Low fat or full fat dairy - does it really matter?!

October 26, 2021

Dairy is one of the 5 core food groups and includes foods like milk, yoghurt, cheese and butter.

These foods provide essential nutrition including protein, calcium and other key vitamins and minerals.

What's the deal with saturated fat and dairy?

Dairy naturally contains saturated fat, and a high intake of this has been associated with increased cholesterol and heart disease.

Different dairy products vary in the saturated fat content and this is important to consider. For example butter is high in saturated fats and therefore should be limited for heart health. However studies show that milk, yoghurt and cheese consumption have a neutral impact on heart health.

Other, more processed, dairy products such as ice cream and cream are typically high in fat, sugar and calories, and lack any essential nutrients compared to less processed dairy products (milk, yoghurt, cheese). As these foods should only be included in small amounts in the diet, then low vs. full fat won’t make much of a difference when we zoom out and look at the big picture.

The Heart Foundation of Australia recommends opting for reduced fat milk, yoghurt and cheese if you already have heart disease or high cholesterol. However, if you do not have these pre-existing conditions then reduced fat is not a recommendation for prevention and therefore can be included in a heart healthy diet.

How much dairy should I have each day?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend including 2-4 serves of dairy a day to meet nutritional needs.

1 serve of dairy is equal to:

- 1 cup of milk

- 2 slices (40g) of cheese

- ¾ cup (200g) of yoghurt

- ½ cup ricotta or cottage cheese

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