthening digestion, all of a sudden, they can tolerate dairy.
- wheat and gluten sensitivity usually coincide with dairy intolerance. much of this has to do with gut permeability, and sometimes some dairy proteins cause a similar reaction from the body to gluten. meaning if you react to gluten, you may also react to some dairy proteins.
- full-fat dairy quality is extremely important. there’s a difference between consuming low-quality, manipulated, modified low-fat dairy, versus consuming high quality, organic, grass-fed, full-fat dairy products. personally I do great on Clover heavy cream in my coffee, but my stomach cramps when consuming Starbucks heavy cream!
so here are our takeaways:
- just like we all now know meat doesn’t cause cancer, cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease, and whole grains aren’t healthy. . . full-fat dairy isn’t a problem for those who tolerate it.
- full-fat dairy is extremely healthful because of all the nutritional benefits it contains including amino-acid profile, medium-chain triglycerides, fat-soluble nutrients (vit A, D, K2), and butyrate, phytanic acid, trans palmitoleic acid, and conjugated linoleic acids.
- only consume full-fat dairy within the context of eating 100% fresh real food according to our guidelines. within the context of eating real food, most people do really well on dairy. but if eating breads, pastas, pastries, or processed foods regularly, your system will probably be too hypersensitive to tolerate dairy, as well as other foods. if you don’t know, you can get in the know here.
- strengthen your digestion. have consistent heartburn, gas, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea? these are clear indicators of poor digestion. eat 100% real food, and consider working with us to strengthen digestion using supplements and protocols that work.
- consume full-fat dairy as a compliment to real food, not as your primary food. cooking foods in butter, heavy whipping cream in your coffee, cheese on your salad, and some full-fat yogurt with fruit or honey for dessert are perfect ways to get full-fat dairy in, without consuming a massive amount of it. it’s healthful and beneficial but should NOT take the place of meats, fats, and veggies in the diet.
- consume dairy in this order (potentially least problematic to most problematic): ghee, butter, heavy cream, sour cream, cheese, and yogurt.
- by Chris Kresser Still Think Low-Fat Dairy Is the “Healthy Choice”? Think Again!
- by Chris Kresser Dairy: Food of the Gods or Neolithic Agent of Disease?
- milk and diabetes.
- full-fat dairy and diabetes.
- Biomarkers of milk fat and the risk of myocardial infarction in men and women.
- Dairy consumption and patterns of mortality of Australian adults.
- full-fat dairy and cardiovascular health.