You may have heard the news that whole dairy products are actually good for your heart.
The findings suggested that two or more servings of full-fat dairy was associated with a 22 percent lower risk of heart disease, 34 percent lower risk of stroke and 23 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease among 136,000 study subjects in 21 countries followed for nine years.
But don’t jump on the full-fat bandwagon just yet. Low-fat still rules when it comes to a heart-healthy diet.
“We’re still on the low-fat dairy train,” says Mary Gardner, RD, LDN, an outpatient dietitian at Edward Hospital.
And she’s not alone.
The American Heart Association recommends a low-fat diet for heart health. Adults should have two to three servings of low-fat dairy products per day, children should have two servings, teenagers and older adults can have four servings per day. A serving consists of an 8-ounce cup of milk, 1-1/2 to 2 ounces of low fat cheese or 6 ounces of low-fat yogurt.
“You still need portion control … even if it is low-fat,” says Gardner.
The American Heart Association recognizes the conflicting reports suggesting whole dairy can be good for your heart, but points to years of research indicating that saturated fats (found in larger amounts in whole dairy products such as butter, cheese and milk) can be bad for your heart.
While Gardner works with patients to lower their fat intake, she doesn’t eliminate it. Whole milk, for example, can be replaced with one percent or skim milk. Instead of whole-fat cheese products, opt for lower-fat (not necessarily no-fat) cheese. “We try to meet them in the middle,” she says.
But it’s not just about dairy, Gardner notes.
An active lifestyle helps keep the heart healthy as do other smart eating choices, such as including whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats in your meals.
“You can’t just have low-fat dairy and have high-fat meats,” she says. “It’s not going to help your heart. You have to have a combination of everything from all the different food groups.”
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