Definitely not! Giving up dairy to get lean is one of the biggest diet myths. This is most likely due to the fact that a certain percentage of people are lactose intolerant (ie, unable to properly digest milk sugar), which often leads to bloating and therefore a smooth-looking body. However, lactose intolerance does not increase fat storage or affect fat burning ability.
The fact is, consuming dairy products actually promotes fat loss. This is mainly due to its high calcium content. Most people know that calcium is important for strong bones, but what isn’t as well understood is that it also mediates many other bodily functions, including speeding up metabolic function. Although the exact mechanism is not clear, it appears to be related to their regulatory effects on the calcitrophic hormones (ie, parathyroid hormone and a hormone called 1,25(OH)2D), which are known activators of lipogenesis (ie, fat formation). Specifically, low-calcium diets increase calcitrophic hormone activity and thus increase fat storage, while high-calcium diets suppress these hormones and thereby increase fat metabolism. In fact, simply increasing calcium intake from 400 mg to 1,000 mg over a period of one year has been shown to result in a loss of about 11 pounds of fat without changing any other facet of the diet.
Most interestingly, getting calcium from dairy products promotes fat loss at a much greater rate than taking calcium supplements. This is believed to be due to several bioactive compounds in dairy, including angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and a high concentration of branched-chain amino acids (especially leucine), which work with calcium to burn fat.
So if you want to maximize your body’s fat-burning capacity, consume a healthy amount of dairy in your diet, with the majority being reduced-fat products. Saturated fat is calorically dense and biologically inert. It only serves to increase calorie consumption and impair fat burning. Low-fat cottage cheese, milk, and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium that don’t cause calories from food to pile up in a hurry.
The other thing to watch out for in dairy products is the added sodium. In and of itself, sodium is a necessary part of your diet and plays an important role in hydration and muscle function. But too much will inevitably lead to water retention and a puffy appearance. Examine labels. Some dairy products contain upwards of 500 mg of sodium — far more than you need in one isolated serving.
If you are lactose intolerant, opt for lactose-free dairy products. You can also buy lactose tablets, which provide the enzyme lactase, which helps digest the sugars found in dairy products. A very small percentage of the population is allergic to dairy products (less than 3 percent). If you fall into this category, you have no choice but to abstain from consumption.