It is not uncommon for weight conscious people to avoid dairy products altogether due to their high fat content. However, research suggests that dairy products can actually help you lose weight, especially around your midriff. Some dairy products are essential as part of a healthy diet since they are rich in nutrients needed by the body. Besides being a great source of protein, some vitamins B and zinc, dairy products also play a key role in building strong and healthy bones thanks to the presence of calcium.
The fat content in dairy products can indeed significantly contribute to a high fat and calorie intake, but there are a number of low fat options available, like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and skimmed milk. Low fat dairy products are not low in calcium and nutrient content, and some of them in fact have slightly more calcium.
Better still, studies suggest that dairy products, especially cheese, can help you shed some weight, particularly around the waist. For the study, researchers compared fecal and urine samples of people whose diets were rich in either milk or cheese, or who avoided butter and consumed no other dairy product. The results showed that people who consumed high levels of cheese had more butyrate, a fatty acid produced by bacteria in the gut, in comparison to other groups. These high levels of butyrate were linked with less LDL (bad) cholesterol, indicating that cheese may be better for your heart.
Although it is not entirely clear how butyrate helps with weight loss, some animal studies prove that this fatty acid promotes insulin sensitivity, increases energy consumption (which primarily boosts metabolism), and minimizes inflammation, causing oxidative stress. Another study conducted in 2009 published in the Journal of Diabetes showed a link between butyrate and the reduced risk of obesity.
So, before you dash to grab a slice of cheese, it is important to note that not all types of cheese will have the same positive effect because they are not made equal. Aged cheese, like Parmesan, Gruyere and cheddar, are your best options. Butyrate can be produced by the gut bacteria or it can come from the cheese you consume. Matured cheese is known to have higher levels of butyrate as compared to fresh cheese.
Another benefit of consuming old cheese is it leads to a higher level of proteolysis, i.e. the breakdown of proteins into amino acids and peptides, which according to research can impact lipid and carbohydrate metabolism, resulting in reduced accumulation of fat in the body. Although the evidence is not significant, it is still worth paying attention to as it complements the 2011 research that showed how cheese reduces the level of LDL cholesterol in comparison with butter with the same quantity of fat.
So, the next time you prepare a salad, have cottage cheese instead hummus. Similarly, instead of butter, melt some parmesan shavings and use it as a spread for added taste along with enjoying its health benefits.