This is a guest post from Chris Kresser of ChrisKresser.com and author of the new book Your Personal Paleo Code. Join me, Chris and numerous other presenters and Primal enthusiasts from around the world at the 5th annual PrimalCon Oxnard in 2014.
Every week it seems there’s a new bestselling diet book promising the “secret” to losing weight, building muscle, or even curing chronic disease. Over the last few decades we’ve seen books that make a wide range of claims:
I often say that “dairy is fine and even healthy if you tolerate it.” But what exactly does that mean? How do you know if it’s “not okay”? You could be reacting poorly to the lactose, the casein, the whey, or all of it. You could just ditch all dairy forever more and be perfectly fine – but you shouldn’t eliminate a food group, especially one as delicious, nutrient-dense, and potentially rewarding as dairy, unless you absolutely must. Plus, it’s just good to know what you can and cannot tolerate. You don’t want to tiptoe through life, scared of food because you’ve never taken the time to determine your ability to tolerate it. You want to be empowered with knowledge and venture forth boldly – or carefully, if caution is warranted – through the cheese aisle.
I’ve celebrated the goodness of dairy fat quite enthusiastically in recent weeks. If you were just joining us, you might have gotten the wrong impression that you’d stumbled into a PR wing of the dairy industry, and that the streets of Mark’s Dairy Apple run whitish-yellow with grass-fed milk fat. No, children aren’t busting open fire hydrants on warm days to dance around in the effervescent spray of kefir, and on winter days it doesn’t rain milk and snow globs of thick Greek yogurt in these parts.
I’m well aware of the darker side to dairy, and today I’ll be exploring the common arguments against dairy consumption. Let’s jump right in:
Last week, I wrote about how the available evidence indicates that full-fat dairy is a very healthy, nutritious source of food for people who tolerate it. The comment section exploded with questions, so I figured I’d use this week’s “Dear Mark” to answer most of them. First up is a question about dairy’s oft-reported positive effect on weight gain. Next, I briefly go over the A1/A2 milk issue. Is it something you actually have to worry about? (Maybe.) After that, I discuss whether dairy has to be raw to be worth eating (or drinking), and I give my rationale for choosing the dairy that I do. Then I give my take on why the osteoporosis rates in the United States are high despite our high dairy consumption, followed by whether using inflammatory forms of dairy to heighten the post-workout spike in inflammatory markers makes sense. And finally, does a gluten intolerance make dairy more problematic?
One thing that sets the Primal way of eating apart from other ancestral health approaches is our acceptance of dairy fat. Obviously, those people who can’t tolerate dairy shouldn’t eat it, but in my experience a significant portion of the community can handle high-quality, full-fat dairy, especially butter, yogurt, and cheese. We like these foods for many reasons. They’re delicious. They make vegetables more appealing and nutritious. They’re inherently nutritious themselves, containing fat-soluble vitamins and important minerals, while the potentially problematic components of dairy – the whey, casein, and lactose – are either absent or mitigated by fermentation. Fermented dairy is a good source of probiotics, too. All in all, dairy is worth including if you can do it.
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