Is Whole Milk Better Than Low-Fat?

milk coffee

Milk is the world’s most consumed beverage. It’s easily available and doesn’t require much preparation before drinking it. When it comes to dairy products, you’ll be spoilt for choice; there is skim milk, low-fat milk, full-fat milk and an array of other products. For long, we believed that taking low-fat milk was healthier than whole milk. Nutritionists and scientists alike have questioned the facts behind these findings and reports are emerging that skim or low-fat milk may not be as healthy as we thought.

Whole Milk Vs Low-Fat Milk Vs Skim Milk

Fat has taken different turns in the health and nutrition world. A few years back, it was seen as an enemy and was blamed for causing all sorts of health problems, including obesity.

The use of low-fat and fat-free milk was first recommended in the 1970s. But, recent scientific studies show that there is no evidence connecting full-fat milk to health conditions. On the contrary, whole milk contains other nutrients that have been stripped from low-fat and skim milk. Plus, they taste better and offer satisfaction for longer. There are three different kinds of milk and they may serve different purposes.

  • Whole Milk – fat content is 7.9g, omega 3 183 mg, carbs 12.8 g, protein 7.9 g.
  • Low-fat milk – fat content is 2.4 g, omega 3 is 9.8 mg, carbs 12.7 g, protein 8.2 g.
  • Skim milk – fat content is 0.2 g, omega 3 is 2.5 mg, carbs 12.5 g, protein 7.9 g.

Also called regular milk, the fat content in whole milk has not been altered. For this reason, whole milk carries more calories, 146, compared to other types. However, the amount of carbs (12.8g) and protein (7.9) in whole milk is only slightly different to that of low-fat and skim milk. One significant difference is the amount of omega 3 fatty acids. Whole milk contains 183 mg compared to 2.5 mg for skim milk and 9.8 mg for low-fat milk. In other words, the higher the fat content a glass of milk contains the higher the omega 3 content and the more the calories.

Full-Fat Milk is Unhealthy: Myth or Fact?

glass milk outdoor

For decades, the belief that saturated fat in full-fat milk increased cholesterol levels led many people to switch to low-fat milk. However, recent research dispels these findings. One study examining the effects of saturated fat in red meat and dairy found that saturated fatty acids in meat increased the risk of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, saturated fatty acids from dairy lowered the risk of cardiovascular diseases. From this research, we can conclude that the saturated fats in milk increase both LDL (bad) cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol, therefore maintaining the balance.

In another study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, researchers examined the relationship between dairy fat and obesity and cardiovascular conditions. Results show that the group that consumed full-fat milk were less likely to develop obesity. Additionally, taking full-fat milk didn’t cause type 2 diabetes or heart diseases. To support these findings, separate research showed that a group of women who consumed whole milk over a period of nine years ended up gaining 30 percent less weight compared to the group that consumed low-fat milk. The low-fat group was also found to be at a higher risk of being obese.

Is Whole Milk the Healthier Choice

Several factors make whole milk more nutritious, hence healthier than low-fat milk.

Omega-3 Fats

Not all fats are bad. Trans fats and omega-6 polyunsaturated fats like those found in vegetable oils are the ones to avoid. Omega-3 fats are beneficial and play a huge role in preventing heart conditions. They also lower inflammation and improve heart functioning.

Fat Content

The daily recommended saturated fat intake should be less than 20 g. Considering that whole milk contains approximately 8 g of fat, one glass of milk daily can’t be that harmful. However, nutritionists suggest that it might help to alternate between consuming a glass or two of whole milk and low-fat milk to keep fat content at a minimum.

Carbs and Protein

Skim milk, whole milk, and low-fat milk contain almost the same amount of carbs and proteins. This doesn’t make a significant change in your body regardless of the type of milk you consume.

Whole Milk and Weight

A huge percentage of the American population avoid drinking whole milk with the assumption that they will gain weight because of the calories. But the opposite seems to be true. Research shows that taking lots of whole milk lowers the risk of obesity. A study on more than 1,500 men concluded that those who increased their intake of full-fat or whole milk registered a 48 percent lower chance of increasing their waistline compared to the group that consumed low-fat milk.

There have been numerous research to determine the link between high-fat dairy products and weight. Most concluded that drinking plenty of whole milk actually lowered and helped to manage weight. Low-fat milk, on the other hand, is nutrient-rich, which means that you get plenty of nutrients without the calories. If you are on a low-calorie diet, low-fat or skim milk is your best option.

Food for Thought

It all boils down to your preferences and lifestyle goals. If you’re overweight and can’t afford more calories in your diet, low-fat milk will still provide the essential nutrients. However, if you maintain a healthy weight, consuming whole milk is more beneficial. Plus, whole milk lowers the risk of heart conditions and metabolic syndrome.

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