Diane May Nutrition Blog

Should We Consume Full Fat Dairy?

April 14th, 2016

A number of studies have been published recently, in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and Circulation that have created controversy over whether or not we should switch back to full fat dairy. The first study was a prospective study that observed that middle aged women who consumed full fat dairy had an 8% less risk of  developing obesity than those who did not consume full fat dairy.  One of the reasons for this could be that fat has a higher level of satiety (feeling full), so those women felt more satisfied, and therefore ate less.  The other study was also a prospective study that observed that people who consumed full fat dairy had a 46% lower risk of developing diabetes over a fifteen year period as opposed to those who chose to consume low fat dairy.  This was found by studying that higher plasma dairy fatty acid concentrations were associated with a lower incident of diabetes. The mechanism of why this occurred is still unknown, but it might also be due to that feeling of satiety, so people consumed less, and where therefor were a healthier weight (which reduced the risk of diabetes).

It is very important to note that both of these studies were prospective studies.  Prospective research  watches for outcomes, such as the development of a disease, during the study period and relates this to other factors such as suspected risk or protection factor(s). The study usually involves taking a cohort (a group of subjects who have shared a particular event together during a particular time span ) of subjects and watching them over a long period. This type of research is observational, and we will probably be seeing more conflicting evidence in regard to full fat dairy over the next few years. Optimally, the research to be trusted is RTC (randomized control trials) of which neither of these are. This is all preliminary research and more data is yet to come.

The U.S. Dietary guidelines currently recommend that we keep saturated fat to no more than 10% of our total calories. To understand how this translates, a cup of whole milk has 4.6 grams of saturated fat, which is approximately 1/4 of your daily total of saturated fat. For those with cholesterol issues, the American Heart Association recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5 to 6% of total daily calories.

It is important to consume healthy fats from fatty fish (fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, and albacore tuna), nuts, avocado, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and sesame seeds and vegetable oil.  The U.S Dietary guidelines recommend we consume 25 to 35% of our calories from fat.

Although these new studies show interesting promise for weight maintenance and diabetes control, at this point, for heart health and weight control, the best choice is still to consume low fat/non fat dairy and to pay attention to saturated fat consumption.


Vanilla-Pomegranate Parfaits

From EatingWell:  November/December 2010

should we consume full fat dairy

Makes: 6 servings

Active Time: 

Total Time: 



  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds (see Tip)
  • 2/3 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup low-fat milk
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise, or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds for garnish
  • 6 mint sprigs for garnish


  1. To prepare compote: Mix 2 tablespoons sugar with 2 teaspoons cornstarch in a small saucepan. Add pomegranate seeds, pomegranate juice and lemon juice; stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring, until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl. Refrigerate while you prepare the pudding.
  2. To prepare pudding: Combine milk and half-and-half in a medium heavy saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean (or add vanilla extract). Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, whisk egg, egg yolk, 1/3 cup sugar and 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch in a medium bowl. Reheat the milk mixture just until steaming. Carefully whisk one-third of the steaming milk into the egg mixture. Pour the egg-milk mixture back into the pan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until very thick, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in butter.
  4. To prepare parfaits: Divide the pomegranate compote among six 6-ounce (3/4 cup) parfait glasses, ramekins or other small dessert cups. Spoon the pudding mixture over the compote. Cover and refrigerate until the pudding is well chilled and firm, at least 3 hours. To serve, garnish each parfait with pomegranate seeds and a mint sprig, if desired.


  • Make Ahead Tip: Prepare the compote (Step 1), cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day. Cover and refrigerate parfaits for up to 8 hours.
  • Tip: To seed a pomegranate, fill a large bowl with water. Lightly score the fruit into quarters from crown to stem end, cutting through the skin but not into the interior of the fruit. Hold the fruit under water, break it apart and use your hands to gently separate the plump seeds (arils) from the outer skin and white pith. The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bowl and the pith will float to the surface. Discard the pith. Pour the seeds into a colander. Rinse and pat dry. Seeds can be frozen for up to 3 months.


Per serving: 209 calories; 8 g fat (4 g sat, 2 g mono); 88 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrates; 15 g added sugars; 4 g protein; 1 g fiber; 48 mg sodium; 189 mg potassium.