Skim Milk vs. Whole Milk: Which Is Better for You? - Dr. Axe

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Skim Milk vs. Whole Milk: Which Is Better for You?


Skim milk - Dr. Axe

Skim milk has been considered a classic breakfast staple for decades. However, it has also become a controversial ingredient, with new studies emerging left and right discussing either why skim milk is bad or debating its potential impact on bone strength, heart health and more.

While it’s true that skim milk is low in fat and a great source of several nutrients, there are some drawbacks to consider with this dairy product, along with several reasons you may want to opt for whole milk instead.

Keep reading for a few of the top skim milk benefits and disadvantages, plus some simple recommendations for your next shopping trip.

What Is Skim Milk?

Take a stroll down the dairy aisle of your local supermarket and you may notice that there are several types of milk available, each of which varies based on its respective fat content.

Whole milk contains the highest amount of fat, with around 3.25 percent milk fat. Meanwhile, low-fat and skim milk are each produced by removing a portion of the fat from whole milk, resulting in a final product that is lower in total fat and calories.

Skim milk, also called nonfat milk, is a type of milk that typically contains 0.5 percent milk fat. Because of its lower fat content, it is also much lower in calories, with just 58 percent of the amount of calories of whole milk in each cup.

Similar to other types of milk, skim milk can be found in several different forms. Skim milk powder, for instance, is produced by removing the water from skim milk, resulting in a product with a much longer shelf-life. Canned, evaporated and sweetened condensed skim milk varieties are also widely available.

Related: What Is Lactase? How It Helps Manage Lactose Intolerance & More

Skim Milk vs. Whole Milk

The main difference between skim milk vs. whole milk is the fat content. Whole milk has not been altered or modified in any way, whereas other varieties like low-fat or skim milk are produced by removing a portion of fat from the milk. While whole milk usually contains approximately 3.25 percent milk fat, skim varieties generally contain less than 0.5 percent.

Because fat is high in calories, there are fewer calories in skim milk than whole milk. One cup of skim milk contains about 86 calories, for example, while a cup of whole milk provides 146 calories.

There are a few other minute variations between the whole milk vs. skim milk nutrition facts as well, especially when it comes to the amount of omega-3 fatty acids present in each serving. Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of essential fatty acid that have been shown to improve immune function, alleviate inflammation, enhance heart health and more. Because it’s higher in fat, whole milk contains a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids per serving than skim or low-fat varieties.

Most cooking and baking recipes call for whole milk rather than skim, as the extra fat can enhance the flavor and texture of the final product. Whole milk can also help add moisture to baked goods to keep them tender and soft.

If using skim milk in place of whole milk, you may need to adjust your recipe by adding a bit of extra butter or oil to improve the taste and texture.

Nutrition Facts

Like other types of milk, skim milk is highly nutritious. Each serving contains a low amount of skim milk calories but is rich in protein and important micronutrients like calcium, phosphorus and riboflavin.

One cup of non-fat milk contains the following nutrients:

  • 86 calories
  • 12.5 grams carbohydrate
  • 8.5 grams protein
  • 0.5 grams fat
  • 301 milligrams calcium (30 percent DV)
  • 247 milligrams phosphorus (25 percent DV)
  • 0.3 milligrams riboflavin (20 percent DV)
  • 0.9 micrograms vitamin B12 (16 percent DV)
  • 407 milligrams potassium (12 percent DV)
  • 0.8 milligrams pantothenic acid (8 percent DV)
  • 5.1 micrograms selenium (7 percent DV)
  • 27 milligrams magnesium (7 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams thiamine (6 percent DV)
  • 0.1 milligrams vitamin B6 (5 percent DV)
  • 127 milligrams sodium (5 percent DV)
  • 2.5 milligrams vitamin C (4 percent DV)

In addition to the nutrients listed above, the skim milk nutrition facts also contain a small amount of niacin, iron and copper.

Potential Health Benefits

Thanks to its impressive nutrient profile, there are several potential skim milk benefits.

1. High in Calcium

Milk is a great source of calcium, with around 30 percent of the daily recommended intake packed into a single one-cup serving. Calcium is an important micronutrient that plays a key role in bone health. In fact, it’s estimated that approximately 99 percent of the body’s calcium is stored directly in the bones and teeth.

Some studies have found that calcium intake may be associated with increased bone mineral density and a lower risk of fractures. Consuming enough calcium may also help protect against osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak, brittle bones and a higher risk of broken bones and fractures.

2. Low in Calories

Because most of the fat has been removed from the final product, skim milk is much lower in calories than whole milk. This makes it a great option for those on a low-calorie diet, as it can help provide an array of important nutrients without significantly ramping up calorie consumption. W

ith less than 100 calories per cup, each serving of skim milk offers over eight grams of protein, plus a good amount of calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B12.

3. Good Source of Protein

Skim milk is an excellent source of protein, with a whopping 8.5 grams in each cup. Protein is crucial to several aspects of health, including muscle growth, tissue repair, vascular function and immune health. A deficiency in this key nutrient can cause serious side effects, ranging from stunted growth to muscle wasting, weakness and an increased risk of illness and infection.

Not only that, but getting enough protein in your diet may also aid in weight control. Studies show that protein can help reduce levels of ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” while also decreasing appetite and caloric intake.

4. May Contain Vitamin D

Milk is often enriched with vitamin D, an important fat-soluble vitamin that is found naturally in very few food sources. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D can be synthesized by the skin in response to sun exposure. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common, affecting up to 50 percent of the population worldwide.

In addition to promoting calcium absorption to support better bone health, some research shows that vitamin D could impact a number other conditions as well, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression. For those who don’t get regular exposure to sunlight, consuming a variety of vitamin D foods can be incredibly beneficial for health.

Risks and Side Effects

Many people prefer skim milk over whole milk due to its lower content of saturated fat. But while saturated fat has long been vilified as an unhealthy, artery-clogging ingredient, more and more emerging research has found that it may not be as unhealthy as was once assumed.

A massive 2014 review published in Annals of Internal Medicine compiled the results of 76 studies and found that there was no direct link between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. Other studies show that saturated fat may help boost levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol and could be tied to a lower risk of death from stroke.

Despite having a higher calorie count, some other studies suggest that full-fat dairy products could also be more beneficial for your waistline. In fact, one review out of Seattle showed that increased intake of high-fat dairy products was actually associated with a lower risk of obesity.

Another study conducted in Sweden reported that women who drank at least one serving of whole milk each day were less likely to gain weight over a nine-year period than those who regularly consumed low-fat dairy products.

Furthermore, other research suggests that high-fat dairy products could also protect against metabolic syndrome, a group of conditions that can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Keep in mind that both skim and whole milk should be avoided by those with lactose intolerance or an allergy to milk. Cow’s milk is also not suitable for those following a dairy-free or vegan diet.

Finally, when buying milk, it’s best to pick organic, grass-fed products whenever possible. In addition to boasting a higher amount of heart-healthy fatty acids, opting for organic milk can also help minimize exposure to the antibiotics or hormones that may be found in conventional dairy.

Final Thoughts

  • What is skim milk? Skim milk is a type of milk that is made by removing the fat from whole milk.
  • In addition to being low in fat and calories, skim milk is also rich in calcium, protein and vitamin D, along with an assortment of other important micronutrients.
  • However, studies show that whole milk could offer additional benefits, especially when it comes to weight management, heart health and disease prevention.
  • Skim milk is not suitable for those following a vegan or dairy-free diet or those with lactose intolerance or an allergy to milk.
  • If you do decide to incorporate more milk into your diet, be sure to select organic, grass-fed products whenever possible to maximize the nutritional quality and minimize your exposure to hormones and antibiotics.

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