At Results Room the Real Food Programme helps guide our approach to food. We're always after the real food option that has been processed least or not at all. For this reason whether to eat dairy or not, or low-fat or not is an easy one. If you wish to eat dairy go with what feels good on your stomach, and that which has been processed least, ie. the full fat option.
Pasteurisation came about in the early 1900's as a fear of tuberculosis, botulism, and other diseases spread through the milk supply. While this was a legitimate concern during that time, even Louis Pasteur himself (the man who developed the technique) admitted the germ theory was not sound.
The dairy industry maintains that prevention of disease is the motive for pasteurising milk and its products. This seems unlikely as all outbreaks of salmonella in recent decades have occurred in pasteurised milk.
This process of heating the milk (which is designed to kill harmful bacteria) also kills important enzymes, vitamins and amino acids. These parts are unfortunately where all the goodness in milk is, and without these present, milk is reduced to a very nutrient poor version of itself.
Milk is commonly produced commercially by injecting cows with hormones so they produce a larger quantity of milk over a longer period. This has the effect of stressing cows, which can lead to mastitis (inflammation of the udder) as well as risking these hormones being passed into the milk, much as hormone fed chickens result in a risk of those same hormones being in the meat we eat.
Besides the danger of drinking milk produced by hormone pumped cows, there is also the fact that most of the nutrition is reduced through the pasteurisation process. This killing off of good bacteria leaves the milk coloured sugar-water which we see on supermarket shelves today. This milk has been processed to within an inch of its life; re-pumped full of additional vitamins, stripped of its fat content, and even put into light-proof bottles.
Another option is raw milk. Depending on your reference material, raw milk is more naturally full of health benefits, but still has some health risks. For this reason raw milk products should only be taken by adults educated in the benefits and risks involved.
There are two kinds of yoghurt out there. One is the kind of yoghurt consumed for thousands of years. It is natural and unsweetened, and often rather plain looking. It's been cultured with beneficial mico-organisms such as acidophilus and bifidus, which are helpful in gut health. These cultures assist in maintenance of good bacteria in the colon and the manufacture of important vitamins in the gut.
The other kind of yoghurt is probably more accurately called 'dessert'. These products are only made from commercial cows milk, are highly processed, full of sugar, and are cleverly marketed towards kids - often with healthful-sounding benefits reported eg. added fruit, extra vitamin C, or low fat. Avoid these coloured pottles of sugar at all costs.
Cheese (just like yoghurt) is only as good as its source material, and if you want to guarantee what you're eating you could look at making it yourself.
Failing that go for the naturally made cheeses. Unfortunately these are usually the more expensive kinds. This price premium reflects the more artisan approach to their making, and is a good indicator as to whether you're on the right track.
Cheese can be a good source of healthy fats and taken in moderation can be part of your Real Food approach to eating.