- Cheese won’t necessarily clog your arteries.
- Studies of more than 660,000 people suggest that not all dairy is created equal when it comes to effects on our health.
- People who eat cheese tend to live longer, but drinking a lot of milk can lead to slightly higher rates of coronary heart disease and death.
- Other new studies suggest there might be something about the way fat and protein is arranged in products like cheese and yogurt that makes them better for our hearts than milk or butter.
Eating cheese and yogurt may be linked to a longer life, researchers at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2018 reported on Tuesday.
The team, led by cholesterol expert Maciej Banach of the Medical University of Lodz in Poland, compiled data from studies of 636,726 people on a long-term scale of 15 years. Their results suggested that not all dairy is created equal when it comes to your heart.
Drinking milk appears to up risk of coronary heart disease by 4%, according to the study, but consuming yogurt and cheese does not seem linked with negative health outcomes.
The finding aligns with what other researchers around the world are discovering about dairy: Some types may not be bad for us after all. In fact, we’ve known for a while that people who eat more fermented dairy products like cheese and yogurt are at a lower risk for developing heart disease and Type-2 diabetes.
“Public health officials should revise the guidelines on dairy consumption,” Banach said in a release.
Changing the rules about dairy
- Getty Images/David Silverman
Many heart and health experts are increasingly suggesting that overall, the fat in dairy may not be as bad for us as once thought, even though much of it is saturated fat, which is considered one of the heart-clogging kinds.
A roundup of 29 different studies published last year showed no connection between dairy intake and heart disease or death of any kind. Another study published in July followed more than 2,900 American adults for more than two decades and found that people who consumed full-fat dairy had no greater risk of dying from any cause than anyone else.
Banach and his colleagues have now gone even further, and found that dairy isn’t just harmless, it might even be helpful. When the researchers dove into six years of data on 24,474 middle-aged Americans, they determined that eating dairy was associated with a 2% reduced risk of death overall. Consumption of cheese was associated with the best outcome: an 8% lower total mortality risk.
Why milk may be dangerous
But a big implication of the new finding is that it may not be ideal to lump all types of dairy into one dietary category, since milk seems to have a different impact on our hearts than yogurt or cheese.
Milk “appears to increase the risk of coronary heart disease,” the researchers said in their release, while cheese (and yogurt, to a lesser extent) does the opposite.
The difference between dairy products that are more and less healthy may have to do with the way protein and fat molecules are arranged in cheeses and unprocessed cream. The protective shield for fat molecules – the milk-fat globule membrane – is better preserved in foods like cheese and buttermilk. The same can’t be said of butter, which drains off that membrane. And in the homogenized milk we buy in the grocery store, the globules have been shrunk.
Still, a word of caution is in order: Banach said it’s hard to tease out exactly which kind of dairy is the best for our bodies based on the observational studies he looked at.
“It is indeed very difficult to confirm the causality, because it is almost impossible that some participants might intake only the given dairy product without the other ones,” he told Business Insider in an email. He added that a “well-designed, randomized, controlled study” is needed.
Other researchers are already taking up that charge. One such study conducted recently in Ireland found that overweight adults who ate full-fat cheddar cheese reduced their cholesterol more than peers eating reduced-fat cheese or butter.
So while cheese and yogurt can be a beneficial part of your diet, it may be best to keep milk and butter intake in check, at least until we know more.
- Shutterstock/Christopher Boswell
- Expiration dates are based on rough estimates.
- Americans waste 40% of the food they purchase annually, the equivalent of $218 billion.
- Instead of relying on imprecise sell-by dates, here’s the best way to tell if foods like eggs, cheese, fish, or veggies have gone bad, according to science.
The best way to tell if a food is still good to eat isn’t necessarily looking at the sell-by date printed on the package.
Expiration dates are based on rough estimates. They can tell you when a carton of eggs or a raw steak will likely reach the limit for their best quality, but that’s about it, according to research compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a nonprofit environmental organization.
“Millions of Americans are tossing perfectly good food in the trash because they think it’s not safe to eat after the date on the package,” Dana Gunters, a senior scientist with the National Resources Defense Council, said in a statement last year.
Americans throw away up to 40% of purchased food every year, the equivalent of $218 billion. In addition to the wasted money – about $1,500 per year for a family of four, according to the NRDC – food waste also means that all of the resources that were used to grow, store, and transport food get wasted, too.
Here’s how to tell if everything in your refrigerator – including milk, cheese, hummus, and fish – has gone bad.
A bad egg floats.
- Narong Jongsirikul/Shutterstock
Egg shells are slightly porous, and as they age, small sacs of air begin to form between the shell wall and the egg.
If there’s enough of an air bubble inside an egg to cause it to float in a bowl of water, chances are it’s gone bad, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
Expired yogurt begins to puddle more than usual.
- Gene Kim
When kept in a sealed container, yogurt can last between one and three weeks. That’s thanks to its live bacterial cultures, which act as a natural preservative.
But when those cultures start to die off, things go awry. More liquid than usual will pool on the surface, and sometimes mold will form.
Other signs of expiration include curdling near the bottom, according to StillTasty.
Uncooked beef gets slimy when it’s gone bad.
Uncooked beef with a foul odor, slimy texture, or sticky or tacky feel is best thrown out, according to the USDA.
Changes in color, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily an indication that raw meat has expired, the agency says.
Expired hummus develops a sour taste.
If your store-bought hummus starts to develop a sour taste, it’s probably a sign that it’s gone bad, according to EatByDate.
Olive oil stops smelling like olives when it’s gone bad.
Bad fish starts to give off an abnormally fishy odor.
- Flickr / Ernesto Andrade
Fresh fish should be eaten within 36 hours of purchase, according to Whole Foods, EatByDate, and The Kitchn.
Fish that’s spoiled will typically have a slimy flesh with a thick, slippery coating. It may also develop a fishier-than-normal smell.
Fresh vegetables turn yellow when they’re going bad.
Green vegetables turn yellow when they expire.
That said, some vegetables can still be salvageable, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository. They suggest trimming the discolored portion of veggies like celery and soaking it for 10-15 minutes in ice water to refresh.
Sour milk gets lumpy.
The biggest red flag for spoiled milk: changes in texture, smell, or consistency.
When the lactic acid in dairy starts producing bacteria, it gives off a sour odor. Lumps or chunks can also develop as a result.
Fresh fruit changes texture when it’s expiring.
If fruit gets mushy or grainy, it’s probably a sign that you shouldn’t eat it, according to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Other warning signs that a fruit has gone bad include extreme discoloring, foul odors, or wrinkly skin that’s peeling away.
Bad bread grows mold.
If you spot mold on one slice of bread, it’s not safe to eat another slice – even if there’s no visible mold on the rest of the loaf.
That’s because bread is porous, meaning that mold spreads easily throughout the loaf.
Bead that gets stale, hard, or dry, on the other hand, isn’t necessarily expired. Mold requires moisture to grow, so dry bread may still be perfectly fine to eat .It can typically be safely used to make bread crumbs or croutons.
Expired deli meat gives off an odd smell or changes texture.
- Hollis Johnson
Smelly deli meat may be plagued by bacteria.
Turkey, ham, or salami that has become hard or slimy has also likely expired.
Deli meats purchased directly from the deli counter should be eaten within three days, according to EatByDate.
Spoiled cheese starts to smell like sour milk.
When it comes to cheese, perishability is all about moisture.
The softer and more moist a cheese, the faster it spoils. Bad cheeses will typically give off a sour milk smell, according to chef Nora Singley.
If mold grows on soft cheeses like cottage or cream cheese, they should be discarded, according to the Mayo clinic. That’s also true for shredded or sliced cheese.
Harder cheeses, however, take longer to spoil because of their density. In many cases, it’s possible to cut off a moldy outer layer and find the interior to be fine, since mold doesn’t penetrate far into harder cheeses like cheddar or parmesan.
- Dairy can cause bloating, migraines, and fatigue for some people.
- Kanyapak Butwiset/Shutterstock
- Dairy is a staple in many people’s lives, and it contains nutrients like vitamin D and calcium that are good for our health.
- However, for some people, a dairy-heavy diet may contribute to bloating, migraines, and fatigue.
- I decided to give up dairy for six weeks, and found that my rosacea improved and I had more energy.
Earlier this year, I was eating dairy for every meal, as well as in between meals.
Since I’mliving abroad, it’s an affordableand filling food group,no matter where I am in the world. For example, I’d drink yogurt for breakfast, have fresh bread with butter and cheese for lunch, eat some version of homemade macaroni and cheese or pizza for dinner, and end with ice cream or gelato for dessert. Oh, and let’s not forget about the mug of warm milk to help me sleep at night.
Though this dairy-rich diet was delicious, I started to feel sluggish. Plus, myrosacea– a skin condition that causes facial pinkness or redness and visible blood vessels – seemed to be getting worse. According to The National Rosacea Society, some dairy productsmay triggerflare-ups of the condition, so I decided to give it up for at least six weeks.
“Giving up dairyis OK and can be a healthy choice,”Maya Feller, registered dietitian nutritionist, told me via email. “Dairy is a good source of vitamin D (when fortified), protein, and nutrients, including calciumand potassium. However, all of these macro and micro nutrients can be obtained from a well-planned, healthy, and balanceddairy-free diet.”
Giving up dairy was not easy. Aside from eliminating my favorite go-to foods, I discovered that traces of dairy can be found in many food products, from cookies to soup.
I definitely noticed changes after eliminating dairy from my diet. Of course, there may have been a placebo effect at play, but after being off dairy for six weeks, I saw differences in my complexion, my energy levels, and the way I felt.
Here are five things that happened when I gave up dairy.
My complexion improved
- Dairy can make acne and rosacea worse for some people, though experts are divided on the issue.
The main result I experienced from giving up dairy was an improvement in my complexion. It didn’t happen overnight, but my rosacea seemed to get better – my face became less flushed and I had fewer acne-like flare-ups. By the time I hit the six-week mark, they’d disappeared almost completely.
“It seems that improvement starts to be noticeable after 12 weeks with regard to skin, but that’s not hard and fast, as additional research is needed,” Feller said.
Experts are divided about whether dairy can worsen acne and rosacea.”There is some evidence, not very strong, that drinking milk of any fat variety is associated with increased acne,” Dr. Amy Taub, a dermatologist and the founder of a dermatology practice calledAdvanced Dermatology in Illinois, told me. “There is also no evidence to link dairy consumption to rosacea.”
However, some rosacea forumsI read and friends I spoke to described symptoms getting better when dairy is eliminated. This seemed to be the case for me.
I ate healthier meals and tried new foods.
- Vegan food is tastier than many think.
- Marco Verch/Attribution License/Flickr
Only when I stopped eating dairy did I realize how much of it I’d been consuming. Without dairy in my diet, I started to buy foods that I’d been avoiding because they required a bit more work to prepare, such as sweet potatoes.
Not only aresweet potatoes rich in antioxidants, but they also contain a lot of fiber. Plus, the sweetness showed me that healthy foods can be tasty, too.
I started to go to vegan restaurants as well, which my carnivore self had previously shunned. It turns out that beetroot spring rolls filled with carrots and dipped in agave peanut butter sauce are delicious.
As for my glass of milk before bed, I tried manydairy-free substitutes: almond, soy, oat, coconut, and coconut chocolate. Coconut chocolate was my favorite, though the more sweet vegetables and fruits I consumed, the less I wanted the drink at all. My nightly “milk”tasted too sweet, so I stopped drinking it altogether.
I felt less bloated.
- Dairy can make some people feel bloated and have stomach aches.
In giving up dairy, I felt less bloated almost immediately and hadfewer stomach aches, which may be a sign that I’m actually lactose intolerant.
“Some people are lactose intolerant, which means they can’t digest foods with lactose, the sugar found in milk and other dairy products,”Jennifer Caudle, a family physician and associate professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine, told me. “Symptoms of lactose intolerance can include bloating, gas, stomach cramps, and diarrhea.”
Caudle said that some of her patients have reported feeling less bloated when they stop eating dairy. “However, it is something that should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis,” she said.
I had fewer migraines.
- Cheese and other types of dairy can make migraines worse.
- GP Studio/Shutterstock
I used to get migraines frequently. When a friend told me that cutting out dairy, especially certain types of cheeses, helped her migraines go away, I thought it sounded ridiculous. But it worked for me, too.
According to the National Headache Foundation, some cheeses – such as aged ones – can beheadache or migraine triggers.
I had more energy.
- I felt less lethargic when I gave up dairy.
- Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
I attributed my newfound energy to a more diversified diet. As long as I remembered to get my fill of calcium and nutrients, I no longer felt lethargic like I did before the experiment.
However, there may have been other factors beyond the change in my dairy intake. Prior to this experiment, my diet had also been high in carbs and sugary foods. Sweets and refined carbohydrates like white pastas and breads fall high on the Glycemic Index (GI) scale, meaning that they significantly raise the amount of glucose in your blood after you eat them. High-GI foods can lead your energy levels to spike and then crash.
When I gave up dairy, the effort led me to eat a more diversified diet, which included more low-GI foods. Such foods don’t cause the same spikes in blood sugar, so result in more sustained energy levels.
In the days since my six weeks of going dairy-free, I’ve continued trying to limit my dairy consumption as much as possible.
- If you decide to cut out dairy, make sure you’re still getting the nutrients you need.
- Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock
But I no longer eliminate 100% of dairy products.
Caudle said it’s most important to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet to get enough nutrients.
“Dairy contains lots of calcium, protein, and vitamin D, among other nutrients,” she said. “If dairy is eliminated from the diet, it is important for these nutrients to be obtained through other sources. Calcium and vitamin D are important for the health of bones and teeth, and protein is an important building block in the body.”
She suggested eating foods such as cereals fortified with calcium, kale and other dark leafy greens like bok choy or collard greens, sardines, fatty fish like salmon, legumes, whole grains, soy products, and nuts, which are all good sources of calcium and vitamin D.
Of course, if you’re curious about embarking on a non-dairy diet of your own, speak to your doctor. I never thought I’d be able to do it, but now I barely crave dairy anymore, since the benefits outweigh the temptation.
- Hollis Johnson/Business Insider
- Cheese lovers, rejoice.
- There’s new evidence that the saturated fat found in cheese, milk, and other kinds of dairy is not tied to an increased risk of heart problems or death from any cause.
- The study falls in line with increasing evidence that the fat in our diets is not the villain when it comes to negative health outcomes and weight gain.
Cheese lovers, rejoice. There’s new evidence that the saturated fat found in cheese, milk, and other kinds of dairy is not tied to an increased risk of heart problems or death from any cause.
The study, published this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that people who regularly indulged in cheese, whole milk, and other full-fat dairy products did not face a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, or death from any cause compared to people who avoided the products.
The paper is the latest in a series of recent studies that together suggest fat is not the health villain that it’s long been portrayed to be. Instead, sugar and simple carbs may be a much bigger issue. Such findings runs contrary to the dominant belief that eating rich foods like butter and cheese is a bad habit that should be broken.
For the study, the researchers looked at nearly 3,000 adults over 22 years and measured the levels of dairy fats in their blood to estimate their intake of cheese and other high-fat products.
“Our findings not only support, but also significantly strengthen, the growing body of evidence which suggests that dairy fat, contrary to popular belief, does not increase risk of heart disease or overall mortality in older adults,” Marcia Otto, the study’s lead author and an assistant professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health, said in a statement.
Dietary guidelines still tell people to avoid fat
More and more research is pointing out an unfortunate truth about the world of nutrition: many common beliefs are based on shoddy or non-existent science.
Plenty of people continue to believe that eating eggs gives you high cholesterol, that orange juice is part of a complete breakfast, or that fatty foods make you fat – despite evidence that has disproven these myths.
I was no exception – I grew up with two health-conscious parents and believed all high-fat foods were bad for you. Our fridge was stocked with margarine; low-fat or fat-free milk were the only kinds I drank; and the cereal bars I ate as a kid gleamed with “low-fat” labels.
Yet an increasing body of evidence indicates that when eaten in isolation, fat doesn’t contribute to weight gain. Many official dietary guidelines, however, have been slow to adapt to these findings.
In its Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the US Department of Agriculture still advises people against consuming many full-fat products, while encouraging people to eat items like cereals, bread, and other refined grains. And when it comes to dairy, the guidelines are explicit about the kind you should eat: fat-free or low-fat.
The American Heart Association also still recommends limiting saturated fats and specifically calls out cheese other animal-based foods for their potential to raise levels of “bad” cholesterol and contribute to heart problems.
The real culprits may be sugar and refined carbs
Recent research has suggested that unlike fats, refined carbohydrates and sugars do appear to be tied to packing on the pounds.
- Crown Finish Caves
Take, for example, a large recent review of studies published in the journal The Lancet. For the study, scientists compared more than 135,000 people in 18 countries on either low-fat or low-carb diets. People on the low-fat diets were more likely to die from any cause; they were also at a greater risk of death from heart attacks and heart disease. By contrast, people on the low-carb plans had significantly lower risk of both of these outcomes.
In light of their findings, the authors of the paper concluded, “global dietary guidelines should be reconsidered.”
Such results have fueled the popularity of the ketogenic diet, which emphasizes foods like meat, butter, and bacon and cuts nearly all carbs, including those from many fruits.
This newest study adds to the growing body of evidence undermining the old wisdom about fats. Maybe nutritionists should never have told people to stop eating fat in the first place.