Delving Into Dairy

In the latest issue of People Magazine, the People Food Awards highlighted over 60 of their favorite new items to hit store shelves. Not surprisingly, the bulk of the foods highlighted were a sugary mess…waffles, sugary cereals, candy, ice cream, snacks, etc. However, there is one product I wanted to highlight as an example of something that sounds healthy, but is it really?

Silk brand has introduced Nextmilk Whole Fat, Plant-based Milk Substitute. There are two things that make this launch particularly interesting.

  1. The focus, literally in the name of the product, is “whole fat.” After at least five decades of being told to eat “low fat”, especially related to dairy products, how times are changing when a major brand announces its new product is “whole fat.”
  2. The implied health of this product, centered around plant-based ingredients & being made from Oatmilk, which is very popular right now.

Checking the Science

When it comes to fat, none of the macronutrients has been more demonized, but finally, the misinformation around fat is beginning to change. In a June, 2022 health article, the subject of low-fat vs. full-fat was discussed, with a particular focus on diary. For decades, nutritional “experts” have told us full-fat dairy should be avoided because it will make you fat and will cause cardiovascular disease. However, as more research becomes available, saturated fat is not the terrible demon we’ve been told. In fact, as the article states, full-fat dairy can have some very important health benefits around cardiovascular health, maintaining a healthy weight, encouraging satiety (which prevents snacking & binging), and even acting as an aid to avoid chronic metabolic disease. Aside from people who have either an allergy or an intolerance, which is a completely different set of issues, should we really be avoiding full-fat dairy?

With so many nutrition experts now recommending foods like wild-caught fish, nuts, avocados, olive oil and non-sugar yogurt (foods linked to a Mediterranean diet), touting the health benefits of those products while demonizing fat is a problem. All of them are high in fat (some mono-unsaturated, some saturated) and are part of a healthy lifestyle that reduces carbohydrates & sugar while encouraging the consumption of high quality protein & fat sources. Some full-fat dairy items, such as yogurt and fermented diary, such as kefir, also offer probiotic benefits to help with digestive health.

Comparing the Label

Circling back to our new product list, let’s compare the new Silk Whole Fat Plant-Based Milk Substitute vs. a Whole Fat Dairy Milk, purely based on the ingredient panel and the nutritional facts.

1 cup = 160 Calories

Key Macros: 8 grams of fat / 13 grams of carbs / 8 grams of protein

Ingredient list: Grade A Organic Milk, Vitamin D3

1 Cup = 110 Calories

Key Macros: 8 grams of fat / 7 grams of carbs / 4 grams of protein

Ingredient list: Oatmilk (Filtered Water, Oat Concentrate), Coconutmilk (Filtered Water, Coconut Cream), Coconut Oil, Soy Protein Isolate, Chicory Root Extract, Cane Sugar, Sunflower Oil, Vitamin and Mineral Blend (Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Vitamin D2, Riboflavin [B2], Vitamin B12), Sea Salt, Locust Bean Gum, Gellan Gum, Sunflower Lecithin, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor. CONTAINS SOY, COCONUT

So, both products have the same amount of fat per serving (8 grams). Where you see the biggest differences are (1) in the carb & protein ratios and (2) the ingredient list.

  • If you have a lactose intolerance or milk allergy, obviously the Horizon Organic Milk is not going to work, but I would ask why you would want to consume the Silk Next Milk with the ingredient list above? Soy Protein Isolate & Chicory Root Fiber? Cane Sugar? Two types of Lecithin & two types of gums? I would strongly recommend seeking another option with a clean ingredient panel.
  • Plant-based dairy substitutes generally are lower in protein, and as you can see, the Organic Milk has 2X the protein of the Silk Next Milk.
  • If you are following a ketogenic lifestyle, neither of these are good options due to the level of carbs/serving.
  • If you are following a low-carb lifestyle (~ 140 grams of carbs/day), and you compare the macros, if you can handle 13g of carbs in the Horizon Organic Milk (& do not have an allergy or intolerance), the ingredient panel is much better and cleaner, and a better choice.
  • For a standard diet (again, without an allergy or intolerance), the Organic Milk is a better choice.

Wrap-Up

We have to take more care in the food choices we make, and that starts with sorting through the copious amount of misinformation, then taking extra interest to understand the ingredients used and the resulting macros. Full-fat dairy is one of those product groups that has been chastised for decades, but actually can be a part of a very healthy lifestyle and offer health benefits around metabolic and cardiovascular wellness. The best choice, assuming you do not have an allergy or intolerance, is to keep it clean and plain. The more fat is reduced, the more sugar is used to replace, and the less healthy the finished product. Yogurt is a great example of this…stay away from fruit-loaded yogurt and go for plain, full-fat Greek yogurt, then add a bit of your own spices to help with flavor (vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.). Finally, for a good article on how full-fat dairy is part of healthy lifestyle, with some links to additional evidence, check out Darla Leal’s post from Verywellfit.com.

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