You’ve heard the old slogan: Milk: It does a body good. Well, the truth is, we don’t know that for sure. Strong data from laboratory tests and a major research effort called the China Study have revealed serious questions about whether or not milk is truly safe for humans. But what we do know is that whole milk products—cream and whole-fat cheese, yogurt and ice cream—do a body bad. Very bad.
The type of fat in dairy products is saturated fat, which is the kind that increases your risk of cardiovascular disease by damaging arteries and increasing the “bad” LDL cholesterol that clogs them up. Too much saturated fat (stick to no more than 20 grams per day) also makes you put on weight, which can lead to obesity and a host of health problems.
That’s not all. A recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that women who often ate high-fat dairy were more likely to die from breast cancer than patients who opted for skim. This doesn’t prove that whole milk causes cancer, but scientists believe that because most of the milk we drink comes from pregnant cows, it contains elevated levels of estrogen and progesterone, which get into our bodies and may increase the risk of hormone-related cancers, such as breast cancer. Since those hormones reside primarily in fat, the authors of this study hypothesize that choosing low-fat or skim milk cuts down on the potential danger.
READ MORE: The Skinny (and Not-So-Skinny) on Saturated Fats
It’s important to realize that the women who participated in the study weren’t moo-juice addicts chugging down glass after glass of whole milk. The researchers assessed regular intake of all types of dairy, including milk in cereal and cream in coffee, cheese and cottage cheese, yogurt and desserts such as pudding, custard and ice cream. Point is: It adds up.
If you’re a fan of full-fat dairy, you probably think non-fat yogurt is boring and skim milk tastes like water. We understand. That’s because fat is a learned taste. Once you learn to love it, it’s hard to let go. But that also means you can unlearn to love it. Try this: Mix two percent milk with whole milk for one week, gradually changing the proportions until you’re drinking a glass of entirely two percent milk. Then do the same thing by mixing one percent with two percent, then skim with one percent. By the end of about eight weeks, skim milk will taste normal and whole milk will eventually taste too fatty. Same thing with cheese, yogurt and your other preferred dairy products.
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You’ll still enjoy (lower-fat versions of) your favorite foods—and you’ll be well on your way to better health.