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Metabolism-Boosting Foods and Nutrients: Low-Fat Dairy

A study published in Nutrition and Metabolism found that people who drank the recommended amount of dairy — about 3–4 servings per day—were more likely to have increased metabolic rates and greater fat oxidation during weight maintenance. As a kid, you drank milk for strong bones. As an adult, you can choose low-fat dairy products to burn more fat (and also maintain bones and reduce blood pressure).

The subjects of the study were also able to take in more calories than the low-dairy group without weight regain. But that doesn’t mean that you can guzzle a gallon of milk with your fast-food hamburger to counteract its effects.

Adding dairy to an otherwise healthful diet will have the best impact on your metabolic rate. Have a low-fat yogurt with breakfast, add a cup of skim milk to your snack, and add part-skim cheese to your dinner to get your servings in with ease.

Calcium plays a role in fat storage. Getting the recommended amount of calcium can equate to burning 100 more calories per day at rest! That adds up to a weight loss of over 10 pounds per year. It also means less fat storage, especially when the calcium is consumed in the form of low-fat dairy.

In a study out of the University of Tennessee, women who consumed 3 cups of low-fat yogurt per day lost 60 percent more body fat than those who didn’t.

Calcium is found in non-dairy forms, either naturally or fortified, and those can help you meet your needs too. Aim for about 1,200 milligrams of calcium per day. If you aren’t able to meet those needs through diet, a supplement can help — but food first whenever possible. Also, when a product is low-fat, the calcium content is typically greater than a full fat product — bonus!

Calcium Sources
Food Serving Size Calcium per serving (mg)
Yogurt, plain, low-fat 8 ounces 415
Orange juice, calcium-fortified 6 ounces 375
Mozzarella, part-skim 1.5 ounces 333
Sardines, canned in oil, with bones 3 ounces 325
Milk, nonfat 8 ounces 299
Milk, whole 8 ounces 276
Tofu, firm, made with calcium sulfate 1/2 cup 253
Salmon, pink, canned, w. bones 3 ounces 181
Instant breakfast drinks, powder w water 8 ounces 105–250
Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft serve 1/2 cup 103
Ready-to-eat cereal, calcium-fortified 1 cup 100–1,000
Kale, fresh, cooked 1 cup 94
Soy beverage, calcium fortified 8 ounces 80–500

Source: USDA Nutrient Database

Another benefit of choosing low-fat yogurt and cheeses are the probiotics that lie within. Probiotics are live organisms like bacteria and yeast that help keep our guts healthy. Many digestive disorders result from problems with the natural bacteria found in the lining of the intestines. Probiotics can help reduce inflammation and keep your digestive system healthy and strong.

The FDA doesn’t regulate probiotics (yet), so when looking at products, look for the strains Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria, and choose reputable brands. Also make sure the label specifies “live” or “active” cultures.

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