Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Food blog fourteen - Dairy, dairy, quite contrary

Cheese is, of course, a dairy product and it contains fat. Some nutritionists say it’s best to choose the low-fat versions to reduce our calorie intake. Others believe it is better to ingest full-fat cheese (or yogurt or milk) as it’s more filling. Plus we are less likely to gorge on the empty calories provided by a sugar-loaded snack bar, a biscuit or a packet of crisps if we’ve eaten full-fat dairy beforehand. 

Of course low-fat cottage cheese is the knight in shining armour here. It has 0 grams of fat per ounce. It’s easy to see that other cheeses have more:

Cheddar, low-fat (5 grams of fat per ounce)
Cheddar, regular (10)
Cottage cheese, low-fat (0)
Cottage cheese, regular (3)
Feta (5)
Mozzarella (5)
Parmesan (3)
Ricotta (5)
Halloumi (7.5)

( taken from Low Carb Dieting for Dummies)

But, on the plus side, whether you opt for low-fat or not, cheeses, especially, are full of protein and excellent for building muscle mass. And cheese has a low GI. 

Dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese contain carbohydrate in the form of a low GI milk sugar called lactose. There is every reason to enjoy dairy products (unless you are lactose-intolerant) and we all need calcium for healthy bones and the avoidance of osteoporosis. But do we need vitamin D? That’s the subject of ongoing research which I discuss briefly at the end of this post. 

However a calcium-containing diet is the way to go. A friend’s elderly mother, now in her nineties, rarely has milk in tea or coffee, or with cereals for breakfast, preferring toast. She dislikes yogurts and I know her calcium consumption is low. As the old lady suffers from osteoporosis walking has become a battle for her. Message: drink up your milk!

For those of us who are lactose-intolerant help is at hand: Eating dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale and turnip tops is an alternative source of calcium. Kale is something I don’t let hang around in the fridge for long. It can, like spinach, taste bitter. But good when cooked.

The European Journal of Nutrition found that people who eat full-fat dairy tend to be leaner than those who opt for low-fat versions. And in a 2016-released long-term study of 18,438 middle-aged women, consumption of high-fat dairy, but not low-fat dairy, was associated with reduced likelihood of becoming overweight through the years.
Fat fills you up and slows down the release of sugars into your bloodstream and helps to prevent overeating. As a result, blood sugar rises more slowly over a longer period of time. Insulin levels, therefore, remain more stable. Less circulating insulin means less risk of insulin resistance and pre-diabetes blood sugar levels.

Nutritionists who feel high-fat yogurt will fill us up and stop us diving for the biscuit tin really rate Fage 5% Greek yogurt and I’ve seen this product advertised on TV recently; it’s getting a name for itself. In the news recently low-fat yogurts were once again declared to be overfull of sugar. They aren’t what they seem!

My chosen uses for Fage 5% yogurt include

Yogurt and blueberry snack:

  1. Take a mug or individual trifle dish and layer 1 tablespoon of Fage 5% on the bottom. Sprinkle with 5-6 blueberries and/or raspberries/strawberries.

  1. Layer a second tablespoon of yogurt over the berries. Repeat with a top layer of berries or nuts. 

Breakfast Trifle

  1. Put a layer of Fage 5% in a trifle dish or mug as before. Mix 2 tablespoons of organic porridge oats with hot water until it has been absorbed. Drain off the excess liquid and allow it to cool.

  1. Layer berries of your choice over the yogurt then add half the cooled, softened porridge as a third layer. Repeat the layers and sprinkle with fruits of your choice on the top.

Yogurt and kefir or jam 

  1. As above: layer 1 tablespoon of Fage 5% on the bottom of a mug or trifle dish. Add a layer of kefir with morello cherry or diabetic (no added sugar) raspberry jam.

  1. Repeat the layers and sprinkle ground almonds, cocoa or similar on top.

I don’t resort to using jam much at all. But the diabetic variety is extra jam and only has 2g sugar per 100g of jam. I prefer to get my sweetness from fruits or the 2 squares of Velvet Edition chocolate I mentioned in an earlier post. But, just occasionally, a virtually sugar-free jam adds colour and taste if kefir added to yogurt seems a bit OTT on the dairy front. And anyway I never said I was an angel. Just keen to keep my blood sugar down. Both my nana and mother developed diabetes late in life and that poses a risk factor for me.

Fage 5% yogurt is creamy and doesn’t have a crust like traditional Greek yogurt but it’s almost as good as eating cream. It’s a quick treat and healthier than most commercial ice creams. 

Another advantage dairy products have is as well as being low GI and helping reduce the risk of osteoporosis, dairy helps fight off hypertension (high blood pressure), kidney stones and colon cancer. Some nutritionists in the early noughties said that fat in dairy products is mostly saturated fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease. But they believed that very-low-fat dairy foods and non-fat dairy foods allow you to have all the benefits of cheese and yogurt without the fat. (But do check these low-fat versions, ie yogurts, haven’t added sugar.)I stick to full-fat versions in the main. I have had a recent cardiac function and cholesterol test. The greater risk for me is a rise in blood sugar. But your own GP practice can advise.

One excellent piece of news is that calcium provided by dairy foods such as cheese may help you lose weight. 

This is the theory: As we up our intake of calcium, counterintuitively levels of calcium within fat cells decrease. Lower calcium levels within cells impact the metabolism of fat, which encourages weight loss. Getting enough calcium from dairy foods gets the body to burn more fat and make it harder for new fat cells to form. So that’s ok. And 1000 - 1500* mg of calcium per day from dairy foods is the recommended daily allowance.

Finally dairy products are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals: calcium, phosphorous, riboflavin, protein, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B 6 and vitamin B 12 . This is why such  nutrients are vital for maximum good health: 

Phosphorus - a mineral in bones and teeth and in cells throughout the body.
Riboflavin - a vitamin which supports normal vision and healthy skin. 
Protein - builds and repairs body tissues. 
Magnesium - another mineral important for bones and teeth and in muscle contractions and nerve impulses. 
Vitamin A - for maintaining healthy eyes and skin. 
Vitamin B 6 - helps make red blood cells and build proteins in your body. 
Vitamin B 12 - prevents anaemia and helps maintain healthy nerve cells. 

Vitamin D - Now here’s a conundrum. In last week’s news a Professor of Important Vitamins was starting out on a three-year research project. He believes vitamin D isn’t the cherub of the osteoporosis world we’ve all been led to believe. Traditionally vitamin D was thought to help maintain calcium and phosphorus for healthy bones and teeth. But now the jury’s out. He feels vitamin D has no role to play - especially when it comes to the big ‘O’.

However it seems calcium is still king: it plays important roles in nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and blood clotting as well as being critical for bone health. 

If your calcium levels are low and your blood borrows too much calcium from your bones to compensate for this, you’re at risk of osteoporosis. It’s important to drink milk, have a yogurt and a slice of cheese up to 1500* mg daily, especially for post-menopausal women.

Just be aware of the calories with dairy products!

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