There you are, perusing the chilly refrigerated section of your favorite supermarket. Although you buy milk on almost every shopping trip, your mind goes through a familiar dance when faced with a wall of choices. Skim or whole? Is there a difference between 1% and 2% milk, and if so, are such small increments that important? You care about your health and maybe you’re even trying to lose weight, so you pull a carton of skim off the shelf and put it in your basket. But did that deliberation lead you to the right choice? Is skim milk good for you at all?
Despite the lower calorie count and purported benefits listed on the carton, the answer is no. In fact, skim milk started off as a by-product of cream production used to fatten pigs! Surprised? Dairy manufacturers once threw away fat-free milk after the cream was skimmed off. Thanks to a flawed, controversial study by Ancel Keys linking fat consumption to heart disease, they could start selling skim milk to health-conscious consumers. Is skim milk good for you, or just a company’s bottom line? Some CEOs and marketers got a raise, but you got stuck with milk that hardly lives up to its famous “does a body good” tagline.
Real milk has rightfully been associated with strong, healthy bodies. In addition to being the most famous source of bone-building calcium, milk serves up vitamins D, A, E, and K. At least that’s what whole milk provides. You won’t find any vitamin K in fat-free milk because it’s concentrated in butterfat. Not only does skim milk skimp on vitamin K, the vitamins it retains are all fat-soluble, meaning you won’t be able to absorb them anyways unless you pair your skim milk with a thick spread of butter or a block of cheese! Artificially synthesized vitamin D is often added to skim milk, but this vitamin D2 is not like the vitamin D3 humans absorb from sunlight. In fact, according to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the synthetic vitamin D2 is so poorly absorbed in the human body that it “should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods.”
Unfortunately, the problem with skim milk isn’t limited to the good nutrients it lacks. It also contains an ingredient that contributes to inflammation and plaque buildup in your arteries: powdered milk solids. What starts out as regular liquid milk oxidizes when processed into powder, forming toxic nitrates. Why would anyone add such a dangerous ingredient to a supposed health product? Because without it, skim milk actually has a chalky taste and watery texture totally unlike regular milk. It also has a light blue color, which tends to turn off consumers, even if it reminds them of the milk Luke Skywalker’s aunt served him in Star Wars.
If skim milk isn’t good for you, is it at least good for your waistline? Again, this is a swing and a miss for skim. The trend toward fat-free foods has actually coincided with the trend toward childhood obesity, as evidenced by a Harvard School of Public Health study which found that “skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.” The same is true in adults, owing to the fact that healthy fats are key in sending the message of fullness from your gut to your brain. Is skim milk good for you in any way? No. In simple terms, you’ll eat less, enjoy more, feel fuller, and be healthier after a glass of whole milk than skim.