We are always at a lookout for healthy lifestyle changes which are relatively easy.
Sooner or later we get caught up in the current health trends, especially if they are promoted widely in grocery stores and markets.
One such trend that started few decades back and remains popular is eliminating or limiting fat including fat in dairy.
Although fat rich diets consumption has tremendously decreased, cases of heart diseases, diabetes, obesity are increasing.
Hence, not so surprisingly in 2015 USDA Dietary guidelines upper limit of fat intake has been eliminated.
1) Why dairy fat is important in our diet:
Summary of research conducted over past few years says adequate dairy fat consumption lowers liver fat, increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin. Increased insensitivity to insulin may lead to diabetes.
Fatty acids present in dairy regulate the hepatic de novo lipogenesis, a biochemical cycle in body that stores energy from carbohydrates in the form of fat.
Disruption of this cycle may lead to obesity, fatty liver diseases and metabolic syndrome. (Towards the end of the article I have listed the symptoms of Metabolic syndrome)
2) Whole milk v/s low fat or skimmed milk:
Milk fat has a matrix of 400 different fatty acids, of which saturated fatty acids comprises the major portion. There are different kinds of saturated fatty acids.
Low fat and fat free milk are the variants of regular milk where the milk is processed to reduce or completely remove the natural saturated fatty acids, trans-fats and cholesterol.
The long chain saturated fatty acids are presumed to raise the risk for heart diseases. But milk has a complex structure that has even the healthy short and medium chain saturated fatty acids.
3) Is saturated fat bad for you?
Decreasing the amount of calories gained from saturated fat not only decreases the levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol but also decreases levels of HDL, the good cholesterol.
Moreover, a study by UCLA reported that out of the patients admitted for heart attack 75% had low levels of the LDL and no diabetes.
But they had below normal levels of the good cholesterol i.e., HDL. Therefore we should pay attention to HDL enhancing diets such as dairy foods rather focusing only on what not to eat in order to reduce LDL.
The other best source of Saturated fat is Coconut Oil. Use it in moderate amounts for Salad dressing.
Furthermore, Milk and Coconut oil are the best sources of medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCT oil produced by
fractionation of Coconut Oil is in the trend as healthy supplement for raising HDL levels.
But, Whole and Real foods over processed foods any day for practicing clean eating.
4) Why regular milk or whole milk and dairy foods based on whole milk are better option?
Owing to the credulity of the consumers, manufacturers often act complacent with their marketing strategies. They label the low fat and fat-free dairy products as “light and healthy”.
We usually focus on the saturated fat, trans- fatty acids and cholesterol content of the milk pack. But what we fail to notice on labels is the sodium and sugar content in low-fat and skimmed milk is higher than that present in whole milk.
Data collected over a period of 10 years showed that dairy products, oils, salad dressings and baked goods with tags of low calories and low fat had more sugar content, more sodium content compared to the regular versions . As a result, we can see the increasing cases of diabetes and metabolic syndrome even though consumers opt for low calories and low fat diet.
Studies even report that full fat/whole milk consumption has beneficial effects in protecting kids from severe childhood obesity.
From a study published in journal of nutrition, full-fat/whole fat dairy consumption most likely prevents the risk of developing metabolic syndrome compared to low fat dairy. However, it doesn’t hold true in case of consuming dairy based desserts.
5) Low fat dairy for individuals with metabolic syndrome:
In men with metabolic syndrome daily servings of low fat dairy was found to reduce the glucose levels compared to those who were on carbohydrates diet. Whereas, in case of women, daily servings of low fat dairy was found to reduce body weight, waist circumference and also body mass index.
What to eat and what not to eat:
Having normal levels of good cholesterol in body is as important as having low levels of bad cholesterol.
Whole milk, full fat fermented dairy products like yogurt and cheeses (cottage cheese, Gouda type cheeses) are sources of good cholesterol.
If you don’t have any metabolic diseases then it is healthier to use whole milk. You can dilute the whole milk with water if you are skeptical on using whole milk.
Choose cheese over butter and butter over margarine.
Fermented dairy products provide vitamin B complex. Lactose intolerant can take fermented dairy as the bacterial lactase digests the lactose present in milk.
If not lactose intolerant, then substituting your daily milk intake with soy milk, rice milk, almond milk and oats milk may not be a plausible healthy choice. Most of the brands have around 13-14gms of sugar for every 240ml of plant based drinks. Hence, every serving has 3-4 teaspoons of sugar.
Moreover, except for soy milk, plant based drinks have very low protein content compared to milk and could lead to nutritional deficiencies especially in children.
Milk is a natural source of monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids. They have innumerable health benefits due to their anti oxidant properties. So choice is yours whether to exclude or include milk in your diet.
Milk is a natural source of calcium and vitamin D and is recommended in pregnant women to prevent Preeclampsia
Metabolic syndrome: If an individual has any three of the following conditions then he has the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular diseases.
- High blood pressure
- High blood sugar
- Low HDL
- Abdominal or central obesity
- High serum triglycerides.
Irregular periods, Irregular or lack of ovulation, Adult acne, thinning hairline, and excess facial hair- facing one or more of these problems rings a bell. The frequent campaigns on PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) awareness start making sense.
As the name suggests PCOS refers one or more number of cyst (liquid filled cavity) in ovaries which obstructs maturation of ovarian follicles to ovulate.
It could be either – hormonal imbalance trigger cyst formation or cysts inherently present in ovaries cause hormonal imbalance.
In either case if we regulate the hormones involved in PCOS then we can bring back the ovaries to normal functioning.
Before we try knowing the ways to regulate the hormones involved in PCOS, we need to understand the main hormones involved – Insulin and testosterone.
Most people assume it’s all about female hormones going kaput and so the hormonal imbalances. But, the main culprits are the freely roaming male hormones (androgens) produced by ovaries and adrenal glands.
Yes, even we women have androgens synthesized within our body. However, in normal cases, 80% of these male hormones are not available for tissues.
In simple words very little amount of testosterone is free to exhibit its action. But, in PCOS the amount of freely wandering testosterone increases.
That results in one or more of these problems- lack of ovulation, menstrual irregularities, excessive facial and body hair, cystic acne on jaw line and thinning of hair.
The Love of male hormones for sugar:
When you have carbohydrates your blood glucose level increases.
To make this glucose available to the body tissues insulin is released by the pancreas.
However, due to excess weight, high body mass index, low physical activity, and other inherent factors the body turns insensitive towards insulin.
When your body starts being less responsive to the insulin hormone, its release into the blood increases; consequently, testosterone tends to wander freely with rising insulin levels in blood.
Insulin resistance- The risk factor for PCOD:
Insulin resistance ⇔ Abdominal fat and larger waist circumference. This equation more or less sums up the relationship between physical factors and insulin resistance.
Undoubtedly, inherent factors play a role in predisposing insulin resistance and PCOS. However, making efforts to change the tangible factors such as weight and body mass index can bring a huge deal of difference in dealing with PCOS.
Know your type of PCOS:
Knowing the type of PCOS saves you from choosing the wrong treatments.
You can tackle the PCOS symptoms with simple measures provided you get acquainted with your type of PCOS.
Women with classic PCOS have irregular or no ovulation with higher testosterone levels. Obese women are most likely to have classic PCOS.
Women with Ovulatory PCOS have regular menstrual cycles. But they have higher testosterone levels and cysts in ovaries. Higher levels of testosterone in women causes cystic acne, hair thinning and excessive facial/body hair.
Two Simple ways that help in regulating the hormones involved in PCOS:
1) Exercise induced weight loss:
Change in lifestyle remains the first line of therapy in treating PCOS. A sedentary lifestyle worsens the symptoms and an active lifestyle improves them.
For women with Classic PCOS, losing weight lowers the level of bad cholesterol, triglycerides as well as reduces the chances of diabetes.
For women with Ovulatory PCOS losing even few pounds of weight can bring about a greater deal of improvement in symptoms.
In fact you may most likely start having regular periods. This improvement even reflects with healthy glowing skin and reduced skin and hair problems.
But, here’s the thing, the weight loss should be attained not just by dieting but by exercise and physical activity.
Your diet plan should focus on cutting down high glycemic index foods and increase the intake of healthy fats and proteins.
High Glycemic Index Foods – Potatoes, white rice, white bread.
Sugary foods – candy, cookies, cakes, and sweet drinks.
2) Having right amounts of omega-3 fatty acids containing foods:
First step regarding weight loss is often suggested but this second measure is less commonly known.
Of course, you must have read about health benefits of Omega fatty acids. Nonetheless, I would like to bring your attention to what research says about its role in PCOD.
Omega fatty acids are the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).
Man evolved on a diet that had a ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids (ω6: ω 3) of approximately 1. But in present times the ratio has reached to 25:1 with obvious consequences of higher metabolic diseases.
We eat lots more of omega 6 fats than required and have very little space for omega 3 in our diets.
Intake of omega-3 rich foods or supplements regulates menstrual cycles, reduces the free testosterone levels which correlates to increase in body’s sensitivity to insulin.
In a clinical trial, participants with PCOS were administered 2 capsules of omega 3 supplements for a period of 6 months.
At the end of six months, the long intervals between 2 menstrual cycles were greatly reduced.
Moreover, their lipid profile improved a great deal with increase in HDL, the good cholesterol and decrease in bad cholesterol and triglycerides.
The trials also reported that although omega-3 fatty acids did not reduce weight, there was a significant reduction in waist circumference.
Furthermore, there was another trial conducted on 78 overweight and obese women with PCOS.
Even in overweight and obese women with PCOD, omega-3 fatty acids were found to reduce the free testosterone levels and also regulate the irregular menstrual cycles.
Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids: Flaxseed oil, fish oil, chia seeds, walnuts, fish roe (eggs), fatty fish, seafood and spinach.
Walnuts among all nuts have high PUFA content that increases the protein that prevents availability of free testosterone. They also decrease LDL cholesterol thereby improving lipid profile. Best quality walnuts : Borges California Walnuts
Fitness routine with omega-3 rich diets are so-far the best and safe natural therapies for PCOS.
Please consult your doctor before opting over the counter omega-3 supplements.
Foods to avoid: Foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids such as peanut butters, other nut butters, margarine, vegetable oils such as safflower, soya bean and corn oil.
Most importantly, if you are of reproductive age and plan on embracing motherhood sooner or later, it is prudent to start making small changes that can help you manage stress. Stress activates a whole lot of hormones in our body so read on to know:
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