Home Ask Elesha Say Cheese!

Say Cheese!


Look your best and burn fat by consuming calcium-rich dairy foods

Fresh eggs and dairy productsDairy products are typically perceived as high-calorie enemies when it comes to weight-loss efforts. While it’s wise to avoid high-saturated-fat dairy foods such as whole milk, ice cream, butter, sour cream and cream cheese, you can indulge—guilt-free—in low-fat dairy choices without foiling good intentions.

Calcium in dairy products has always been touted to promote healthy bones and teeth, making it a vital nutrient to include in a healthy diet. Now studies have shown that high-calcium dairy foods may also have a positive correlation with weight loss. A study conducted in 2004 concluded that dairy products have an effect on weight loss and fat reduction mainly in the abdominal area. Furthermore, consuming dairy foods was most effective with weight loss rather than calcium supplementation alone. While calcium content is the key ingredient, the theory is that high-calcium dairy foods contain other nutrients, such as phosphorus and magnesium, which further enhance the weight-loss process. Simply stated, a higher calcium diet through dairy sources favors fat burning rather than fat storing. Additional evidence suggests that calcium may also bind fat in the intestinal tract, which may block the absorption of fat.

Another key nutrient in dairy foods that may facilitate weight loss is protein. The digestion of protein burns more calories than the digestion of carbohydrates. Protein also helps keep you fuller for longer periods of time, which helps stabilize blood-sugar levels. This may prevent overeating during the day while also maintaining energy levels. Protein also helps build muscle mass, which revs the metabolism, which is essential for long-term weight management.

There are other health benefits from dairy foods besides boosting weight loss and providing calcium. Certain dairy products contain probiotics, particularly yogurt, kefirs and fortified milk. Probiotics provide the “good bacteria” that are necessary for keeping a healthy intestinal tract and immune system and for helping to ward off infection.

The recommended amount of calcium for enhanced weight loss is 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams per day. This equates to three to four servings of dairy foods daily. Some examples include eight ounces of low-fat or skim milk or yogurt, one and a half ounces of reduced-fat cheese, two ounces of processed cheese. Try Greek yogurt (which provides the added bonus of extra protein), mozzarella string cheese made with skim milk, 2 percent reduced-fat cheese slices, low-fat cottage cheese. Combine one of these choices with high-fiber crackers or fruit to make a healthful and sustaining snack. After a rigorous workout, enjoy low-fat chocolate milk for muscle recovery. This yummy treat provides the ideal ratio of carbohydrates and protein for refueling those glycogen stores and rebuilding muscles.

Lactose intolerant? Never fear. There are several nondairy foods that contain calcium. While not quite as effective as dairy foods on weight loss, higher calcium foods will have some benefit. Try fortified juices, dark green leafy vegetables and soy products.

It is important to note that if you are solely seeking the benefit of calcium, it is best absorbed through dairy products.

Bottom line: It is critical to remember that no food is a magic bullet when it comes to a successful weight-loss program. You simply must burn more calories than you take in. If you are ready to incorporate more dairy into your diet and weight loss is your goal, you must also follow a calorie-restricted, balanced diet and exercise.