Sunday, February 27, 2011

Our Love/Hate Relationship with Dairy

If you are alive, you have probably seen the ads for the ‘Got Milk’ campaign somewhere. This campaign promotes frequent dairy consumption by placing the milk moustache on stars like Chris Brown, Serena Williams, Hugh Jackman, and Danica Patrick. The slogan for the campaign is… wait for it… “Got Milk?” If having a milk moustache would make me as badass as Danica Patrick, I would wear one everywhere. What’s hotter than a smoking woman driving smoking cars? In other news, ‘The Fast and the Furious 4’ is coming out this year. Yes, yes, I know, I’m digressing. Okay, back to dairy products.

To further confuse you, a couple of weeks ago, we held a vegan challenge eliminating all forms of dairy products from our diets for a whole week. This propagates the notion that dairy is bad for you, right? Don’t these two ideas negate each other? So what should we really believe? Here are a few facts about dairy products.

Dairy is rich in protein: If you are working out and trying to lose weight or gain muscle, your body needs tons of protein. Good protein. And dairy is a good protein source. Some other good forms of dairy products like nuts are high in fat, but with dairy, there are tons of low-fat options you can turn to. Dairy contains complete proteins, so the body can process all of the amino acid in items like milk and yogurt.

Dairy is rich in calcium: When we were children, we needed calcium to build strong bones. As we grow older, we need calcium to keep our bones strong and prevent diseases like osteoporosis and colon cancer. Yes, dairy is not the only source of calcium. You can get calcium from food like soy milk and baked beans, but dairy is also a good source.

Sleep like a baby: Research shows that for people that suffer from insomnia, dairy products improve sleep quality and even improves alertness when you wake up. So if you have trouble sleeping, a glass before bed might help ease you into dreamland and keep you asleep.

Nutrition content of milk: Milk is the most popular form of dairy products. And since it is a liquid, we sometimes feel like we can drink as much as we want and not be concerned about it. However, we still need to be careful while we drink milk because just like most other foods, it does contain calories as well. Below is the number of calories in the various types of milk (one glass of each):

Whole milk: 150 calories, 8 grams of protein
2% reduced fat milk: 122 calories, 8.1 grams of protein
1% reduced fat milk: 102 calories, 8.2 grams of protein
Skimmed milk: 86 calories, 9 grams of protein

Obviously from the numbers above, you know that my next statement would be “stick to low fat dairy”. I know, I know. Whole milk tastes better, yogurt that is not fat-free tastes better, and cheese (oh such milky cheese) always tastes better. But with dairy that is high in calories, it is very easy to go over the number of calories you should be eating in any given day. Low fat milk still gives you the perfect amount of protein, but just keeps the number of calories down.

Now, if you are lactose intolerant, you could try other non-dairy options for milk, like almond milk, soy milk, and even lactose-free milk to get your protein and calcium in.

Going vegan: So why would we cut dairy out of our diets if it is so great? Because the truth is that although a lot of dairy products are one nutritious package, most of the nutrients can also be gotten from other foods with lower fat content. We talked about non-dairy options for milk, which contain all of the same nutrients, and in some cases, much less calories.

Another reason we could cut out dairy from our diets is that there is so much food that contains dairy that you could cut out by simply cutting out dairy. For one, those chocolates that we simply pick up as we go about our days, the salad dressings that we use, the pizza, the cookies, and so on. There is so much popular food that adds a significant number of calories to our daily diet that we could cut out by simply cutting out dairy.

So should you add more dairy or cut out some dairy from your diet? It depends on what your goals are. But as you make a decision, please remember that dairy does contain a lot of important nutrients, but it does also contain calories. So eat dairy products in moderation, and try to stick to the low-fat, low-calorie kind where you can.

Cheers Eights & Weights!

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