There are few foods for which dietary recommendations and popular ideology are as far apart as they are for dairy. The internet is full of warnings on the dangers of any and all dairy consumption, but (low-fat) dairy products are key components of research-supported healthy dietary patterns. Emerging research suggests a more nuanced approach to the dairy food group may be necessary.
Beyond Saturated Fat: Dairy products are rich sources of beneficial dietary calcium and added vitamin D, but dairy—except fat-free and low-fat (1%)—is also a top contributor of saturated fat in the U.S. diet, and higher amounts of saturated fat relative to mono- and polyunsaturated fats is associated with increased risk for heart disease and stroke. But looking at saturated fat content alone may not tell the whole story of dairy and health. “Dairy contains a complex mix of different fatty acids, plus vitamins and other constituents,” says Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, DrPH, dean of the Friedman School and editor-in-chief of Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter. “It can also be fermented (like cheese) or have live probiotics (like yogurt). Each of these factors can create varying biological effects.”