Here’s How Milk Helps in Weight Loss

Milk and all dairy products are good for you, writes nutritionist Ishi Khosla. Now drink up! 

Health News
4 min read
Milk, and all dairy is good for you. (Photo: iStockphoto)

Usually, dairy is sacrificed first when people start watching out for calories. The anti-dairy lobby has several arguments for abandoning dairy. But most dietary guidelines still include low fat dairy as an integral part of a healthy diet.

Nevertheless, the opinion on dairy is still divided.

Dairy, a Weight Watcher’s Friend?

Interestingly, besides its envious nutrition profile (calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, B vitamins and proteins) and well known benefits including bone building; dairy’s role in weight management is still not much talked about. Contrary to fears that it promotes obesity, dairy does just the opposite.

Packed With Calcium

Milk and cheese are rich in calcium (Photo: iStockphoto)
Milk and cheese are rich in calcium (Photo: iStockphoto)

Calcium, one of the most abundant nutrients in dairy is said to be useful in weight loss. A recent study reported that people who consumed low fat dairy had lower body fat percentage and body mass index (BMI) than those who didn’t.

Increasing calcium intake could reduce the risk of being overweight substantially, perhaps by as much as 70 percent. Studies state that each 300 mg increment in regular calcium intake is associated with approximately 1 kg less body fat in children and 2.5-3.0 kg lower body weight in adults.

Adequate calcium intake has also been shown to play a role in maintaining blood pressure, blood clotting, and nerve impulse transmission. It may also help in reducing pre-menstrual symptoms and risk of colon cancer.


What About the Lactose Intolerant?

Dairy intolerant individuals need not despair as similar benefits can be obtained by including calcium rich foods like soy, and soya products like tofu, soya milk, green leafy vegetables, sesame seeds, flax seeds, almonds and ragi in your diet.  However, dairy products seem to be more effective as their calcium is better absorbed than other sources with the exception of soy.

Loaded With Other Nutrients Too

Besides calcium, milk has whey proteins and other nutrients too. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Besides calcium, milk has whey proteins and other nutrients too. (Photo: iStockphoto)

The good news does not end with calcium. Researchers believe that there are certain other compounds within dairy products like whey proteins, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), and branched-chain amino acids.

Milk and yogurt contain whey protein, which is rich in amino acid leucine. Whey stimulates building of muscles (fat free tissue), which also helps in increasing metabolic rate. According to studies, it contains peptides (parts of proteins) that uniquely suppress fat synthesis.

Dairy Has Magical CLA

Conjugated Linoleic acid (CLA) is found in dairy products such as milk, butter, and in the meat of cattle and lamb. It is a trans fat, which is not as harmful as other trans fatty acids. Studies show that CLA increases metabolic rate, and brings a shift in the nocturnal fuel. CLA is a unique anti-carcinogen which inhibits the growth of a number of human cancer cell lines and suppresses chemically-induced tumor development .

Researchers have also discovered that CLA helps in lowering cholesterol and arterial plaque build up. It also appears to have antioxidant properties. Antioxidants may help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer by inhibiting free radicals. Additional potential benefits include an overall enhancement of the immune system.


Oh Dairy!

Dairy is good. Eat away. (Photo: iStockphoto)
Dairy is good. Eat away. (Photo: iStockphoto)

So, the next time you pick up your slice of cheese, don’t drown yourself in guilt – it may not be as bad as you think. Provided you stick to low fat dairy and control your total caloric intake. Aim for at least 2-3 servings of low fat dairy on a daily basis to achieve a calcium intake of 600-1000 mg/day.

Here’s a ready reckoner – 1% Fat Cottage Cheese (1 cup) has 70 mg Calcium content, non fat yogurt (1/2 cup) has 225 mg, Skimmed  Milk (1 cup) has 300 mg, cooked greens (1 cup) have 100 mg, while cooked soybeans (1 cup) have 450 mg.

Dairy Myths

Myth 1: The fat content of milk can be reduced by adding water.

Fact: Adding water to milk dilutes all the essential nutrients, thereby, reducing its nutrient density.

Myth 2: Milk increases risk of heart disease.

Fact: Milk, infact, has cardio-protective effects. A recent study reported that individuals who drank more than the median amount of milk had a reduced risk of an ischemic stroke, and possibly a reduced risk of an ischemic heart disease event.

Myth 3: Milk is a complete food!

Fact: Milk, although is high in nutrients, it is deficient in iron, vitamin C, D, E and K).

Myth 4: Cow’s milk is superior than formula milk for infants!

Fact: Formula milk is better for infants under 1 year of age because cow’s milk is a potential allergen and fat in cow’s milk is less digestible. Also, cow’s milk is a poor source of iron, vitamin C, zinc and essential fatty acids.

Myth 5: Milk is only needed in childhood and not in adulthood!

Fact: Everybody needs milk as it helps meet calcium requirements throughout life and reduce risk of age-related bone loss (osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures).

(The author is clinical nutritionist and Founder,, Whole Foods India, and Founder President, Celiac Society of India)

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