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Eating Yogurt and Cheese May Be Good for Your Heart—Here's Why

If you're not a fan of low-fat dairy products, we've got some great news.
FACT CHECKED BY Cheyenne Buckingham

Those with heart issues—as well as those looking to boost heart health in general—are often advised to eat low-fat dairy products, but new research in PLOS Medicine suggests that may not be the only option.

Researchers looked at 4,150 Swedish men and women in their early 60s, an age group considered high risk when it comes to cardiovascular health. Over the course of about 16 years, they supplied dietary data and heart events, as well as blood samples that allowed researchers to track their levels of fatty acids.

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To reduce the limitations presented by focusing on just one country, researchers compared the results with 17 similar studies done in other countries, providing more comprehensive evidence for their conclusions—which found that those with the highest levels of dairy fat tended to have the lowest risk of cardiovascular disease.

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Although more research will need to be done, the results are notable considering they go against prevailing advice, according to study co-author Matti Marklund, Ph.D., senior research fellow at the George Institute for Global Health.

"This suggests high-fat dairy can be part of a healthy diet, especially if you put emphasis on certain dairy foods," he says.

For example, unsweetened whole-milk yogurt is likely to be much more beneficial for your health than a low-fat yogurt that's sweetened with a significant amount of added sugars. He adds that fermented dairy products like yogurt or cheese may be more beneficial when compared to butter or milk, for example.

"The type of dairy foods you choose seems to be more important than the fat content," he adds. "This means it's not entirely clear that you should avoid dairy fats if you want better cardiovascular health."

That's because full-fat versions tend to have more nutrients than their low-fat counterparts, research finds. That doesn't mean you should rush out and load up on high-fat options as a way to boost heart health, adds lead author Kathy Trieu, Ph.D., also from the George Institute for Global Health.

Instead, the evidence here suggests you don't need to give it up if you're not a fan of low-fat versions. When it comes to healthy fats, she says other choices like seafood and nuts are still the best options.

"Those foods tend to have greater health benefits because of their other nutrients in addition to healthy fats," she says.

For more tips, be sure to read These Are the Two Best Diets For Heart Health, According to Doctors. Then, don't forget to sign up for our newsletter!

Elizabeth Millard
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer specializing in health, fitness, and nutrition. Read more about Elizabeth
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