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The Dairy Diet?

Is dairy the next diet food? The dairy industry thinks so.

The industry is so confident about dairy's ability to contribute to weight loss that it has developed an ad campaign to promote it.

Elisa Zied, a nutritionist and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, tells The Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen the facts on dairy consumption and weight loss and explained a recent study sponsored by the dairy industry and conducted at the University of Tennessee.

She explains, "Basically, the research examined 32 obese people and put them all on 500 calories a day less than they were used to having. One group added three to four servings of dairy a day, which provided a lot of calcium. One group took the same amount of calcium, but in supplement form and the other group had a low calcium intake through dairy. They found that the people who consumed the most dairy and the most calcium from dairy in their total diet lost the most weight and the most body weight. So the study was very promising in terms of helping people potentially lose weight and body fat from eating dairy, but again it's just one study."

The thinking behind the study is that dairy provides protein, which can fill a person up and prevent overeating later on, Zied says, "Another theory is that the proteins in these foods: amino acids, specific combinations of nutrients, proteins and calcium may act together or in isolation to have an impact on body fat and weight regulation. They can actually promote fat and weight loss. But again, this is just one group and one set of studies. We need a lot more data from carefully controlled clinical trials with lots of people, populations. We need a variety of foods in our diet."

If you are watching your weight and you want to incorporate more dairy in your diet, the following are a few things Zied says to consider:

Look For Low-Fat Options: 3 grams of fat or less per serving. Switch from whole milk to 1 percent milk; eat low-fat and fat-free yogurt, skim milk, and low-fat cheeses.

Eat Appropriate Portions: An 8-oz. cup of dairy is one serving, which equals 300-400miligrams calcium; 1-2 ounces of cheese would be one serving (you can't have as much cheese because of the calories); an 8-oz. container of yogurt and 8 ounces of low-fat milk are single servings. These three things are a good example of the amount of dairy foods a person watching his or her weight should eat.

Watch Caloric Intake: Overall, if you are looking to lose weight you have to have a calorie deficit between the amount of calories you consume and the amount you expend. Read labels and count calories.

And if you are concerned about hormones in milk, eat organic and vary your sources of dairy.

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