You shouldn't wait for some scientist to give you permission to eat full-fat yogurt

By Rebecca Firkser
Updated July 18, 2018
Credit: Photo by JGI/Jamie Grill Creative via Getty Images

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this week revealed that eating full-fat dairy on a regular basis does not appear to negatively affect cardiovascular health. Basically, all that stuff you heard growing up about the benefits of skim milk and nonfat yogurt may have been a load of hooey.

Honestly, I’m thrilled. I always find myself still hungry after eating nonfat yogurt. As Ron Swanson said, skim milk is water that’s lying about being milk. However, I worry that since studies from a few years ago recommended a low-fat diet, what the general public believes is “right” to eat could shift at a moment’s notice.

Scientific findings are frequently changing, and researchers are always entitled to publish their studies, especially if they earnestly believe they could help someone. However, when it comes to food, it can be hard to see through the trends and pseudoscience and just eat what you want.

In the past few years, coconut oil—a substance that has existed for centuries and used by myriad cultures for everything from hair and body grooming to fuel to cooking fat—has been hailed by some folks as a miracle food, helping the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients and containing medium-chain triglycerides that kickstart metabolism. However, last year the American Heart Association condemned coconut oil. The AHA says coconut oil's high saturated fat content means it should be treated like beef or butter, that it can increase cholesterol and further the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Still, many folks hold firm to their original understandings about coconut oil.

All food studies lead to presumptions, and even if involuntarily, we tout these notions in everyday life. Suddenly you’re only buying lowfat yogurt and whole wheat bread because you read an article ten years ago claiming those ingredients’ contemporaries are “bad” for you; in 2018, it's these foods that suddenly might be bad "bad," as they pack more sugar than full-fat or white. But what does that even mean?

“Bad” foods are likely synonymous with “unhealthy,” a word that in my opinion can be pretty meaningless considering the way it’s used today. Good and bad, healthy and unhealthy—they're all wildly subjective terms that mean different things to different people. If my friend has a history of high cholesterol in her family and notices that her numbers spike when she has two eggs for breakfast every day, but they level out when she switched to oatmeal, it doesn’t mean that she should say eggs are unhealthy. It only means they’re not on par with her nutritional goals.

As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, I’ve found that the best choice for me is to avoid being too influenced by the studies and eat intuitively. If I’m eyeing a gooey slice of babka for breakfast, I should eat that babka. If I want an apple in the morning, I should eat the apple. A doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian might say that scientifically neither of those items are “healthy” meals. Obviously there are diseases that are proven to be triggered by certain foods, and it's probably not a good idea to gorge oneself on any one thing, but when it comes to eating habits, I firmly believe an alternative to both “good” and “bad” foods exists.