Milk used to do a body good. But now everyone from vegans and Paleo-lovers to everyday weight-loss warriors are hating on dairy, saying that it actually triggers weight gain and that ditching it can boost any woman’s slim-down efforts.
Most recently, KhloÃƒÂ© Kardashian praised a dairy-free lifestyle for helping her shed those last, seemingly stubborn pounds. “In a month and a half, I lost 11 pounds just from not eating dairy, without doing anything else different, and that totally blew my mind,” she says in the December issue of NewBeauty Magazine.
So should you give a dairy-free diet a try? Only if you’re allergic and definitely not if you want to lose weight, says nutrition and food scientist Danielle Starin, R.D., director of nutrition at Nutritionix nutrition database.
Apart from the fact that elimination diets are totally unsustainable and set you up for nutritional deficiencies, when it comes to weight loss, research shows time and time again that dairy is where it’s at. For instance, one International Journal of Obesity review of 14 randomized controlled clinical trials concluded that people who ate the most dairy while on a calorie-restricted diet lost 1.6 more pounds from fat compared to those who stuck with low-dairy diets.
“Dairy is a nutrient powerhouse full of protein, healthy fat, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, and B6 and B12 vitamins,” says Starin. And each of those nutrients is critical for weight loss. They promote healthy metabolisms, energy levels, and, as you’ll notice after just one glass of milk, help kick cravings. By taking longer to digest than carbs and triggering your gut’s release of powerful satiety hormones, both protein and fat help to keep you feeling fuller after every meal.
“Staying full longer might mean you can skip that extra snack or not overeat at your next meal,” says Starin. In fact, in one British Journal of Nutrition study, consuming a high-protein, moderate-fat cheese snack one hour before lunch resulted in people eating less at their next meal and during the rest of the day. And, while it’s not an excuse to binge on pints of sugar-packed ice cream, research in the European Journal of Nutrition links dairy fat to weight loss, not weight gain. Yaaaaas.
Meanwhile, apart from helping to keep cravings and overeating at bay, dairy’s protein is critical to building muscles and increasing your metabolic rate. Did we mention that the International Journal of Obesity study also found that dieters who ate the most dairy also gained 1.3 more pounds of lean muscle compared to those who kept the dairy at a minimum? Skimp on dairy and you could end up missing a lot of protein from your diet. Just 1 cup of cottage cheese contains 50 percent of your recommended daily allowance of muscle-building protein.
The true unsung hero of weight loss: calcium. According to research from the University of Tennessee, calcium found in milk triggers fat loss by decreasing your body’s levels of 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, a vitamin that promotes the growth of fat cells. And, before you ask about supplements, research suggests that dairy sources of calcium are better at slimming fat cells than are non-dairy ones.
So, if dairy is so good for weight loss, how did KhloÃƒÂ© lose the weight by cutting it out? It’s possible that before going D-free, she was getting most of hers from fried mozzarella cheese sticks and boxed macaroni and cheese. However, it’s more likely that when she gave up dairy, she simply didn’t replace the calories she was previously consuming, says Starin. Eat fewer calories than you’re burning, and you’ll lose weight—period. Meanwhile, if you’re lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy (either knowingly or unknowingly), nixing the food group could definitely reduce bloat. But remember, any weight lost there would be from water, not fat, she says.
Whatever the reason’s for KhloÃƒÂ©’s dairy-free weight-loss success, we’re excited for her and hope she’s still making sure to get all of dairy’s awesome nutrients. But, as for us? We’ll stick with our Greek yogurt breakfasts, post-workout glasses of chocolate milk, and yummy pre-dinner cheese plates.