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Question: Is full-fat dairy healthier? How about grass-fed dairy?

Dairy products

You may have heard about new evidence that full-fat dairy is better for our health than previously thought.

However, Iowa State University nutrition expert Ruth Litchfield says the science is still new and so far is limited to just a couple observational studies that may not take into account lifestyle factors, such as overall diet and exercise.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines still recommend sticking to low-fat and non-fat milk, yogurt and cheese, Litchfield says.

Litchfield says she also has seen growing interest in grass-fed dairy because it may contain more heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

“But I would really, really caution folks about that,” Litchfield says.

Litchfield searched the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) nutrition database and research literature and couldn’t find a value for the actual omega 3 content of grass-fed dairy.

However, she did find that a 3-ounce serving of grass-fed beef has 0.015 grams of omega 3s, compared to a 3-ounce serving of salmon at 1.5 grams of omega 3s.

“So (grass-fed) beef has more omega 3s than maybe a conventionally grown animal, whether it’s dairy or beef, but it’s still not even close to the omega 3 content that you can get from other sources,” Litchfield says.

“To get the same amount of omega 3s, you would have to consume 100 times the amount of ground beef as the similar portion of salmon. So in the scheme of things, you can’t eat enough to make a significant impact on your intake.”

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