Grocery shelves are full of products offering each of these. What does it all mean? Is there an advantage to one over the other? Here’s the skinny on full fat, fat-free and the in-between.

Let’s start with the difference among these
We’ll use milk here as an example. From fat-free to full-fat, milk has about the same nutritional benefits. One of the biggest benefits is protein, others are calcium, potassium and vitamin D. The differences we find are in the calories, fat and (let’s be honest here) taste. Full-fat products generally have a creamier texture, but the most calories of the bunch. For example, an 8-ounce glass of milk contains about 150 calories and 8 grams of fat. At the other end of the spectrum is fat-free. Give up the creamy taste and get about 60 fewer calories for your sacrifice. It isn’t completely fat-free but is about as close as you can get. 8-ounces of 1% milk has 101 calories, a few more than fat-free.

Things to consider
Concerns about calories and fat have led to declines in consumption of full fat dairy products. Particularly if you consume a lot of full fat products, the calories and fat can add up. Still, recent research shows you need not cut full fat products out of your diet altogether. In fact, keeping some full fat dairy in your diet can actually be good for you.

yogurt-1442034_640Yes, you can enjoy full fat yogurt sometimes…guilt free
National Public Radio reported in 2016 results of a study by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. They found that full fat dairy had a protective effect against Type 2 diabetes and weight gain in study participants. What’s more, researchers found that children who reported higher intake of full fat and 2% milk gained less weight over time than children who drank skim or 1% milk. There was also no correlation between full fat dairy and higher rates of heart disease.

Researchers don’t have a clear reason for their counterintuitive findings, but they suspect that full fat dairy is more satisfying. Participants ate less when sated by the fat in the dairy. Another theory is that the less fat ingesting participants ate more carbs to compensate for the missing fat.

More than one study has shown that full fat products can offer protective factors against diabetes and unhealthy weight. That isn’t the green light to consume these treats with abandon. Remember, you can have too much of a good thing. Enjoy full fat treats in moderation, and with the knowledge that you are doing your body good.