For quite some time now, I have been seeing a lot about increased consumption of dairy products and calcium supplements to help people lose weight. The National Dairy Council heavily promotes its three servings a day for weight loss, but that has to be based on something. Studies go back as early as the 1980’s to see if eating more dairy products can help lose weight.
In his earlier studies, Dr. Michael Zemel, a professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee found that people who did not eat a calcium rich diet to begin with added two to three servings of low fat dairy products to their low calorie diets in place of other less healthy foods they were able to lose more weight than people who ate low calorie diets without the addition of dairy. The results were that people who did not eat have enough calcium in their diets before starting the study lost more weight than those who did get enough calcium in their diet.
Skeptics to the dairy for weight loss claims, which include many health care professionals, say that it is not the addition of dairy to the diet that is causing the weight loss, but rather overall healthy improvements being made, replacing more healthy foods like more produce, whole grains, and low fat dairy in place of processed grains and junk food. Someone who drinks a glass of milk in place of a soft drink with the same amount of calories will feel more from the milk because of the protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, that soft drink is just empty calories. The skeptics also point out that if these dairy products are added to an already healthy diet, or replace healthy foods lower in calories, the increase of the number of calories consumed will rise and cause weight gain, the opposite effect.
Does eating dairy foods really aid in weight loss? More studies need to be done to know for sure. In the meantime, what has been found so far is that eating dairy products is more effective than taking calcium supplements alone as means to aid in weight loss when eating a healthy, low calorie diet. Researchers believe this is because of how all of the components of dairy products work together, the calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, as opposed to just a calcium supplement.
What this does not mean is give license to eat high fat and full fat dairy products with reckless abandon. What this does mean is that incorporating two to three servings of low fat dairy into a low calorie healthy diet, not in addition to everything you already eat. Low fat dairy products are milk, kefir, yogurt, cottage cheese, low fat – part skim cheeses like mozzarella and 2% American cheese, etc. You can eat full fat dairy products, hard cheeses like Parmesan, Cheddar, and other flavorful cheeses, just don’t go overboard. Limit yourself to one serving, and use them as condiments, a sprinkle on some salad, a thin slice on a sandwich, things like.
What’s the Deal with Calcium?
Calcium is important in younger years for building strong, healthy bones and teeth, and later in life for maintaining those same strong, healthy bones and teeth. Calcium is also necessary to make muscles contract. Not consuming enough calcium over the long term, through food or supplements, can cause rickets (which is also caused by not enough Vitamin D, and one of the factors in osteoporosis. Calcium is found is found in dairy products, nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli, dandelion leaves, and okra, beans, figs, and fortified foods like orange juice. The most common forms of supplemental calcium are calcium citrate and calcium carbonate. Calcium citrate can be taken on an empty stomach, calcium carbonate is best taken with meals. Supplemental calcium works best when taken together with magnesium and Vitamin D.
What’s the Deal with Flax Seeds?
Flax seeds are one of the greatest sources for omega 3 essential fatty acids and can help lower cholesterol. They are also rich in protein, fiber, B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, and other minerals. Because flax seeds are high in fiber, they can have a laxative effect. Flax seeds release a gel like substance that works wonder for a sore throat, and it also has anti-inflammatory properties. Let one teaspoon sit in a cup of hot water for fifteen minutes, stir, and drink. Enjoy flax seeds ground and sprinkled in yogurt, salad, and baked goods. Because of its high fat content ground flax seeds will spoil quickly, so keep them refrigerated.