Confusing foods – Part 2, Dairy

Here’s a continuation of yesterday’s post “Confusing foods, Part 1.”  Today’s confusing food topic is dairy.

Yes dairy does contain protein, and very high quality protein at that. It also contains fat and some good fat such as conjugated linoleic acid which has been shown to have quite a few health benefits, one of them being an anticarcinogen, and one of its most popular being a fat burner. The problem with dairy for the purpose of this article is three fold.
First, we all know about lactose intolerance.  This is basically when someone can not digest the milk sugar because they have an insufficient amount of an enzyme, lactase, needed to break down the sugar. This causes stomach and digestive issues, gas, etc. You’re all familiar with that, hopefully not too familiar.

Second, it is a very common allergen. Many people who consume it are allergic to it which means you have an actual allergic response from the immune system unlike being lactose intolerant which just means your body lacks something but doesn’t involve the immune system. I believe the majority of allergic responses are to the milk protein called casein although you could be allergic to whey or both. Whey tends to be much less allergenic than casein which is why it is a better choice over casein when it comes to protein supplements.

Lastly, dairy tends to be very insulinogenic. This is something I learned during my BioSignature Modification course that I wasn’t aware of. It tends to raise insulin levels.  How does this effect us? Constantly high insulin levels are not a good thing, just as constantly elevated cortisol levels are not a good thing. One job of these hormones is to maintain normal blood glucose levels. Your cells can become de-sensitized to insulin and cortisol if exposed too often and as a result your endocrine system will pump out even more of the hormone until your circulating blood levels of glucose return to normal levels. This in turn can tire out your  pancreas (or adrenal glands when considering cortisol). Your cells could become insulin resistant if exposed to insulin in high amounts, or too often, or both. This of course can pave the way to diabetes, higher bodyfat levels and many other problems. It’s important to realize that insulin is not all bad; we have it for a reason, just like cortisol. It is certainly needed especially when we need energy because it helps shuttle the sugar, protein, etc. from our blood into our cells to provide energy instead of letting it float around and eventually being converted into fat and being stored away. The timing of insulin secretion is very important and can be used to your advantage. For example, high insulin levels after a workout are ok since they can help in shuttling the protein and other nutrients from your post workout shake into the cells to help with repair, protein synthesis, and refueling. You are taking a post workout shake aren’t you? Even more importantly make sure you are actually working out intensely enough to warrant a post workout shake.
When it comes to dairy, it is a VERY gray area, experts on the subject frequently disagree, and even experts “on the same team” will have varying opinions. I could probably go on about dairy and the pro and cons but what is comes down to is your individual reaction to dairy products. Some people can tolerate butter but not milk, and it may be different for others. My only suggestion to you is that if you do decide to eat or drink it, you try and use grass-fed products, and DO NOT choose low-fat dairy. Low-fat means it has been changed from its normal state, it has higher sugar content, and some valuable components like conjugated linoleic acid (which has many positive benefits) have been removed making it the unhealthiest forms of dairy there is.

There is some controversy about what types of protein supplements are best, dairy (whey or casein), egg, or vegetable, etc.  Whey protein is suggested by many as a healthy choice, and not suggested by some. It has a much higher “biological availability” than vegetable or rice proteins meaning  it has a higher percentage of essential amino acids in the right proportions so it is more available and usable by your body.  Vegetable proteins usually have a much poorer amino acid profile than dairy, egg, or animal proteins.  I’m not saying they are bad for you,  just not as effective and you will usually have to ingest more of it to get the same levels of protein as you would with the other types.   Do your homework, see how you feel after using it. Whey is generally much less allergenic, has a great protein profile and it does not have much lactose present so it can be a good choice but ultimately it is still dairy for those who are very sensitive to it. There are 3 types of whey protein; concentrate, isolate, and hydrolysate.  Concentrate is cheaper cost wise, has a little more fat and lactose than the others.  Isolates and hydrolysates have less fat and lactose and as a result are more quickly absorbed making them more suited for postworkout shakes unfortunately they are much more expensive.  Concentrate is usually fine for most and more cost effective.  I personally feel a little hypocritical since I don’t think dairy is all that great but I do use whey for my post workout shake, I love cream in my coffee and an occasional piece of cheese but other than that I don’t really eat too much dairy and I often suggest the same to others.  At one point in my life I was drinking between 1/2 and 1 gallon of milk per day, yes per day.  At the time I was young (which in other words means stupid) and was trying to bulk up.  As a kid I had pretty bad acne and as an adult I developed sinus infections quite often.  Once I removed the milk from my menu 99% of my sinus issues went away.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but probably not.

The more you research, the more confused you will probably become as to who is right and what you should do, so the best approach is to try and eliminate all dairy for 1 month, see how you feel, reintroduce one form of dairy, see how you feel, repeat, then make your decision. Everyone is different. Good Luck.

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