What's the Difference in Whole vs. Low-Fat Milk?

July 09, 2015

Whole milk seems to be making a come-back, according to USDA data on milk sales during the first three months of 2015. Full-fat yogurt is also on the rise.

Though it’s not completely clear what is driving the renewed interest in whole milk, people responding to a survey in 2014 say “better taste” is a reason for switching to a higher fat milk. Many people indicate they are drinking higher fat milk because their family does and they want to buy only one milk type. People also perceive it as healthier and more nutritious. According to trends data, people’s interest in eating reduced fat or lite foods has been falling over the last four years or so. Could it also be that people may have less fear of fat due to emerging research in the news challenging long-held beliefs about fat and heart disease risk?

Consequently, you may be getting questions from clients, friends and family about what type of milk they should drink. There are so many choices today; it can be overwhelming. You can feel good knowing that all cow’s milk, regardless of type, contains the same nine essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein, vitamin B12 and vitamin A.

Here are a few other facts to share with people as you help them gain perspective and choose the type of milk that’s right for them and their families:

  • The main difference between the types of milk is the amount of fat, which also is reflected in total calorie differences among different types of milk.
  • The Dietary Guidelines recommends that people choose low-fat and fat-free foods first to meet calorie needs. As people are becoming increasingly aware of the recent conversations about the role fats can play in a health-promoting diet, some may need your help in balancing higher and lower-calorie options. You can help your clients decide how to best “spend” their discretionary calories and choose foods based on their individual health needs. Find out more here.
  • Virtually all milk, regardless of fat level, is fortified with 100 IU of vitamin D3 per 8 ounce serving. Some people may wonder whether vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin, is better absorbed from whole vs. low-fat or fat-free milk. To our knowledge, there are no scientific studies that have demonstrated this. Most studies show that as long as a person consumes some fat at meals and snacks throughout the day, vitamin D from food and supplements will be absorbed – though other variables may affect vitamin D absorption.

I hope this discussion has been helpful as you educate people on how to balance their food choices to meet personal health goals. Let me know if you have other questions about dairy foods we can help you answer.


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