Here’s a fun fact — It turns out that aside from being the month that kicks off summer, June is National Dairy Month. That’s right. Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream (ok, maybe not too much ice cream)—let’s celebrate it all. But isn’t dairy something you should be avoiding if you are looking to optimize your health? That is what the suits at Oatly would want you to believe, but is it true? Let’s dive in.
The dairy alternative market is booming. Globally, the market is valued at a whopping $20.5 billion and is expected to continue growing by 12% year over year. Now, that’s a lot of soy milk.
According to recent market trends, soy milk is expected to gain popularity in the U.S. among the elderly and female consumers, while almond milk is quickly gaining momentum among younger, health-conscious generations. That’s right—pretty soon, the only thing cooler than Tik Tok will be Tik Tok’ing about almond milk.
There is also a significant percentage of people with the specific goal of weight loss that is driving demand for a lot of these plant-based milks. After all, cow’s milk and other dairy products tend to be higher in fat, and as we all know—fat makes you fat (sarcasm). And then there are, of course, the concerns about full-fat dairy and how those foods correlate with heart health. It has long been accepted that cutting back on full-fat dairy or dairy in general was the responsible thing to do if you were looking to take care of your health.
However, a recent 2021 study out of PLOS Medicine turns that narrative on its head. In this study, researchers measured the blood levels of a fatty acid found in dairy foods in a group of over 4,000 60-year-old participants in Sweden. Why Sweden? Well, in case you didn’t know, the Swedes love their milk and cheeses.
After an average follow-up period of 16.6 years, researchers found that the participants with the highest levels of the fatty acid found in dairy foods had the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease. On top of that, the study authors then confirmed their findings after analyzing similar data from the U.S., Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
Cheese-lovers rejoice! Throw out that cashew cheese you just bought and bust out the Brie! Your heart will thank you.
Alright, not so fast. This one study does not necessarily mean that fat from dairy products actually protects against cardiovascular disease, but one thing seems to be clear—full-fat dairy may not be as harmful to heart health as we’ve been told.
The key takeaway? Lactose intolerance and sensitivities are very real conditions that impact a significant chunk of the population, but for most people, the health concerns around dairy products might be a bit overstated.
Heck, there might even be some very real health benefits to adding more full fat dairy to your diet. Take butter, for example—a full fat, delicious food that contains 10 essential vitamins, 14 essential minerals, and stearic acid, which smooths and softens skin and can reduce LDL cholesterol.
One thing is for sure, these foods are so much better for your health than fake cheeses and milks made with processed seed and vegetable oils (looking at you, Oatly). Yuck.