Pitcher of milk

The Low-Fat Myth – Why Full Fat Dairy is the Healthier Choice

Full-fat dairy is the healthier choice over reduced-fat dairy, here’s why. 

A common misconception surrounding dairy is that low-fat or non-fat dairy products are a healthier choice than full-fat. However, recent studies show that consuming full-fat, or whole milk, dairy has been correlated with a decreased risk of obesity. Also, people who eat full-fat dairy are no more likely to develop cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes than people who stick to low-fat dairy.

Sounds crazy, right? Keep reading to learn more!

Less Sugar. More Filling.

Woman drinking milk

What is it about full-fat dairy that may make it a healthier choice vs. reduced-fat dairy? For starters, a lot of the flavor in dairy products comes from its fat content. When fat is stripped from milk or other products like yogurt, butter, and cheese, much of the flavor is taken away.

In order to make up for the loss in flavor, some manufacturers replace the fat that has been removed with sugar, ‘flavors’, and other additives.

Less fat could also affect maintaining a healthy body weight. The fatty acids that are stripped out of reduced-fat dairy may help you feel full sooner and stay full longer. In other words, if you eat reduced fat dairy, it will take more of it to fill you up AND you will probably be hungry sooner than you would if you consumed the same item in a whole milk variety!

Another issue caused by a lack of fat in dairy is that fat slows down the digestion of lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy. Your body needs the fat in dairy so that it can properly process the naturally occurring sugar in these products. So even if you choose fat-free dairy products without added sugars, you still may experience an insulin spike.

Vitamins and Minerals

Full-fat dairy contains fat-soluble vitamins A and D, meaning the body needs fat to absorb them. When the fat is removed from milk, so are these vitamins.

For example, skim, 1%, and 2% milk are fortified with synthetic vitamin A to bring them back up to whole milk’s level—but without the fat, the vitamin A won’t do you much good.

The same goes for vitamin D. Despite being fortified with vitamin D, the lack of fat in low-fat milk makes it much more difficult for the body to absorb.

Which dairy products are the healthiest?

The benefits of full-fat dairy go well beyond milk. Let’s look at other healthy, full-fat dairy products.


Photo of fruity yogurt

Yogurt can be a great source of protein and calcium and is beneficial to digestive health as a probiotic.

Whole milk yogurt is becoming more popular lately, so it is getting easier to find. However, you may have a difficult time finding it in small, single serving containers. Look for plain whole milk yogurt or plain whole milk Greek yogurt in larger containers at your local grocery store

Note, it’s important to check labels! Full-fat or whole milk yogurt tends to have less sugar than non- or reduced-fat yogurt. Less sugar and more fat mean you’ll avoid sugar spikes while keeping yourself feeling full.

Here are a few examples of what whole milk yogurt labels will look like:

Whole milk yogurt labels

Although the next two label examples contain nonfat or skim milk, they add cream, which makes them acceptable yogurt varieties:

Non-fat or skim milk yogurt labels

Try this recipe! Yogurt is great on its own, but can also be used as an ingredient, including in this delicious Orange Pineapple Smoothie or Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal.


Various cheeses

Full-fat cheese is a good source of calcium and protein. Again, make sure you read the labels. Low-fat cheese is only about 51% real cheese, and the other 49% is preservatives, emulsifiers, coloring, and other additives. Most of them will even be labeled “cheese food.”

Cheese is easier to find in a whole milk variety. Buying block cheese is best but make sure to read the labels. Avoid anything that says “cheese product” or “cheese food”.

Ingredients should contain pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, and enzymes. Try to avoid pre-shredded cheese as they contain other unnatural ingredients like cellulose. It may take a bit more time to shred the cheese yourself, but it is healthier and saves you money!

Cottage cheese:

Photo of cottage cheese

4% cottage cheese is considered full-fat and is the highest fat consistency that is sold. Cottage cheese is a good source of vitamin B12 and phosphorus. Low-fat cottage cheese often has a less creamy consistency. Additives and gums may be added to mimic the texture of whole milk fat.


Photo of butter

In small quantities, butter can be a healthy source of fat when creating balanced meals. The fat in butter contains butyric acid, which has been known to reduce inflammation and improve digestive health.

You should always buy real butter. Ingredients should contain pasteurized cream, sweet cream, and salt. Steer clear of butter “spreads”. These items contain unhealthy ingredients like soy and palm oils and other unnatural additives and flavors.

Be mindful when it comes to full-fat dairy

While there are many reasons why full-fat dairy is the healthier choice compared to reduced-fat, you still need to be mindful of serving sizes. The fat in dairy is saturated fat. Although it’s a good source of energy, saturated fat should be consumed in limited amounts, such as those suggested in the GOLO for Life plan.

You should also consider how often you consume dairy products. While they are a good choice, if you are eating dairy at every meal, you could slow down your weight loss progress.


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