Should You Be Eating High-Fat Dairy?

DairyOne 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 butteryogurt, 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 fermentationFermented dairy is a good source of probiotics, too. All in all, dairy is worth including if you can do it.

The rest of the nutritional world seem to be catching up with us on this. Recent years have seen a rash of meta-analyses, epidemiological studies, and clinical trials that question the assumption that low-fat dairy is healthier than full-fat dairy. Even Harvard’s Walter Willett, that seed oil-loving silver fox with the voluminous mustache, has come out in tepid support of full-fat dairy. Official recommendations lag, as they always do, but it’s changing. Just check out some of the studies. They don’t just exonerate dairy fat. They increasingly and repeatedly find connections between dairy fat and improved health.

  • A recent study entitled “Milk in the diet: good or bad for vascular disease?” found that the evidence “indicates that increased consumption of milk does not result in increased CVD risk and may give some long-term benefits” including reduced blood pressure and body weight, and that the “SFA in dairy may be less of a risk factor than previously thought.”
  • In women, a recent study found that the effect of dairy on cardiovascular disease depends entirely on the type of dairy consumed. Cheese consumption was inversely associated with risk of heart attack, while butter used on bread increased the risk. Awesomely and unsurprisingly, butter used for cooking did not increase the risk.
  • According to another review of the influence of milk fat on CVD risk, the “majority of observational studies have failed to find an association between the intake of dairy products and increased risk of CVD, coronary heart disease, and stroke, regardless of milk fat levels.” While butter and other sources of milk fat may increase LDL-C “when substituted for carbohydrates or unsaturated fatty acids,” they also increase HDL and may even improve the HDL:total cholesterol ratio.
  • Another study found that neither low-fat dairy nor full-fat dairy were associated with cardiovascular disease. However, full-fat fermented dairy was protective against CVD.

Many of those studies are based on dietary recall, which is notoriously unreliable. Can you remember how much dairy fat you ate five years ago? Five months ago? Five days ago? It’s more accurate to look at how biomarkers of dairy fat consumption, specific fatty acids or nutrients unique to dairy (or at least uncommon in other foods) that signify dairy fat intake when they show up in tissue or blood, relate to health conditions:

  • In overweight teens, levels of the dairy-specific saturated fats pentadecanoic acid and heptadecanoic acid in the blood were associated with lower inflammatory markers, even after controlling for calcium, vitamin D, protein, and omega-3 intake (all dairy components that may influence health).
  • Higher levels of trans-palmitoleic acid (a dairy fat) were associated with lower insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and diabetes risk.
  • Although higher circulating trans-palmitoleic acid meant higher LDL-C, it also meant lower triglycerides, improved blood pressure, and less diabetes in a cohort of white, black, Latino, and Chinese Americans. Circulating pentadecanoic acid was also linked to reduced cardiovascular disease in that same cohort. I’ll take the higher LDL-C if I get all the other stuff.
  • Dietary intake of menaquinones (vitamin K2), “which is highly determined by the intake of [full-fat] cheese,” was associated with a reduced risk of incident and fatal cancer.

Dairy fat contains over 400 of these fatty acid “species,” making it the most complex natural fat. Not all of those species have been studied – 400 is a tall order – but there is evidence that at least a couple of them exert beneficial effects:

Conjugated Linoleic Acid

You know CLA by now. It’s the “good trans-fat,” the one that causes feverish vegans to point and scream about dairy “having trans-fats!” until you calmly explain the difference between manmade trans-fats in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and beneficial trans-fats produced in the rumens of cattle and sheep.

covered CLA a few years ago, focusing especially on the differences between supplemental CLA (often mostly trans-10, cis-12) and naturally occurring CLA (90% cis-9, trans-11), so I won’t go too much into it. Suffice it to say, supplemental CLA is a different beast altogether whose effects cannot be extrapolated out to dairy containing CLA. The dose is larger and the structure is different. That said, dairy naturally rich in cis-9, trans-11 CLA has been shown to be beneficial in trials. In a 2010 trial, pecorino romano (a raw sheep cheese high in CLA that I highly recommend) improved markers of inflammation and atherosclerosis in human subjects compared to a control cheese low in CLA.

Butyric Acid

Butyric acid is a short chain fatty acid produced in the guts of mammals by fermentation of fiber by gut bacteria. Since ruminants like cows are processing tons of fibrous plant matter, they make a lot of butyric acid which ends up in their dairy fat. Most research has focused on the benefits of endogenous production of butyric acid in the colon, but one human study suggests that oral butyric acid in the amounts we could expect to get from dairy fat can also have beneficial effects on our health.

However, it was an enteric-coated oral butyric acid supplement that helped 53% of subjects with “mild to moderate” Crohn’s disease go into remission and 16% have partial improvement, not a mouthful of butter. Enteric coatings allow supplements to make it into the colon whereas butter will be digested before making it. I suppose it’s possible that poor digestion could allow for some butter (and butyric acid) to make it down to the colon, but that’s not a desirable condition. The results of this study may not be applicable to butter consumption.

Milk Fat Globule Membrane

Dairy fat is encapsulated in a “milk fat globule membrane” that also includes various other bioactive compounds that seem to exert beneficial effects. Indeed, consumption of buttermilk, which is rich in MFGM, has been shown to reduce blood pressure in human subjects. Another study showed reductions in cholesterol, especially triglycerides, with buttermilk consumption.

What about low-fat dairy?

Low-fat dairy doesn’t seem to help with blood pressure or adiposity. It either has no effect on or increases a certain marker of inflammation, while eating butter, cream, or cheese has either a beneficial or no effect on inflammation. And although milk is often implicated in cancer, that’s only true for low-fat and skim milk; full-fat milk appears to be protective.

For all the potential benefits of these dairy-specific fatty acid species, I’m hesitant to elevate any one of them. Dairy is a whole food, and it’s likely the entire package that’s responsible for the effects. Plus, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to disentangle the fatty acid components from the other nutrients in dairy. CLA comes with calcium comes with milk fat globule membranes come with vitamin K2 comes with potassium comes with protein, and so on. And even if we could isolate the effects of various dairy nutrients and study them, that goes out the window we eat the stuff. When we bite down on a slab of aged gouda or toss a pat of grass-fed butter over some steamed broccoli or quaff a flagon of kefir, the myriad components of dairy are mingling in our mouths and our guts and being incorporated into and used by our tissues. We can’t disentangle dairy nutrients in the real world. Why would we want to? If we do, we end up with CLA supplements that don’t work quite as well as grass-fed dairy. Just eat the dairy. Studies – and millennia of tradition across dozens of cultures – support this practice.

Whatever’s doing it, something in the full-fat dairy is improving our health over and above low-fat dairy – and that’s what matters most. Choose your fancy. Raw milk? Drink it if you got and want it. Aged sheep cheese? Enjoy. Yogurt? Do it. They all seem to be associated with good health, protection from CVD and diabetes and obesity. Since the healthy user effect doesn’t really apply to full-fat dairy (since “everyone knows” full-fat dairy is bad for you), I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s actually exerting beneficial effects on people who eat it.

What does this mean in the big picture? Is full-fat dairy unabashedly Primal? If you’re tolerant of it, then yes, I suppose it is.

In a future post, I’ll explain how you can figure out if you’re dairy intolerant.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Take care and be sure to leave a comment!

TAGS:  big moo

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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291 thoughts on “Should You Be Eating High-Fat Dairy?”

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  1. I love having dairy in my diet, It helps me with getting some extra protein!

    1. Dr. Spock of the Baby and Childcare books..said his greatest regret is that he recommended cows milk for children. He like others realized later in life that COWS MILK IS FOR BABY CALVES…AND NOT FOR HUMANS. Anyway..most persons of African descent are lactose intolerant..and the last thing they should be drinking is milk.

      1. Well, that’s a silly reason not to consume dairy… nothing we eat was intended for us to eat. The plants that produced the vegetables we chow down on certainly didn’t think ‘hmm, I better produce a bumper crop so I can feed all these humans’. The ethics of eating dairy should be argued without reference to whether cow milk was meant for us.

        1. “nothing we eat was intended for us to eat.”

          Except for fruits, (and parasites).

        2. Spot on! I have to agree that it’s a silly reason to not consume dairy. It’s about time dairy gets some love from the Paleo community seeing as most people I”ve come across who are Paleo are caucasion and of European descent which (generally speaking) have no problem digesting milk. If you can’t digest it, that’s fine. I have no plans on eliminating dairy any time soon.

        3. In later years he also said he regretted advocating circumcision which is a damaging sexual assault.

      2. Don’t tell the Maasai that. Cows blood mixed with milk is a staple of their diet.

        1. I agree. I am from Kenya and the Maasai have existed on this diet for years and years and are the healthiest people l know of.

      3. Cow’s milk contains lactase as well as lactose. In raw milk, the lactase ‘consumes” the lactose….your body doesnt’ have to. When milk is pasturised the lactase is destroyed leaving the lactose….your body is not designed to deal with it, that’s why a lot of people who consume processed dairy are lactose intolerant. Again, if you consume the whole food, you will be better off because the pasturisation propably kills off a lot more nutrients.

        1. Lactase is NOT in milk… It’s the bacteria in raw milk which ferment the lactose…

          Lactase is only produced in the human body… Biggest furfie about raw milk is the lactase

          1. That is not true lactase is an emzyme. It does not produce lactose. For example, ATPase – it takes ATP to ADP. Lactase breaks down lactose to glucose and galactose ( you can read it right from the dictionary). It is in milk. Raw milk is for the calves with developing digestion systems. The enzymes are already in the milk to break down all the proteins and nutrition necessary for the calf. This is easier on their digestion systems. Likewise, Pasteurization process denatures the enzymes. My nephew is lactose intolerant and cannot drink milk from the store; however, he drinks raw milk from the Jersey cow down the street. No problem.


        Really… Then what are eggs for??? You don’t eat eggs?

      5. XD,

        the moment i read the title, i just knew someone is going to mention “baby cows”

        dont’ think i can ever give up dairy because

        . butter & ghee

        . Beemser Vlaaskas (cheese)

        . morning black tea + 1 T HWC

        . creme Fraiche! creme Fraiche! XD


        ps. actually, milk & fruits are the only items in nature that are grown to be consumed.

        1. Great response. I love dairy, too. And to go along with the argument… fruit exists to produce seeds to produce more fruit, I believe. That’s all. I don’t think anything exists just to feed one species.

      6. Interesting since Weston Price mentions the Maasai drank raw milk as a constant part of their diet.

      7. So is the beef from a cow also bad for us and human flesh the only acceptable meat to consume?

      8. Lactose intolerant means they lack lactase enzyme and are unable to break down lactose. This is no problem for them seeing that Raw milk contains lactase. My nephew has a lactose intolerant issue, and he drinks raw milk just fine. They are 2 different milk producing cows A1 and A2. A1 produces high levels of BCM7 and have a histidine at side chain 67 (mutation); while, A2 cows (Jersey, Africans & Asian cows) have proline at 67 and produce very little BCM7. The protein BCM7 causes problems and could irritate people. We have a lot of Holstein (A1 cows in America). The best milk is to get a grass-fed Jersey cow or any of the other A2 cows. Humans have been drinking cow’s milk and goats milk for thousands of years. It is healthy for us.

      9. This is actually a common misconception, and regardless, if you are not, you will be fine.

    2. I’m sure you’ve been asked this before:

      How does anything dairy fit into a paleo diet? We are eaters of meat, vegetables, fibrous fruits and nuts. We drink water.

      (I’m just reading de Vany’s book. He appears to be opposed to dairy, tho has an “occasional” serve of yogurt for a treat.)

  2. Excellent post and reassuring for this cheese-a-vore. I do wonder, though, why dairy is often implicated in weight gain (or weight loss stalls). Is it simply a matter of a calorically dense food that is easy to overeat? Or is there something else going on?

    1. Maybe because dairy is almost always paired with something else? Cheese and crackers. Bread and butter. Pizza. Sugary lattes.

      1. This is why I sometimes prefer my butter unaccompanied. A slice of cheese is normal, so why not a slice of butter? 😉

        1. Allison, that is just what I did on our anniversary dinner in June. They served warm (smelled wonderful) bread with cold butter. Well, the best thing about the bread was the butter so I just ate the butter and smelled the bread. Worked for me. Sometimes I’ll have a little bit as a snack as I’m fixing dinner. Everything is better with butter!

        2. My kids love their butter unaccompanied also. At first I was reluctant but then decided why not! Thanks for letting me know we aren’t alone. 🙂

        3. When growing up in Brazil almost 90 years ago, my mother was asked what she wanted for her birthday. She chose “A kilo of butter that I don’t have to share.” She got it.

        4. Oh good! I’m not so weird after all! I love to eat a pat of butter now and then.

        5. Butter on cheese… why didn’t I think of that? They are both wonderful by themselves, and I bet they will compliment each other.

        6. YES! Buttered Cheese. I’m going to have to try that. My co-workers think I’m nuts when I tell them I have a spoonful of that grass-fed butter when I need a snack.

        7. Your comment made me laugh because my 3-year-old son and so many other young children are constantly doing this exact same thing! He’s never seen anyone else do it, he has never been encouraged to do it, yet he and so many other tiny humans do it seemingly instinctively — I think that says something! And this is a kid who would not drink milk (but would happily gobble down any cheese or yogurt).

          Anyway, I love fermented dairy and feel like I can’t get in enough calories without it so this post makes me HAPPY!

    2. Doesn’t matter whether it’s full fat or not, dairy is insulinemic.

      1. “dairy is insulinemic”

        Indeed it is – as is also fish, beef & chicken. In fact if we look at the Insulin Index, beef is 51 ± 16 on the insulin scale; fish is worse, at 59 ± 18. Cheese is a mere 45 ± 13. Eggs much better at 45 ± 13.

        Why do the dairy-bashers never cite the figures for meat? Why don’t you tell the whole story?

        So from an evidence-based science perspective, based on the insulin index, you should absolutely become a vegan if your main concern is insulin level.

        Maybe permit yourself to live on peanut butter alone – it’s insulin index is
        a mere 20 ± 5.

        1. I dare you to gurgle in a toilet bowl because that’s what you sound like. I love full fat dairy. I consume in moderation though because it often bloats me and gives me pimples. And Robb Wolf did all the research for me. Feel free to visit his site.

        2. I wouldn’t touch pasturized dairy…it’s dead.. even if it’s organic. Only raw full fat dairy for me. Raw butter, raw cheese, raw homemade kefir…a pint a day for probiotics… raw home made Greek yogurt. ..I live on it. I’m so blessed to be able to get it. Bring on the fat!

        3. I can’t tell if Erin’s comment means that dairy is bad because it is insulinemic, because it causes bloating and pimples, or because Robb Wolf said so.

      2. erin, only the proteins whey and casein are insulinemic. The fat isn’t. Therefore cream and butter are non-insulinemic.

        1. Thanks for a great idea penny. I will test your theory tomorrow morning and have a misto made with heavy cream and measure my blood sugar before and an half hour later (…w/understanding that blood sugar is not insulin, but has an effect on it).

        2. There are so many factors that I would not even want to lump ‘full fat diary’ all into one category. For instance, I tried out the much lauded greek yogurt a few months ago, and I liked it fairly well and was eating it for breakfast for a while until I figured out that every day I ate it, I got nasty acne that would not start to heal until I went 24 hours without the yogurt. I had carefully chosen the healthiest yogurt with nothing but milk and cultures and it was giving me pustules, ew! I experimented a bit by eating and not eating the yogurt and the acne followed precisely about 12 hours after consumption. Gotta wonder what else it was doing to the body if just the skin got that sick. Whereas I can suck down standard heavy cream with no acne breakouts at all. I can also eat parmesan cheese and blue cheese with no problems.

          I was reading a while back about how each breed of cow has different proteins and allergens in their milk compared to other breeds. Some of the proteins were shown in testing to be more likely to be allergenic to more people. The cow breeds common in america were most likely to be allergenic. Could this be due to Americans having more leaky gut and having developed more allergies to our own common foods than those living in other countries? Maybe, but it’s complicated and we don’t have enough data. It maybe that benefits and disadvantages of diary may be highly specific to each individual’s genetics and their situation. Some genetic lineages seem quite good and digesting it and others seem quite bad.

          ALthough I do agree that for babies, cows milk sucks (pardon pun) as a replacement for mother’s milk. So I do think, when considering the issue, we need to also consider what we are expecting to get from it. For providing certain nutrients and fats to the diet of those that are good at digesting it and may be lacking for intake of those nutrients, the net result of ingesting it may be good, but for babies and others with different genetics, it’s quite possibly the reverse.

          Consider that most foods we eat can be either good or bad depending on factors like genetics, exercise levels, amounts eaten, preparation methods, current health conditions, etc. Diary is no different. You have to look at the big picture. If the answers were simple, we would have already figured them out!

        3. Eva, I’m not saying that you should keep trying dairy if you know it doesn’t work for you, but here’s a thought: many people associate acneic breakouts as a natural detox pathway. Could it be that the full-fat dairy, choc full of natural glutathione precursors, is actually so nourishing for the liver that our detox process starts up, and those blemishes are a result of toxins leaving the body? Just hypothesizing.

      3. It is unbelievable all the negative connotations of insulin. Although most on this site are probably looking to lose weight, I bet ya there are a handful who wish they were bigger. Insulin is essential for muscle growth too.

  3. We are starting to use full-fat dairy. Non-homogenized organic is the best dairy we can get here (raw is illegal), but I can’t always buy it. I don’t like milk per se, just make quark from it (with kefir grains).

    The local company that supplies non-h organic milk recently started a line of double cream (52%) and I love a dub of it in my coffee. The problem is they sell it in 1 cup container. So I froze it because it will take me a loooong time to get through one cup – will it be Okay?

    There is also new plain yogurt from Liberte with cream added to make it 10% – is it better, worse or no difference than a normal fat content yogurt? It is certainly very good, and my child & husband who won’t eat Greek, will eat this one (no other stuff added) and call it ‘ice-cream’). Or is the Greek non-fat still better?

    1. Many states where raw milk is illegal get around that by selling Herdshares. I do this in Oregon. I make my own kefir and yogurt out of the raw milk. The cream and butter is also to die for. The Weston Price Foundation knows the benefits of raw milk and has been promoting it since the 1930’s.

      1. Cowshare is not available in AB yet. It is in BC, but that means frozen milk. I kindda think local non-homogenized >> frozen, not local.

    2. I use raw dairy (goats milk and cows milk) which is legal in FL only for pet food purposes. (My dog loves raw goat milk as much as we do!!) may have a solution for you if you really want to try it.

      Because we don’t use a lot of it, I freeze it immediately in smaller sterilized glass canning jars and just thaw what we need. It’s fine.

      From what I understand some of the organic milk is pasteurized at an even higher temperature than other pasteurized milk.

      My daughter loves Liberte yogurt too. It’s delicious we’ve only tried the flavored kind and it seems to have quite a bit of sugar in it.

      1. Yeah, I can’t stand flavored yogurts any more. Just a taste change!

      2. Yep, was going to suggest looking for low-temp pasteurized. Natural By Nature is one brand, and Organic Valley sells both (though unfortunately the ultra pasteurized is much easier to find). It’s not raw, but the low temp is at least better. I know people who can handle it but not ultra pasteurized (and don’t get me started on the so heated it’s shelf stable kind, ugh).

    3. Hi Leida,

      Try freezing the cream in ice-cube trays… you can even get small ones in which one cube will be about enough for one coffee.

      As you probably know, it’s not as good as fresh from frozen, but it does the trick.

      We’ve frozen and thawed cheddar and brie too and it’s fine if thawed slowly and allowed to thaw to room temp.

      1. I will give it a try. Have a history of freezing tomato paste and concentrated orange juice and broth in i-c trays….

    4. When you have extra heavy or double cream, make butter! It’s very easy – just run it through your food processor or mini chopper until it turns into a big ball of butter and the whey starts spurting out.

    5. High-fat dairy keeps a long time in the fridge. But I’m surprised you don’t go through it faster ;my wife and I go through about a quart of heavy cream a week just in our coffee.

    6. 52%?! Yum yum! The organic cream available to us in our part of Ontario is 10% (half and half) and 35%, in 2-cup cartons. That is usually too much for us to get through before the best before date, so I freeze it in ice cube trays. When it’s frozen, I take the trays out and leave them on the counter for 5 minutes or so, and then I pop the cream cubes into labelled bags and bung them back in the freezer. When I thaw them again, they are fine, though they do need to be stirred to smooth them out. I don’t know what the chemical changes are that might occur during freezing, but the general rule is, the higher the fat content, the better food survives the freezing process. We regularly freeze cream and butter.

  4. Was wondering about this as I ate my bowl of full-fat Greek yoghurt (Fage) this morning (mixed with wild blueberries). Day 3 of going whole hog Primal.

    1. As much as it broke my heart, I had to quit the Fage due to the fact that it isn’t organic—following some info from Paul Chek, I won’t touch conventional dairy again—scary stuff. I really love full fat Fage, too.

      Organic Bulgarian Yogurt is comparable in price and very tangy and delicious though…

      1. What’s wrong with Fage? Is it the product, or something in the production? If you can point me to more info on that topic, that’d be great. Thanks.

        1. It comes from conventionally raised animals. It’s “all natural,” not organic. It’s also the perfect texture and flavor, but c’est la vie….

          I’m sure Google can point you to more info on the topic…that’s what it does.

        2. Ok, thanks I’ll search it out, thanks for letting me know what Google does. You seemed to have done some research and so I thought you’d have more information to volunteer. Sorry to bother you.

  5. Do you think dairy is demonized in the paleo community only because it is technically a processed food?

    1. Some of us have no tolerance for it. Aside from the well known GI issues, I find that it makes my sinuses very congested, to the point where a bite will give me a headache for 2-3 days and more will congest me to the point of needing medical attention. My allergist also warned me that it could potentially progress to the point of anaphylaxis at any time.

      1. I can’t do dairy either. Even a small amount will give me a sore throat and major congestion. Back in the days when I didn’t realize this I had major bouts with sinus infections and bronchitis. I’ve experimented and even goat and sheep dairy bothers me. Luckily I’m ok with ghee.

        1. curious if fermented whole milk would do the same. my face would break out after having dairy, but when i eat kefir or yogurt (raw milk, homemade) it doesn’t.

      2. It’s Benadryl to the rescue for me, but LT use of antihistamines isn’t good, so i just pass on the dairy.

        1. You’re right about long-term use of antihistamines being bad for us; plus, I found it gives me Restless Leg Syndrome, especially if I try to use it at night…

      3. Me too but nowhere near as severe as you. I can handle butter and small amounts of cream. But yeah, get the coated throat feeling and some bad stomach action after eating too much. I haven’t tried raw dairy, I’ve excluded dairy from my life for so long now that I don’t miss it.
        I’ve not been properly assessed, however I’m looking forward to Mark’s upcoming intolerance post.

        1. A lot of these symptoms are caused by a certain protein in the milk, most likely. As someone else mentioned higher up in the thread, most American dairy cows produce a certain type of protein in the milk, I keep getting the good one confused with the bad. There’s A1 and A2. It’s all explained in the book Devil in the Milk. I don’t drink milk anymore, used to love it. I still eat butter, ice cream, cheese, cream cheese though. Right before I stopped drinking milk, I noticed a benign tonsillar mass. Decided to stop drinking milk and it went away, hasn’t come back. I do get a runny nose and possibly some other symptoms after eating dairy but if I get to the point where I’m tired of them, I’ll cut the dairy out.

          J.J. Virgin does say that if someone craves or loves dairy, they’re most likely intolerant of it lol and would experience great benefits from removal.

    2. I think some paleo folks dislike dairy for the same reason they dislike grains: they are foods that were introduced into the human diet relatively recently, so we may not have evolved to properly digest and metabolize it. That said, I have no problem with it – I eat a fair amount of full-fat plain yogurt, aged cheeses, and butter. I don’t really like drinking milk, but a do enjoy heavy cream in my coffee.

      1. It’s the lactose that scares us. Dr. Volek says there are TONS of sugar in a glass of milk.

        1. if you eat your dairy fermented, the lactose is largely gobbled up by the bacteria

      2. Ummm, I’m pretty sure we’re all able to metabolize dairy at first–mother’s milk! So the argument that we didn’t “evolve” to process dairy is a little silly.

        Some of us lose the ability to metabolize dairy after weaning. Others do not.

        1. There is a huge difference between Milk from your mother (same species) versus the milk from another animal. It really is not a silly argument at all. You are just missing the point.

        2. I think it goes without saying that Mantonat is referring to ADULT humans having evolved the ability to digest milk, past infancy. You are being silly by overlooking the obvious.

        3. Yes we can (usually) drink our mother’s milk the problem is we are not made to drink the milk of other mammals so therefore we are unable to process it correctly.

        4. Isn’t all milk mother’s milk? That cow at the dairy farm is probably some calf’s mom! 😉

  6. I think dairy is an important food group that should be consumed if your body allows it. Personally, I find if I do not consume dairy I do not feel as strong or healthy. That said, I consume dairy in the form of whole milk kefir (with cream added sometimes), heavy cream in my coffee, lots of butter, and lots of cheese.

    An interesting side note, I used to drink a lot of skim milk and I had pizza face acne. I cut our dairy and my acne cleared over the course of a few months (I sadly went through Accutane, antibiotics, various face creams). I find I have problems with the sugar in dairy, but not the fat or protein.

    As for weight gain and low-fat dairy, I think it is true, depending on the rest of your diet and activity level.

  7. Soooo glad to see here what I always felt was true. I eat kind of a lot of dairy since I’m very low carb, and I have a hard time getting enough fat otherwise. I am very fortunate to live where I can get raw CREAM from a farm. It’s unbelievable– the consistency of mayonnaise. (jealousy bells ringing??) I think of it as a vitamin pill. I don’t drink milk, but stick to raw cheeses (great sources for the beautiful artisan ones here, too) and the cream, which I make butter from when I can get enough. (Not always available in qty). I have found a high fat Greek yogurt (Greek Gods) that I enjoy, as well. Only the plain– it’s like yogurtized cream. A much lower carb count than other greek yogurts, even full fat ones. So THANKS for the validation, Mark! And btw, last blood work had my HDL at 95 and TGs at 45. Think I’ll keep doing dairy fat…..

    1. We get that kind of cream once in a while – it’s so thick you can barely pour it!

    2. Right now I have greek gods whole fat plain and it is the tastiest greek yogurt I have had! It’s like desert!

      1. Yes! I love their yogurt. A bit of that with some pumpkin seeds and cinnamon is one of my favorite snacks. And here, at least, they’re more affordable than most of the fat-free Greek yogurts.

    3. I AM jealous. Wanna do a cultural exchange? I’m in Oregon…

    4. I love Greek Gods yogurt and was very happy when one of our local stores started carrying it. I had it the first time earlier this year when we visited a friend in Tucson AZ.

    5. I eat alot of raw milk kefir. My HDL just came in at 94, but my triglycerides are 108 and LDL 111. total cholesterol is 225. all numbers are up since i started guzzling kefir. not sure if this is a bad thing??

  8. Mark what are your personal favorite dairy products? Cheeses in particular? I have a grocer with a selection of cheeses that i’ve yet to sample 80% of, and I’m always looking for good recommendations! I bought some humboldt fog goat cheese and it was delicious, but the texture was strange and a little soft for me, so i might buy it again but not very often. Beemster goat gouda is one that I cannot avoid, and I have to keep some parmigiano reggiano on hand. Another I tried and loved recently was an alpine style cheese from vermont called spring brook tarentaise. I bought a big old chunk of that.

    1. Personally I love the Beemster XO, with its crunch flavor crystals sprinkled throughout the wedge. Beemster Grasskaas is produced in late spring/early summer with the milk from the cows that gorged themselves with new spring grasses. Locatelli is a delicious pecorino romano that my kids and I eat cubed. For another sheep cheese, try the Manchego, but get it aged more than four months; it’s more caramely tasting with more age. I’m not too sure how primal mozzarella is, but Sam’s carries a brand that is either packaged as two balls or one log, and it’s full fat. When it’s room temp you can usually see some yellow juices that taste very like butter! And buffalo mozzarella is bliss!

      1. Oh my goodness, Lisa, you’ve got me positively drooling for some new varieties of cheese! Thanks! 🙂

  9. I’m glad you addressed this because I’ve been curious about my intake. I really feel fine with most dairy in certain quantities (along with some other technically non-Primal foods). I use heavy cream for coffee and tea. Butter for cooking. The occasional kefir or yogurt. And definitely a lot of cheese (sharp provolone, mmmmmm!! I’m half Sicilian).
    I tried drinking whole milk for a few weeks over this past summer. It had been YEARS since I had had milk in a glass. I stopped because it just started to weird me out, how young mammals stop drinking milk, but I still was. The first week or two back to drinking milk went OK and MAN was it delicious, but I soon started to feel strange – gassy, bloated, not myself. So that stopped. I use it now and again to make masala chai or some damn good hot cocoa.

  10. I get minor joint pain from some forms of dairy. It’s very tolerable but I notice it. Does anyone know if that means it isn’t being absorbed by my body? Do lactose intolerant people get the benefits of dairy despite the pain?

    1. It could be your immune system is triggered by the milk protein and confuses your joints with them, attacking them. I’ve heard about this in online podcasts. I’m sorry I can’t remember the remedy but maybe with some research you could find it. It can also be linked to gluten sensitivity, if you have it then your body is more likely to attack the proteins in milk and your joints.

  11. Here in northern Canada, we can only get organic full fat pasteurized dairy products. I would really like to know if there is any benefit to eating them when they are all pasteurized? Or are the benefits completely mitigated by the pasteurization process…I realize it is better to have raw…just not available here….

    1. Yup, still worth it. The pasteurization process destroys a couple of nutrients that are heat sensitive, but it leaves many perfectly fine. Mark has written this in past articles on dairy/milk, so you can look it up for more info on specifics.

      Plus, cheese still has the nutrients listed in this article, and many cheeses aren’t made with raw milk, so other than new nutrients/chemicals introduced via the fermentation process, pasteurized milk will have the same/similar ones.

    1. Yes Bobert, I think you’ve hit on the only problem I see with dairy (as long as you’re lactose tolerant). Cheese, butter and cream are concentrated fat while milk is liquid (concentrated) calories. Similar to the way concentrated sugar was not found in nature (fruit came with fiber and honey came with bees to scare you away), neither concentrated fat or concentrated liquid calories were available to our hunter-gatherer ancestors (pre herding.) The fat they got came mixed in with their meat (that they had to chase and kill), or in their nuts/avocados/olives, etc. The calories came from things they had to spend time chewing, not guzzling. I think dairy is a wonderfully nutritious food, I love it and I eat as much as I can get away with; however when I have a few lbs to lose after holidays, I go easy on dairy, (and fruit also). There is no need to declare it a “bad” food or a “good” food.

  12. Does anyone have a brand of butter to recommend? (I typically shop at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.) My sinuses can’t handle milk or yogurt, but butter seems to be okay and I’d like to use more of it on my veggies.

    1. Trader Joe’s in Seattle has a good price on Kerrygold Irish Butter. It’s not organic but grass-fed.

      1. I concur -Kerry Gold from Trader Joe’s (in SoCal) -reasonably priced and delicious!

        1. On the subject of Trader Joe’s and dairy -I just tried their “spotlight ” cheese called Barely Buzzed …rubbed in ground espresso and lavender …yum.

    2. you might check US Wellness Meats online, they sell butter, cheese, as well as chicken, beef, seafood

  13. Full-fat cottage cheese is part of my breakfast routine. Great protein source and keeps me feeling full all through lunch. I have definitely noticed that my body handles full-fat cheese and cottage cheese better than my old habit of skim milk and lowfat -insert dairy product here-.

    1. One of my favorite quick breakfasts is just full fat cottage cheese and sliced tomatoes …

  14. I’ve recently incorporated full-fat sour cream into my diet. Great with avocado, cabbage and all kinds of good things.

  15. I have tried to make my own yogurt from full-fat milk and the cream just turned to oil when I heated the milk and then went bad during the fermentation process. I don’t have this problem with low-fat milk. As for cottage cheese, I just like the taste of low-fat better so that’s what I buy. I’ve been putting a lot of sour cream in things lately. It seems to make everything taste better. I suppose I could add it to my cottage cheese, but that seems unnecessary. Unless you are getting truly natural milk, all milk has been processed to provide a standard amount of cream anyway.

    1. Try mixing the cream into the milk or heating it more slowly/gently ? I make yogurt from full fat milk + cream and I’ve never had that problem.

  16. A couple of decades ago, we were stationed over in Italy, and one of the first things we did was visit an open-air farmer’s market. We bought bread, cheese (back when we could eat it), salami, and a knife, and made our own little picnic off to one corner of the grounds. We know now that the cheese we got was Pecorino Romano–DEFINITELY NOT the kind you want to make sandwiches with!

    We didn’t know that at the time. It was very twangy (sharp-tasting) and hard to cut. Now we know this is GRATING cheese and not slicing cheese.

  17. I love raw cheese ..I buy it a the farmer’s market along with heavy cream and water buffalo yougurt (the best!).

  18. I was wandering if you guys use to eat any form of french cheese?

    What do you think of it?

    1. Definitely Brie. camembert is too pungent for my liking. I think a lot of the French cheeses are trademarked and can only be made in that location under specific conditions, eg. grass fed. I know some sheeps cheeses are like that.

      1. I’m French, and I actually think the real Brie (made from raw milk in the region of the Brie) has a stronger taste than real Camembert.
        A lot of the cheeses you find in France are “AOC”, meaning they have to be made in a specific place, under certain conditions (use of raw milk, milk from a specific type of cow, like the Abondanve type for Beaufort cheese, what the cow was fed, for example). But depending on the cheese, not all these conditions have to be met : for some, the use of raw milk is not an obligation to be AOC.
        There is a huge variety, from not-so-smelly hard-pressed cheese, as Comté or Beaufort (the cheeses used in fondue) to the very smelly you almost have to eat with a spoon if you don’t want to drip some all over the place, like Epoisses, Munster or Maroilles.
        When I go abroad, cheese is by far the most difficult food to go without, as far as I’m concerned!

    2. Mimolette, Bucheron, tomme de Savoie, Brie, Camembert … so many fantastic French cheeses!

    1. PA for the win, indeed! Lots of raw, grass-fed milk from an abundance of farms. But of course, with the availability of raw milk come the raids that happen every year or so, always making their way to the news headlines.

  19. We are organic dairy farmers. Jersey milk from cows on grass has always been a large part of our diet. We raised our kids on Weston Price’s principles and my kids and I have always been exceptionally healthy. We came to MDA because of my wife who has had serious digestive problems. We went primal a year ago and all of us benefited (Thank you very much!). But my wife is still struggling. She has now eliminated nightshades and brassicas. Interestingly, raw dairy is one of the few foods that is always good to her. Even more interesting is that pasteurized dairy will tear her up. The difference between raw and pasteurized on her body is amazing. I wonder how many people who think they cannot tolerate dairy really only have a problem with pasteurized dairy?

    1. The same is true for me. I cannot tolerate regular non-organic milk, but raw milk is great! I buy my milk from Organic Pastures in CA. I do ok with Organic Valley brand full fat milk (their eggnog is amazing). Mostly I use Organic Valley for cooking because of the high cost of raw.

      1. +1 on the Organic Valley full-fat egg nog! It’s luxuriously thick, rich, and delicious! A nice treat during the holidays even if not primal due to sugar content.

      2. I followed Weston Price/Nourishing Traditions for three years and I can tell you, at least for me, my body did not like raw dairy anymore than pasturized. My tastebuds adored it (raw milk cheese, creme fraiche, etc. yum!) but I just gained weight and had a constant dripping nose. Once I cut out all dairy I lost weight easily and my asthma.congestion cleared up. It is interesting that, personally, fat of any sort does not leave me feeling sated or full, so even really rich butter or cream left me wanting more, not feeling very satsfied. SO I was consuming way to much.

  20. Can you discuss the possible relation between dairy products and metabolic bone disease? As you know, the USA consumes more dairy products than any in the world, and yet have the highest incidence of Osteoarthritis. The causes could be multi-layered, but I’m hoping you will address it in relation to the Primal Blueprint you suscribe to and recommend.

    1. Crap milk products from sick cows and also being ultra-pasteurized and homongenized…get Raw Milk and read some Weston Price. I wouldn’t even call the stuff they sell in grocery stores, dairy! I’d call it poison, just like CAFO meat.

    2. From what I’ve read the reason people get osteoporosis is because their acid and alkaline are unbalanced. Your body is always trying to be just a little bit alkaline. If you eat too many acid foods, your body can’t get enough alkaline from food it takes it from your bones.
      Alkaline foods are mostly fruits and veggies, which most people don’t eat enough of. Acid foods are proteins and processed food. A balance of 2 X the amount of alkaline over acid is best.

      1. Joan, there are hundreds of reasons why people get osteoporosis.

        Acid/Alkaline theory is much more complex than what conventional wisdom proclaims.

        In terms of body function, no food is inherently acidic or alkaline. Alkalinity or acidity in the body is determined by the metabolic predisposition of the person and the internal environment of the body.

        Thus, in one person fruits are alkaline-forming and in an other person acid-forming.

        The same is valid for protein or any food.

    3. The relationship is related to the protein content of dairy products. High protein without carbs causes the body to pull out calcium. This manifests as osteoarthritis and bone deformation.

  21. I can technically tolerate dairy but it leads to some really annoying acne. I just recently tried to reintroduce some yogurt and cheese and after six weeks my skin is acting up again. But I just realized that I’ve gotten sick a few times which is very unusual. Maybe I’m even less tolerate than I realized? Time to cut it out again I guess. So sad.

    1. Lisa, there is a wealth of knowledge already on this site. You likely will not get a personal response from Mark Sisson. For instance, search the site for “osteoporosis,” and there are several postings that reference it.

  22. I’m fairly certain I would not survive without my daily serving of raw, full-fat goat’s (or cow when I can’t get goat) milk (yes, I am being hyperbolic). Seriously, though … I have pretty low body fat and cannot imagine getting the protein I need without drinking my milk-two egg-banana-cocoa-coconut manna shake every morning. It is a hearty breakfast that takes me sometimes clear until dinner. I have so many other dietary restrictions (can’t even eat sweet potatoes and winter squash), that I’m very grateful for being able to consume dairy. And I too have wondered whether people who can’t tolerate dairy would be able to tolerate raw dairy. I’ve been drinking it for 5 years, damn near every day, and am blown away by how much better I feel.

  23. Dairy makes my life much easier, as I have lost the ability to metabolize many other enjoyable foods and need to eat something.

    The old argument that no other animals consume the milk of other animals – isn’t that also because they aren’t able to milk an animal? Given the ability, I’m sure many would, as it appears to be quite a good source of nutrients.

  24. Post workout, you want inflammation to be high, because the higher the inflammation, the stronger the recovery (I learned this from you, Mark). Low-fat dairy = inflammation and insulin spike, and protein. So non-fat greek yogurt post workout = best PWO snack ever?

  25. Everyday I wake up hoping that my body can handle dairy. Unfortunately dairy acts like a poison for me. But my husband could eat it all day and feel great! Oh well:(

    1. I’m with you! Every few months I give it a try again but with no success! I can tolerate some butter but everything else gives me migraines, sinus pain, mucus problems, stomach aches and I get moody! Very strange!

      1. Carrie and Michelle, have you tried raw and/or been sure that the type of milk is A2?

        From someone’s review on Amazon –

        A1 is the newer milk in an evolutionary sense, with the mutation responsible arising somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 years ago, at a time when cattle were being taken north into Europe. A2 milk is the original structure. All goat milk, most sheep milk, and some cow milk is A2. In the United States, though, most of the milk produced has a very high proportion of A1 milk.

        The danger from A1 milk is in its protein structure. The beta-casein in A1 milk has a structure that allows a short molecule called beta-casomorphin-7, or BCM-7, to split off during digestion. This small protein is the “devil in the milk”, and it can cause various problems, ranging from juvenile diabetes, autism, schizophrenia, allergies, to auto-immune diseases such as MS and Parkinson’s.

  26. what about your typical cheddar cheese(off the block, not shredded or processed) that you pick up at your local grocer? does that have the same effect as the raw, organic, grass-fed harder-to-find and very expensive cheeses mentioned in this article? i know conventional cheeses have less CLA than grassfed, but would be curious in general if they are sitll considered ‘primal’.
    I am T1 diabetic and eat quite a bit of cheese, probly 4 oz/day, mostly from a local cheese factory(local but not organic or grassfed). I also get kerrygold dubliner when i get a chance to get to the nearest costco. Cheese has very little effect on my blood sugar(another indicator that its not bad for you), but ive always wondered if i should be scaling back my intake

    1. I would like to give my opinion here, if you don’t mind. First of all, 4oz daily! That’s a lot of cheese, for anyone. A good moderate amount would be 1-2 oz with a meal or as a snack with some nuts, 2-3 times a week. Cheese should be sharp in flavor so you are not tempted to over eat, plus better for you since is has more beneficial bacteria. It should also be whitish/yellow (the color of real milk) It should be looked at as more of a flavor enhancer.

      It may not have an effect on your blood sugar but there are other factors to consider, conventionally raised animals are pumped full of hormones, antibiotics and live in inhumane environments which cause illness such as mastitis which is an infection in the utter that creates puss and some factories get away with selling this milk so they don’t loose on profits.

      The animals are fed GMO corn and soy which make them sick because they are not designed to eat those foods and that is why they get sick and need the antibiotics.
      Thus not getting proper nutrients and easily passing on the effects to the consumer. Many other health ailments besides weight gain, immune disorders, low immune function (continual colds/flues), digestive issues, allergies, even related to certain cancers and the list goes on…

      The animals should be raised on grass with access to fresh water on a pasture where the sun is shining on them, they will not get sick and contain all the proper nutrients they deserve (and we as consumers will reap the benefits 🙂

      At least if not eating raw, your dairy should be grass-fed/pasture raised. Another thing to consider in the words of Michael Pollin “pay more, eat less”

  27. I drink raw cow and goat milk. Fortunately it’s legal here if you go to the farm to pick it up. Switched to that about 7 years ago. I won’t touch the store bought.

    Most who can’t tolerate store bought dairy have no problem with raw.

  28. To: “Janknitz” on being evolved to metabolize “dairy” at birth.

    To answer your quote:
    Human breast milk is not “dairy”. Strictly speaking “dairy” as we commonly use the word, comes only from bovine and humans are not bovine, therefore human breast milk cannot be “dairy”.

    There is a vast difference between being able to metabolize our mother’s milk and that of another species. This also evidenced by the fact that many human babies cannot tolerate cow’s (dairy) milk.

    Grok on!

  29. Continued:

    That being said, I think full fat dairy, as Mark says, has a great deal to recommend it and is a very useful, versatile, not to mention delicious whole food.

  30. A book you recommended, deep nutrition, likes sprouted foods. I’m wondering if butter on sprouted wheat sourdough bread(sprouted and fermented) is bad? JD

  31. I think that the Paleo objection to dairy has to do with bovine estrogen and insulin growth hormone(s?). I have seen dairy referred to as “filtered cow’s blood”. I have also seen it cited as an increase factor for Parkinson’s

    What are the comments relative to this?

    1. There were two studies (that I’m aware of) on the correlation of dairy consumption and occurrence of Parkinson’s by the same research team. The first found a positive association
      but the second study looked closer into different types of dairy and found that only milk consumption presented the positive association with the Parkinson’s
      Moreover, they found that it was the proteins in the milk, the sugars, vit D and calcium(from dairy origin) and not the fat . Plus they found this correlation to be significant for men only while it was pretty much unclear for women. In a third study they acknowledge however that “One possibility is that dairy products are contaminated with neurotoxic chemicals” such as pesticide residues etc.
      And then there’s this study which finds no association at all.
      I cannot say how reliable those studies are in terms of methods, interpretations and so on.

  32. So if one is not lactose intolerant and enjoys a glass of milk here and there (especially with a small does of dark chocolate during the cold nights) I can have organic milk correct? What is the proper milk “legal” milk that is Paleo friendly? I’m also gonna head to the market and get me of my favorite sheep cheese and manchego I’ve been craving!!!! Of course, in moderation… = )D

  33. Thank you for this post Mark! I’m currently making my first batch of homemade Raw Milk Kefir. Hopefully it turns out OK!


    1. Are you using grains or powder? Powder is easier with no straining involved. I make my own all the time and it’s so easy. Not one ruined batch yet. Good luck with your first batch.

  34. I am pleased to see that dairy can be included in a “primal” diet. Unpasteurized goat milk and kefir that I make from some of it has been a significant part of my otherwise pretty paleo diet for years. And I do well on it. I do think that the quality of the dairy is critical. Any milk/yogurt you buy in the store is pretty highly processed and most of it is from CAFO mega-corporate farms, where the animals live in horrendous conditions and are fed antibiotics and other toxic substances. I get my milk from a local farmer who I know cares about her goats. I just ordered some raw butter, which I am excited about!

  35. I had no idea that fermenting impacted the casein. I’ll have to look into that.

  36. My dad, a Swede from the old country, used to make a fermented milk dish from raw milk from our Jersey cow, Bertha. Sprinkled a little cinnamon on top of a little dish of it and gave it to me. It was divine. Wish I knew how he did it! It was milder, creamier and less acid than yogurt. He always told me it would make me strong. (It did.)

    1. I bet it was filmjolk. It used to be homemade by nearly everyone in Sweden. You can buy starter online. Nick’s Natural Nook on eBay has good feedback 🙂

  37. Glad to hear of the planned post about how to tell if you are dairy intolerant. Thanks!

  38. But.. when you think about how this is “PRIMAL” the way we ate ages and ages ago… they didn’t make cheese. So, how is that part of the ” primal blueprint” I’m not against cheese.. I’m just curious how it fits in when people talk about eating how we ate ages ago. you know what I mean?? I want to know how to respond to people when they ask me this! 🙂 because they didn’t make cheese back then..

  39. Gluten + dairy = trouble for me. Dairy sans gluten = happy. That said, my main form of dairy intake is cheese, butter, and a bit of cream (hate milk and not particularly fond of yogurt). As a kid I used to eat butter straight and go barefoot everywhere. Starting to realize the biggest mistake I’ve made to date was grow up!

  40. So much conflicting data out there, do lean on Mark to synthesize information on health-related topics (even though I do not eat meat) on top of the 40 years of studying health, fitness, nutrition and supplementation. I eat a couple of cubes of aged goat cheese many days as part of my last meal of the day. That’s it for me as far a dairy goes. Otherwise, fish oil, olive oil, free range eggs and coconut oil are my primary source of lipids.

  41. What does it mean by full fat dairy? It seems like all you find at the store is low fat everything. Where can I find it? Does it need to be organic? Sorry a lot of questions, I’m new to this.

    1. Whole milk, heavy whipping cream, butter or ghee, 4% fat cottage cheese (oddly called “small curd”, at least here in California), and all the cheeses not labeled as low-fat. In my opinion, organic dairy is much better than conventional dairy for many reasons.

  42. Could someone speak to “The China Study” claiming casein is a direct catalyst to cancer? Milk has scared me since I read this

      1. wow thank you very much for this information. very interesting read

    1. The China Sudy is the ONLY book I have EVER torn to bits in order to keep myself from any part in spreading about such utter, dreadful dreck. That bad, it was. I was reminded of my one and only encounter with Cold Stone Creamery (back when I ate ice cream) – I expected deliciousness, but instead got a mouthful of something that I swear was made mostly of wax, Vaseline, and HFCS, with a thin veneer of flavour. What sad deceptions, both.

      My deep respects to Denise Minger for her fortitude, as well as for her trenchant ability to spot and specify just how the “study” ran off the rails.

  43. So many foods available to us today are not strictly primal, so I think one must look at the fat profile and see if the approximation is apt. Full fat dairy qualifies.

  44. I used to be severely lactose intolerant. Since going primal, however, I must have healed my gut or something because I can now eat full-fat dairy without all of the “gut wrenching” side effects. Is it possible to heal the gut in this manner, and if not, why can I now tolerate dairy?

  45. I stopped all dairy a year and a half ago when I went hard core Paleo. I did not realize that I was fairly lactose intolerant. Not to a disabling point but just having mucous and flem in large amounts until I went Paleo. Then I drifted off Paleo after a year introducing dairy back in while still avoiding breads and starches. The flem and mucous came back. I can do without milk and most products but I really miss cheese. So I treat myself now and then but always notice a reaction. But its funny I don’t get much of a reaction from Milk. I do treat myself to KerryGold Butter without any reaction either.

  46. This is certainly one of the topics, that generates alot of replies. Maybe b/c the primal way is much more resilient, towards things that tastes good (and makes life worth living), but has a bit of a bad rep, both in the CW world and very much in the hard core Paleo world. Alcohol, potatoes, dairy to name a few.
    You have to be stupid, not to be able to see the importance of cheesemaking, in order to preserve calories, through the (modern) history of Man. Every culture has some sort of cheese on the “program”. It was simply a way of storing the hard earned food, so it would´nt go bad. I haven´t done a Google search on it, but my guess is that, dairy is older than organized grain production (wine and beer prolly is too 😉 ). I dont drink much (high fat) milk, but the cheeses remains a stable for me, and has been that way for my entire life. I am sad to hear, that some ppl can´t digest dairy products. It really is an important foodgroup, that some folks must have developed some sort of unability to break down, over many generations, due to some sort of genetic mutation resulting in insufficient production of the right enzymes.
    One has to think, why it has´nt been the ability to breakdown grainbased carbohydrates and/or proteins, that has been degenerated over the millenia lol.
    Well, I´ll be toasting to the Paleo folks on Friday, as I drink a lovely chianti with some aged Italian cheese. Yes, redwine and cheese really is a match made in heaven. Coincidence? You be the judge on that one 😉

  47. I am fortunate enough to have access to a state certified raw milk organic dairy in New York State. Raw milk is the ONLY dairy I can tolerate (other than fermented dairy), or I have full blown lactose intolerance symptoms. I am thriving on this!

  48. Sorry – confused Brit here. What’s “heavy cream”? I keep seeing it in recipes and on websites like this one and I’m a bit confused….

    In the UK we have single cream (thicker than milk, but still really runny), double cream (gloopy), and “extra thick double cream” (nearly solid, but still a bit gloopy). Oh and clotted cream…

    Going back to eating butter is one of the joys of my palaeo life. A bit like eating a whole avocado with my lunchtime salads in the summer…. It felt like such luxury.

    1. It’s all about the fat content. “Heavy cream” is also called “heavy whipping cream” (or sometimes just “whipping cream” in the States, and has a fat content of 36%+. If you visit they list the different fat content levels of cream in different countries. It looks like US heavy cream = UK whipping cream or double cream, depending on your fat content preference.

      1. Cassie – thanks. That clears a lot of things up (recipes, these kinds of forums etc). I figured that must be right, but grateful for the “translation” from American into British…(!)

  49. Do you all realize that full fat milk has been banned in school cafeteria’s thanks to Michelle Obama dictating to the public, when she is not even a nutritionist.

    1. Things are getting bad in our country now and I feel so locked out of my child’s life when she’s at school. I’m worried about what she eats and will have a talk with the school this afternoon to ensure she eats healthier food, demanding they feed her whole milk as well. Some places are banning parents from sending a lunch to school with their kids even. They want to enforce their version of a *healthy, balanced* diet on our kids. You know, that *healthy* diet that’s making us all sick, fat and downright unhealthy? Socialism at its finest.

    2. I highly doubt that. I haven’t seen full fat milk in a school cafeteria in the last 10-15 years. That has nothing to with Michelle Obama.

  50. Milk is very calming to me. It is food to me when I’m hungry and can’t think of anything else to eat and it also seems to calm me down when I get anxiety. I grew up on 2% and just used to buy it because it was what I’d always done but upon discovering low-carb diets and paleo I will never go back to low fat again! I didn’t seem to lose weight on cheese but conventional pasteurized milk doesn’t seem to hurt anything. I’ve always been kind of thin. At 5’5″ I have hovered at about 135 lbs. for the last decade but now on eating “real” foods I am down to 123 lbs (26.5″ waist down from 28″) . I also walk 2 or 3 miles a day (slowly, about 1.5- 1.8 mph usually on my treadmill scattered out throughout the day), do dishes by hand and hang clothes on the line and do some walking in the afternoons when I go pick up the little one from school. Too bad though bikini season is over! Lol I know a lot of people are proponents of raw milk but I don’t see anything wrong with pasteurization, I avoid ultra-pasteurized though. Yes, you lose some vitamin content and the structure of the milk does change some, but that holds true with all foods. We humans were made to dominate the Earth and use it to survive and we have the ability to build and cook and invent. I just think it’s a problem when we start manipulating nature through science.

    At the beginning of low carb I didn’t lose weight for months but that may have been because I still ate some processed foods like Vienna sausages and regular cheese and yogurt. I don’t eat those things anymore and my weight is down now. So, basically, I don’t think full-fat milk harms my weight loss but cheese probably does. I also eat some fruit, usually a banana a day or something. I down butter daily and sometimes love to eat raw coconut butter by the spoonful! I eat grains occasionally like on days when we need to go to the grocery store and there isn’t much of a choice lol but for the most part I avoid them. I don’t think grains are quite the evil paleo enthusiasts make them out to be, but I don’t believe they are necessary in our diets. If they were necessary humans wouldn’t have been able to exist as hunter-gatherers nor would they have been able to migrate into colder climates. Our grains today, however, have been so processed and modified it’s a wonder anyone can even stomach them. Add to that the way we manipulate foods by microwaving them (microwaving foods changes the molecular structure of the foods so our bodies probably don’t even recognize the food) and genetically altering them. This is not natural and is likely causing multiple problems and increased allergies and food intolerances. Not to mention cloning. Most cloned animals are so messed up that have to be euthanized at birth yet food from cloned animals and their offspring have made their way into our food supply now and who knows what the long term consequences of this is going to be?

    But, anyways, cutting out grains works and is a must for anyone really wanting to get a trim waistline. I believe milk is healthy if you can stomach it, raw or pasteurized, whichever your body can tolerate.

    1. Oh, yes and bellydancing and zilling are a staple in my life for exercise! I just do it when the urge to dance hits me but don’t worry about cardio or timing my workouts like I once did. You’d be surprised the strength floorwork especially takes and it is great for our pelvic floors as women!

  51. I just read the link about dairy and cancer which seems to say that dairy may only be problematic when stripped of it’s protective fats, and at the top of this article, you echo this sentiment by referring to “the potentially problematic components of dairy – the whey, casein, and lactose”. What does this say about whey isolate products which have been stripped of their “protective” CLA-containing fats? This is a primary ingredient in the Primal Fuel product, so does that mean Primal Fuel is possible carcinogenic? Just wondering because I have been using whey isolate for years and was unaware that they may be unhealthy.

  52. how about dairy and autoimmune disease? is it inflammatory in the body? I am very happy to eat just cheese, greek yogurt, and kefir if it is ok… fermented food is good! thanks for this post!

  53. I hope cottage cheese is on the good dairy list. I make my own with full fat raw milk from grass fed cows.

  54. Awesome. The only dairy I eat is glorious full-fat plain greek yogurt. LOVE IT.

  55. I was vegan for 6 years and didn’t notice any negative effects of adding dairy back in, nor after I cut it out to try Whole30, so I’m eating it for good now! I adore it, and it helps me stay primal. I’ve got a jar of raw kefir grains “rehydrating” on the counter right now, hopefully that takes 🙂 The only dairy I don’t care for is Greek yogurt. I much prefer the almost pourable texture and flavor of European style yogurt. If you get Strauss near you, the whole milk European yogurt is amazing! And I have to say, the day I learned real butter is GOOD for you was one of the greatest of my life, haha! I actually illegally packed home a bunch of Normandy butter from France a couple years ago. Good butter (maybe sprinkled with good salt flakes!) is just incredible.

    1. Cassie, I agree with you on Greek yogurt. If we’re supposed to eat “whole” foods, then why would anybody eat Greek yogurt? To make it they strain and strain it for hours to get the liquid whey to run off (which was part of the original “whole” food.) Then what do they do with all that whey? Tons and tons of whey to get rid of? I watched a documentary that said they pay local farmers to dump it all over their farm land. I don’t imagine it’s harmful to the soil, but that’s definitely some man-made messing around with nature. And the funny thing is, the whey always settles to the top of the yogurt container (I buy the quart size) and you can simply pour it off if you don’t like it, poof, Greek yogurt.

  56. I can’t wait to read the post about dairy tolerance. I want to eat dairy, especially now that I’m trying to go very low-carb, but it’s so touch-and-go. I was eating a lot of fermented dairy and breaking out badly, so when I stopped and my skin cleared up a few months later, I ran an experiment. I started eating fat-free dairy, but as soon as I started eating full-fat Fage, my skin got inflamed and I started breaking out again (it seems to be particulary problematic with Fage for whatever reason). I now realize that my dairy has to be at least organic, but when I tried raw dairy, aside from flavor, I didn’t notice a difference. I also did notice that cheese, no matter what kind, encourages me to overeat while also sitting very heavy in my stomach.

    Maybe that’s reflective of a previous question about the primal-ness of dairy. I know there have been herder-gatherer cultures, and from what I’ve read, groups like the Maasai and the Himba will churn butter and consume fermented dairy, but they’re not eating cheese or anything that would qualify as a “processed” dairy (I’m using that term loosely).

    Then again, to all of you who eat cheese and don’t get slow digestion and mucous, I say more power to you!

  57. Didn’t eat dairy before going primal. Now have small amounts of cheese, butter and a 1/2 tsp of cream in the coffee each am.

  58. I have a question: I had breast cancer 8 years ago–it was highly estrogen positive. Since hormones are concentrated in fat, how do hormones in high fat dairy get processed in humans? I ate a ridiculous amount of cheese when I was in my 20’s working in a cheese shop, and always wondered if that contributed to cancer.
    So I have been a little leery of high fat dairy.
    Any information you can give me would be appreciated!!

  59. So, Mark said he supposes that dairy is Primal. Is it or is it not?

  60. I am attracted to dairy. But use it as a diet supplement and not as a core fuel. High fat ice cream treat, cream on top organic milk, cheese, yogurt, organic butter.

    My red meat of choice is bison.

    So some folks look at me eating fats as if I am signing up for a heart attack.

    Full physical 2 weeks ago….Doc didn’t bother to check colesteral because I have no evidence of a problem over 30 years seeing him. His written comment on my Blood work…”I am a ridiculously healthy 6’1″ 173 lb 58 year old male. Keep doing what you are going”

    I am NOT a nutty health/workout fanatic. I simply try to pay attention, keep moving, go for long walks in nature a couple of times a month, otherwise just try to remember occasionally to bend over from my hips, hang from something, practice standing straight, lift with my legs, eat when I am hungry and DONT EAT stuff my Instinct warms me to leave alone, notice my smile, read, choose no alcohol, watch almost zero TV and try to find people and places where I can laugh.


    Just one member of the human race.

    Peace to all you out there.


  61. Great discussion here. I recently stopped consuming dairy to test my body and see how it responds. After a week I have found much less sinus congestion than I had been plagued with for weeks. We shall see how this evolves.

  62. Before starting to eat LCHF, I always thought that dairy caused mucus–it was certain in my mind. Then, after going very low carb for a month or so and enjoying full-fat dairy, I suddenly realized I had NO MUCUS EVER. It was then I realized that the mucus accompanied either the carbs or the combination of carbs + dairy (and up to that time I had eaten low-fat dairy!) Anyway–this was quite a revelation to me. Now, 3+ years down the road, and a lot of full-fat dairy from sweet grass-fed animals, I’m thinner and much healthier. Plus, I’m not always thinking about food!

  63. I am extremely dairy intolerant, but the only dairy product currently in my diet is Bovine Colostrum – full of immune factors and other goodness that actually helps out with stem cells! I love fermented products and hope that my leaky gut heals so I can handle raw full fat fermented dairy some day to help inoculate my gut with some of them probiotics…..

    then again… without dairy really doesn’t seem difficult to me

  64. I have no clue if the cheeses I love come from grass-fed or grain-fed cows-, sheep- or goats-milk, but they sure are full-fat. I understand that full-fat grass-fed is better than full-fat grain-fed, but is full-fat grain-fed still better than nothing?

  65. Why is raw milk illegal in some places? What is the rationale for this? Are people stroking out after drinking it? What gives?

  66. I am looking forward to the post on how you can figure out if you’re dairy intolerant. I have had two blood tests that I tested super high intolerant (allergic) to casein. Yet I don’t feel bad when I eat it and I have heard very conflicting things about whether the blood tests (IGg, IGe) etc. are accurate. I still eat cultured butter and I try to avoid cheese but sometimes I can’t help myself – a little cheese in certain dishes just makes them so much better! So I am wondering how bad is it if I am intolerant and still eat it occasionally, am I really doing harm to myself? I hope you address the blood tests in your post.

  67. Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston A. Price is a must read for anyone wanting to know the best ways to eat for health. Dr. Price evaluates the health and foods of 14 “primative” peoples around the globe in the 1930’s who were not yet exposed to “modern” foods. He found extraordinary health in these populations and frequently commented upon the complete lack of disease as well as their physical perfection (many pictures to back this up). When introduced to modern foods, their health deteriorated enormously. At least two of these populations existed almost solely on raw dairy (mostly fermented) and meat; the isolated Swiss added rye and some vegetables, and the Masi tribe of Africa added blood as suplemental foods. The book includes a picture of a 6’6″ Masi chief who is over 80 years old with his 8 wives and some of his large number of young children, many who had to have been born well after he was 70. Dairy may not be for everyone, but for those who can tolerate it, it seems to be a a very good choice.

  68. I’m looking forward to your next post Mark as unfortunately I do think I have a problem with cow dairy. I’m missing Cheddar cheese soooo much! I wonder if you would be able to touch on the topic of A1 vs A2 milk products as this is something I’m trying to learn more about?

  69. This has been a great discussion on dairy vs non-dairy and raw vs pasteurized, but hasn’t really delved into the main issue… is it primal??? Much as I love dairy (heavy creams, butter, cheese, yogurt, kefir), I do not see how they can be considered primal if we are defining primal in caveman terms. It just couldn’t happen. Yes, you can go back thousands of years to “ancient” cultures who incorporated dairy in healthy, fermented ways; but that does not make it primal. So, are we defining primal by content or chronology?

    1. Then why are you using the internet, Diane? Sure, you can go back thousands of years and find “ancient” cultres that used the internet, but cavemen certainly didn’t. It just couldn’t happen.

    2. if we define by chronology, coconut is neither is coconut primal/paleo, nor “ancestral” (certainly coconut was not in the diet of my forefathers)

      (i love high fat dairy)


  70. So glad to see this post! I’ve been mixing organic whole milk with my egg white protein powder for a quick breakfast before work. It’s so good to know that it’s a win-win! Also, the fat in the whole milk really keeps me full until lunch! Thanks Mark; and thanks for doing all the research and making sure the information you share with us is current and up-to-date. You are the best!!

  71. I love the stuff Mark Sisson writes but I don’t understand why he is pro dairy and this is one area I feel he is making a mistake. He is Paleo in everything except this, for some reason. They can do countless studies that show some kind of benefit for milk, but it’s not Paleo and we’re not designed to consume it – that’s the principle of Paleo. 130million Japanese are the healthiest and most long-lived people on the planet and historically they have never consumed anything from a cow – what about that “study’?

    As for raw milk – google Crohn’s disease, Mycobacteriumn Avium Paratuberculosis and Johne’s disease which is absolutely rife in the dairy industry ( and you will see that consuming raw milk is not a good idea. If you get an infection from consuming raw milk, an infection that no ancestor ever had to deal, then don’t be surprised if you’re body doesn’t know how to handle it.

    Consume dairy if you want…but don’t say you haven’t been warned.

  72. I have heard that if you are gluten intolerant you should leave milk alone also.
    Is this true?

    Thanks for the answer.

  73. Thanks Mark, I love having my food choices validated here. I’m particularity fond of the really smelly cheeses – my go-to choice for a mid-morning snack.

  74. Are you kidding me Mark? Milk is one of thee WORST foods you can put in your body PERIOD. Milk and or all dairy is the most MUCUS forming food in the human diet. Milk or for that matter all dairy minus (butter) are VER HIGH inflammatory foods that should be avoided.

  75. I think Mark posted about the whipped coconut cream you can make using coconut milk. For anyone who hasn’t tried it, it is VERY good. The brand I think is perfect is Golden Star, only ingredients are coconut milk and water. If you use enough cocoa, you can’t even taste the coconut (if you don’t like coconut). Super thick and creamy.

  76. I bet Grok happily guzzled milk out of any and all the un-burst udders he found among the dozens of dead and dying cows at the bottom of his favorite buffalo jump.

  77. Mark, if you read this, please could you look into the A1 vs A2 debate ? Ii refer to Keith Woodford and his book The Devil in the Milk.

    I have access to 100% Jersey cow milk for my kids, with a whopping 5-5% fat content! They love it 🙂 I don’t drink milk myself, makes me gassy but I eat about 200g of sheep milk based Greek style yogurt on a daily basis with no trouble 🙂

  78. I was so excited to read this post! The thought of giving up full-fat plain yogurt was horrifying to me…I use it as a dessert and a filling snack during that horrid 3pm time. Also, it helps me get my veggies in…amazing what a little cheese can do for the green stuff. Thanks for an informed post! Excited to fully transition to full fat and ditch low-fat for good!

  79. Is it just me, or are a lot of the arguments against dairy just flat out stupid?

    Cavemen didn’t eat dairy? So what? Are you saying humans could NEVER find a new source of food that’s both delicious and nutritious?

    Cow’s milk wasn’t meant for humans to eat? So what? Human breast milk is the ONLY food that was meant for humans to eat, but that doesn’t stop us from eating lots of other things that benefit us.

    Human’s are the only animal that drinks milk of a different animal? So what? We’re also the only animal that builds skyscrapers and builds cars, along with tons of other things. And lots of other animals will eat cows milk, if given the chance. It’s just that they can’t figure out how to milk another animal.

    Lactose and Casien can be problematic for some, but even those don’t apply to all forms of dairy or all individuals.

  80. My wife is lactose intolerant and has been milk-free for a few years now. I have DRAMATICALLY increased my milk consumption, but do occasionally indulge in Greek Yogurt and Dark Chocolate (most of which is milk-free, actually)..

    I don’t plan on giving up my yogurt any time soon 🙂

  81. I LOVE dairy products! I scoffed when our doctor told me that we need to drink low-fat milk. HA! NEVER!! I eat more butter, cheese, heavy cream and half n half than ever and I am the skinniest I have been in YEARS! NO ONE can tell me not to eat my butter! I refuse to believe that butter is worse for my health than a butter subsitute with ingredients in it I can not pronounce! YAY FOR DAIRY!!

  82. We’re fortunate here in Maine to have ready access to local dairy farmers and their grass fed raw whole milk and other dairy products including a large variety of cheese, yogurt, and kefir.

    If you live in a large metro area with limited access to whole fat and grass-fed dairy, consider buying whole fat milk and making your own whole fat yogurt or whole fat kefir. There are several low cost yogurt maker products on the market such as the “Yogotherm” (….you don’t need buy another expensive electric appliance.

  83. This is good to hear as my two year old’s new favorite food is butter. I also just ordered some raw cream and kefir from my local farmer- yum!

  84. I have always preferred full-fat dairy (Primal 1 1/2 years). It just tastes so much better than low-fat, and low-fat much better than skim. Fuller, richer, more complete, more satisfying. More wholesome. Not knowing what homogenization was (makes milk homogeneous–no cream separation and every jug tastes the same), I would pour myself the first glass from a newly opened jug, convinced/hoping that it had the most cream.

  85. I don’t know why but since cleaning up my diet I became more sensitive to things I shouldn’t eat (allergies?).

    Had an allergy test done for lactose intolerance about 5 years ago and it came back negative. Every time I drink dairy (doesn’t matter A1 or A2 milk, raw or cooked) I end up with a pooch belly like a 8 months old pregnant lady and severe cramps.

    I don’t know what’s happening but eventually I’ll be forced to completely give up dairy, xept for the occasional raw cheese.


  86. “Cheese consumption was inversely associated with risk of heart attack, while butter used on bread increased the risk. Awesomely and unsurprisingly, butter used for cooking did not increase the risk.”

    Guess it didn’t dawn on the researchers that the BREAD might be the problem?

    I can’t tolerate low fat or skim milk at all, but I can drink whole milk or use full fat cream periodically with little to no effect. I eat cheese, yogurt, and butter regularly with no ill effects. I started eating paleo six months ago at more than 100 lbs overweight and I’m currently buying clothes 2 sizes smaller and my joints feel well enough that I can run again. I’m not afraid of dairy, just afraid of advice from people who think dietary fat is bad without looking at the evidence.

    Great information. Thank you, Mark!

  87. Whole milk gives me heartburn. Other than that I love it. I’ve been drinking skim milk for about twenty-four years. My cholesterol is 160. One of the things I like about whole milk is it has no added vitamins or minerals. I don’t like foods with added ingredients.

  88. I gave up milk over a year ago and I don’t miss spitting up the mucous and flem in the morning and when I brush my teeth. Full fat Greek yogurt (Fage) is such a tasty creamy treat as is grass fed butter. I only use milk now for my espresso drinks and it is such a small amount that the flem isn’t much of an issue.

  89. Am I right in thinking that full fat cows milk is okay and considered primal only if you are tolerant of it? Am I also right in assuming that the milk has to come from grass fed cows?
    Sorry for the questions but I am trying to take in so much information regarding primal I think I am a bit overloaded at the moment.
    I know there is a direct correlation between diet and skin conditions in particular acne, I just want to ensure I get it right.

  90. As for myself, the A1 beta-casein in Holstein cows milk is a total disaster for my health; much worse than the gluten and gliadin in wheat. A number of years ago, I initially tried the Atkins diet (way-of-eating) in which cheese was considered to be a free food under Induction (kinda like alcohol is a free food for an alcoholic). The obesity blame is placed totally on carbohydrates (including relatively clean and unprocessed food sources such bananas and potatoes) and the yet unknown inflammatory disease-promoting proteins get off Scott-free without any blame. So my inability to lose weight under the Atkins diet (i.e. the big protruding ‘wheat’ belly) was initially thought to be ‘metabolic resistance’ to weight loss. It is only this year (since August), that I have discovered the dairy intolerance problem with A1 casein. It took me four weeks to get over the opiate addiction and withdrawal to A1 casein in the form of casomorphin. This was not fun at all, since I was craving cheese all the time. I gutted it out, and replaced the missing calcium with sardines in water/tomato sauce, pressure-cooked bone broths, and extra dark green veggies. I now know that the A1 casein is the main driver behind my protruding leaky-gut ‘dairy’ belly, bronchitis, athlete’s foot, dandruff, armpit/body odor problems, jock itch, sinus infections, and constantly coming down with colds and flus in the winter. This is the first November/December that I have not come down with the flu when everyone else in the office was sick as a dog with it. IMHO, this is a place where Paleo got it right, and Weston A. Price got it wrong.

    I’ve read somewhere that the Masai cattle milk is of the A2 casein variety; not A1 casein. I also know that I tolerate goat milk and goat cheese (A2 casein in moderation), so this has worked as an infrequent substitute in recipes that require or come out better with something approximating cow milk and cow cheese. That said, I am happy to say that I do tolerate grass-fed butter (provides vitamin K2 and satiety/energy from the saturated fat); although I do not yet know if I do any better on clarified vs. unclarified butter with regards to the casein issue.

  91. As much as it killed me to give up dairy, I had learned too much about our inability to digest and absorb the casein protein found in dairy to justify keeping it in my diet. I have a serious autoimmune colitis and refused the death sentence of prednisone and instead learned about the standard American diet… And how I needed to get off of it. The first and most immediate life saving change was gluten. The second was casein. While I gave it up for better digestive health, the immediate and HUGE drop in my blood pressure was so shocking that I bought my own BP cuff! I challenge anyone who claims that dairy isn’t related to high blood pressure and heart disease to COMPLETELY give it up (read every flipping label and ask every flipping waiter) and watch their blood pressure decrease to the level they were at as a teen. I also believe with all of my being that dairy is one of the biggest triggers of breast cancer. I still miss it terribly, but its out of my life. Oh yeah, and my skin is healthy again too.

  92. I am just getting ready to start Paleo (after the holidays!!) and am a bit confused. Some sites say dairy is OK but others say that those who eat dairy are not following a Paleo eating plan. Who is right? I have also learned on some sites that sweet potatoes are OK but not white potatoes. To my way of thinking, if we are to eat the kinds of foods that would have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, it would be meat, eggs, vegetables and fruits. I love cheese and thinking I could have this occasionally but I am not sure I could survive without potatoes!! I believe the Paleolithic human would have eaten most of the root vegetables they found – not just some because they are lower in carbs or as one site said – they would not have known how to cook a potato. Well, a sweet potato is much harder than a white potato. Was/is the difference really because the white potato is a new thing and sweet is ancient? HELP!

    1. Go ahead and eat dairy, see how you feel, if you can accomplish what you want to achieve (fat loss, feeling better, etc). If you can’t get the results you want, try removing dairy. The same for potatoes. Some people can’t eat eggs because of an allergy or sensitivity, even though they would be considered paleo. You may be able to find a substitute for potatoes that aren’t starchy such as on Marmalade and Mileposts (from the co-host of Smarter Science of Slim).

      1. Thanks for the information. I want to lose weight, get healthy in 2014. I just quit smoking in November (hence waiting until after the first of the year to start a new eating plan!!). I had a problem with dairy intolerance when I was younger. It (dairy) does not affect me as it did years ago. Have I become tolerant in my old age? I am thinking that while I don’t have the same symptoms, dairy is probably affecting me in a different way. I have been planning my strategy for a few months now. I am on the cliff, ready to jump and give up processed (i.e. boxed and frozen meals and sides) foods as well as fast foods. I will purchase a slow cooker tomorrow so that I can have food ready to eat when I arrive home from work and freeze for later on. After giving up the processed foods/fast foods (I am giving myself 2 weeks to do so) then I will start to eliminate processed sugars from my plan (cane sugar, high fructose anything). I will keep honey and maple syrup in my plan for special occasions. I will have to cut out coffee for a while as right now, it is so doctored up with sugars/cream(ers) that I will not be able to drink coffee until I get used to no sugars. This also will be a 2-3 week process. Then the grains/gluten. So, I figure that by the time I turn 61 in March 2014, I should be, for the most part, primal/paleo.

        My nutritional therapist recommended Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfillippo, BS,NC. It is a great big book with menu plans as well recipes. She goes into a lot of dis-eases and how to get the most out of the eating plan to heal whatever ails ya!

        1. Please give up the wheat first! It is a low-grade toxin. Best to eliminate the toxins first (you started with smoking, wheat should be second!)

        2. I agree with Grisly, get rid of the grains first.
          Good job so far with quitting smoking!

  93. I do paleo but I will not give up my sweet potatoes, they have far too many nutrients. In terms of white potatoes, you can have them on your cheat day, which for me is Saturday.

  94. I love the discussion on dairy. My mother always told the story of when she weaned me that I would not drink another drop of milk from any source. We had a small local dairy at the time. Now, I love the taste of cheese, ice cream and things like that and love what butter does to foods flavor wise but what it does to my body – back in my early days it would be cramping and the D word! now I think I am just “used” to it but if I really think about it, can feel what those things do to me – would have to be very careful.

    As for giving up gluten/wheat – have done that as I am not eating processed foods. Short of eating whole wheat berries out of hand (and I am NOT doing that) giving up processed foods literally eliminated not only “boxed dinners” but breads, grains of all sorts. I am basically on a protein/veggie regime this week and will start adding fruits back next week. So, while I didn’t actually say I was giving up gluten/wheat per se, I really did give it up whole heartedly. And, can actually say, have not missed it at all.

  95. ATTENTION: If you want all the amazing health benefits
    of the Paleo Diet – including a flat stomach, younger skin and
    strong, lean muscles – but you’re not sure what to eat each day,




    January 13, 2014

    Dear Suzette,

    Maple syrup…honey… figs… dates…

    Sure they’re sweet. And technically speaking, they’re considered “Paleo.”

    But let’s face it: Most so-called Paleo desserts and snack foods with these ingredients contain more sugar in one serving than our Paleo ancestors ate in an average month.

    And if you make these foods a regular part of your diet, that can be bad news for your health and waistline. In fact, research shows that as sugar consumption goes up longevity goes down. Worse still, as your consumption of sugar goes up, your risk for chronic diseases, obesity and physical aging rises in parallel.

    The Whitehall Study, which spanned 33 years and evaluated 451,787 people, found that all-cause, cardiovascular, and respiratory mortality were significantly higher among individuals with elevated blood sugar levels. This study also showed that sugar intake and mortality were dose-dependent. In other words, the more sugar you eat, the higher your risk.

    And it makes little difference whether that sugar comes in the form of a soft drink, a syrup-sweetened dessert, or a food bar filled with dates.

    Sugar: The Not-So-Sweet Drug

    While enjoying a sugary dessert once in a while isn’t likely to do much harm, the issue lies in sugar’s addictive qualities. This makes it difficult to stop eating sugary foods once you start.

    Make no mistake, sugar is a drug. And a powerful one, at that.

    Eating sugar stimulates physiological reactions that cause the release of adrenaline. This is the same hormone responsible for the “high” you might feel after riding a roller coaster. Sugar also triggers the production of your brain’s natural opioids – one of the key factors in addiction.

    In fact, a recent study published in PLOS ONE found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. The researchers believe that the receptors on our tongue that taste “sweet” evolved in ancestral times when our diets were very low in sugar (5 pounds per year versus the 175 pounds we consume on average today).

    These receptors have not yet adapted to our Neolithic levels of sugar consumption. And stimulating these receptors creates excessive reward signals in the brain. The result: Our normal self-control mechanisms are overridden, leading to addiction.

    And if that’s not enough, sugar also decreases your body’s production of the appetite control hormone leptin… while simultaneously increasing levels of ghrelin, an appetite-boosting hormone.

    In short, eating sugar causes an increase in hunger… the desire for sugary foods… the hormones that contribute to weight gain… and the key risk factors for chronic disease.

    But what about Paleo sources of sugar? Aren’t they a better alternative, and more suitable to our genetic makeup?

    Fructose: The Un-friendly Sweetener Found in Fruit

    Many people mistakenly believe that sugar from fruit is better than other kinds of sugar. Fruit is healthy, right?

    Not so fast…

    In fact, the sugar found in fruit – called fructose – is a particularly damaging form of sugar. Fructose has been found to:

    Cause digestive distress in sensitive individuals with dietary fructose intolerance (DFI) – roughly 33% of the population
    Raise ghrelin levels – a hormone that boosts appetite
    Deplete mineral levels in the body
    Tax the liver and contribute to fatty liver disease
    Increase uric acid levels – raising blood pressure, insulin production and impairing kidney function
    Increase triglyceride and oxidized LDL levels – key factors in heart disease and metabolic syndrome
    Damage neurons, contributing to memory loss and cognitive decline
    Promote glycation – the binding of sugar to protein which causes both inflammation and oxidation – key factors in every chronic disease
    It’s not that fruit is inherently bad. In fact, if you consumed fructose as our ancestors did – from vegetables and fruits, packaged along with fiber, vitamins, minerals and enzymes – you’d only be consuming around 15 grams per day.

    But the average adolescent gets 73 grams of fructose per day… from sweetened drinks alone!

    We have taken fructose out of its evolutionary context. And in doing so are suffering a set of metabolic consequences that our Paleo ancestors never did. For those of us following a Paleo diet, enjoying a date-sweetened truffle or maple syrup brownies may seem like an innocent indulgence. And if it is only occasional, then it is innocent.

    But many people are operating under the assumption that these are “free foods” to be eaten as often as desired. Dates and maple syrup are mainstays many “Paleo” grocery lists. But as your consumption of these foods goes up, so does your intake of fructose.

    To put your average fructose consumption in perspective, consider the amounts in these common foods:

    Figs, 1 cup – 23 g
    Raisins, 1/4 cup – 12 g
    Apple, 1 medium – 10 g
    Banana, 1 medium – 7 g
    Date (medjool, 1 medium) – 8 g
    Blueberries, 1 cup – 7 g
    Blackberries, 1 cup – 3.5 g
    Cranberries, 1 cup – 0.7 g
    Grapefruit, medium – 8.6 g
    Maple syrup, 1 Tbsp. – 6 g
    Honey, 1 Tbsp. – 12 g
    It’s easy to see how using concentrated sources of sweetness – like dried fruits, maple syrup and honey – in “Paleo” dessert recipes can quickly drive fructose intake to unhealthy levels.

    A Low Sugar Diet = A Longer, Healthier Life

    When reaching for fructose-containing foods – weigh the benefits. For example, a cup of dark berries is a better choice than a cup of melon, as it is rich in powerful antioxidants and lower in fructose. Similarly, raw honey – in small amounts – provides antioxidant benefits.

    For natural sweetening power in your baking, consider creating a low sugar, low fructose blend of the following:

    Coconut Sugar – Produced from the nectar of coconut flower buds, coconut sugar is 70-80% sucrose, of which half is fructose. Per tablespoon, coconut sugar contains 12 grams of sugar and 6 grams of fructose. Use sparingly – 1 Tbsp. per 12 servings.
    Coconut Nectar – Also produced from coconut flower buds, coconut nectar gives a rich caramel flavor to desserts. Per tablespoon, coconut nectar contains 13 grams of sugar and 6.5 grams of fructose. Use sparingly – 1 Tbsp. per 12 servings.
    Organic Molasses – Rich in minerals, a small amount of molasses can add a rich flavor to baked goods. Per tablespoon, molasses contains 14 grams of sugar and 7 grams of fructose. Use sparingly – 1 Tbsp. per 12 servings.
    Non-GMO or Organic Erythritol – A zero calorie, zero glycemic sugar alcohol sweetener found in common foods like pears, watermelon and soy sauce. It has antioxidant properties and can be used in baking, cup for cup, just like sugar. Choose non-GMO and organic varieties.
    Stevia – A potent sweet herb that is best combined with erythritol to boost sweetness levels. Contains zero calories and zero sugar.
    Luo Han Guo – Derived from a super-sweet melon, this potent sweetener has no calories or sugar and is best used with erythritol.
    For optimum health, enjoy the native foods our ancestors did – filling your plate with nutrient-dense grass-fed beef, pastured poultry, wild fish and colorful vegetables – while keeping total daily sugars and fructose low (25 grams and 15 grams, respectively).

  96. I drink 1% milk. I’m going to do some more researching before changing to whole milk. I don’t have too much body fat, but want to lose a bit more so I’m hesitant.

  97. @anthony Eating fat does not make you fat. The sugars in milk are what make you fat.

    1. And I would add, the natural hormones that cows milk contains are meant for young calves to grow from 100 lbs to 500 lbs within a year (I don’t believe they are good for my prostate) – to say nothing of the possible added hormones or destruction of nutrients by pasteurization and homogenization. Milk does not a body good? I don’t think so!

      1. What a joke! If the 12 grams of sugar I get from drinking a glass or two of organic grass fed whole milk the cause of getting me fat and not correlated with my getting fat I would agree with you. As is I’m in great shape and love milk and won’t be getting up to 500 pounds in any foreseeable future. By the way, tell that to most of the dairy producing countries in Northern Europe who live about as long as the Japanese to stop all that milk consumption.

  98. I just finished the 21 day sugar detox and then Mark’s 21 day transformation. I feel ten years younger–so much energy. I love the fact that both of these programs cut all processed foods and sugars but allow/encourage raw, full fat dairy.

    We’re lucky to live in a place where we can get raw Jersey butter and milk from a local farmer. I use butter on my veggies and also make kefir from raw milk and have that once a day in a smoothie.

    Having the raw, full fat dairy is a huge ‘treat’ to me and part of why I feel like i’m eating like a king (along with the grass-fed meats and organic veggies) and don’t feel deprived at all. I’m also shedding weight like nobody’s business. The CLA and probiotics in the kefir have turned my appetite off and keep my gut and metabolism running better than they have in years. I’m a huge fan of raw dairy!

    In fact, I plan to try out this ‘raw milk fast’ once our CSA season has ended:

  99. Does anyone know where I can find information on approximately how much CLA is found in a serving of grass fed butter (like Kerrygold for instance)? I’ve been looking online for a while now and must not be searching in the right places..

  100. I have to disagree with those in favor of dairy.. It’s nothing but inflammatory causing and clogs up your immune system.. By the way this whole saturated fat trend everyone on this paleo diet is recommending better be careful.. I tried a high fat low carb diet for awhile and it left me with nothing my a whole lot of fat in my bloodstream..

  101. I don’t know a lot about nutrition. I just know that I’ve had severe debilitating hip pain for years. Suddenly it disappeared. I pondered what I was doing differently. The only thing I could think of was that I had started putting 3 cream in my decaf coffee (instead of skim milk). Three times a day. So I googled, “Can drinking full fat dairy decrease inflammation?” And here I am.

    Thanks for the information.

  102. I think the raw milk thing is over-blown. We cook our meat, and have been doing it since mankind discovered fire. So what could possibly be the harm in “cooking” milk for a few seconds? I am completely on board with the no grain-sugar-refined oil aspect of Paleo, but I side with Mark on Dairy. It’s a honest-to-goodness real animal food, with very little processing (according to old traditions in the case of cheese and yogurt making,) of course I am referring to whole, full fat dairy with no added sugar or scary additives, not “Go-gurt or Cheese-wiz.

    And on that note, Greek yogurt is nothing more than yogurt with the liquid strained off (like via cheesecloth). So if you simply pour off the liquid that accumulates in your yogurt quart, you’ll have about the same thing.

  103. Yes… but which buttermilk? The real stuff which is the left over liquid from making butter, or, modern cultured buttermilk which is lacto-fermented milk similar to yogurt but tastes more like whey.

  104. I have terrible reactions to nuts and seeds, and am allergic to eggs, but for some reason organic full fat greek yogurt works super well for me. I also do raw cheese without an apparent issue unless I eat tons of it. I went 9+ years with zero dairy, but my food intake was so limited that I tried some raw local dairy. Now I sometimes eat cultured dairy products that aren’t raw though…ie cultured grass fed cottage cheese, full fat greek yogurt….because it’s difficult to get good raw dairy where I live atm.
    I’m not sure it’s the best for me, but it does feel like a really nourishing and healing food. Full fat dairy feels like it helps calm my nervous system, makes my teeth feel stronger….and greek yogurt helps my stomach/digestion a lot. So for now, I’m implementing it. As soon as I have greater access to grass fed raw dairy, I’ll switch back to raw only though.
    Part of me wishes that I could tolerate nuts, seeds, and eggs as those are said to be healthier than dairy cream, but for my body that’s just apparently not true. Full fat cultured dairy digests well and doesn’t seem to break me out…

    Btw I wonder if we could all rally Fage to make an organic line of their full fat greek yogurt. I’d be so in