I used to think drinking skim milk was a way to declare my health consciousness to all. It was clearly the healthy choice over the abominable whole milk! Skim milk is clearly better than Whole Milk, right?
As nutrition gets more and more confusing, I find even my “set in stone” health principles shake and fall to the wayside. In my quest to adopt a whole foods diet, I just assumed milk was a mainstay and skim milk, that most virtuous. oops.
For those, like me, who figured drinking skim was the healthy way to consume the dairy that TV told me my body needed, here is food for thought:
I am still figuring the fine details of my family’s “diet,” but I do know that I only want to include whole foods, designed by someone who knows better than McScientists what components we need to thrive. Given that milk doesn’t come out of a cow skim (or even 2%), it is safe to assume that skim is not a whole food choice. Sadly, it gets more complicated than that.
Michael Pollan, in his awesome book In Defense Of Food, said it very well: “To make dairy products low-fat, it’s not enough to remove the fat. You then have to go to great lengths to preserve the body or creamy texture by working in all kinds of food additives. In the case of low-fat or skim milk, that usually means adding powdered milk. But powdered milk contains oxidized cholesterol, which scientists believe is much worse for your arteries than ordinary cholesterol…”
He goes on to say that removing the fat from the milk also makes it much harder for your body to use the fat soluble vitamins in milk, the reason you probably bought it in the first place! Fat soluble vitamins include A, D, E, and K. Vitamin D is essential to utilize calcium, one of milk’s biggest claims to fame!
I’ve also read that skim milk is harder on your body than whole, because while whole milk has the fat in it to satiate you, skim is, instead, a higher concentration of milk sugars (including lactose which some people can’t tolerate.) Also, you are apt to drink more because skim is less filling.
For those concerned about the extra calories, your consumption of milk will most likely decrease if you switch to whole milk so you will get added nutrition and fewer calories. Try this out yourself. While on skim, we bought 5-7 gallons of milk each week. After switching to whole milk, we dropped to 3 or 4 gallons a week. (This is back when we purchased milk, before we had our own!)
For me, those were some surprising reasons to forgo the skim milk. Besides the fact that skim milk simply isn’t a whole food, it doesn’t have the same nutritional profile and can actually be harmful or problematic in my body. The only time I can figure skim milk is advantageous is if you are drinking with people likely to make you squirt milk out your nose.
Good, Better, Best
If you want to go deeper, into the good, better, best category…..whole milk is good, organic whole milk is better, and by far the best you can go is raw, pasture fed milk!! Why raw milk? For one, it has live enzymes in it…these same enzymes are dead, completely missing from pasteurized milk. This contributes to the trend of people who can’t digest milk anymore! Those who fear raw milk is unclean should know that the licensing involved for raw dairies is so much more rigorous than traditional commercial dairies that you will find hundreds of times the contamination at the grocery store! Pasteurizing milk was introduced in a time when tuberculosis was a rampant threat and sanitation was shaky. It is simply unnecessary if you are careful with milk handling. It does considerably more harm than good. But that is a post for another day.
I encourage you to try raw fresh milk. If you live close to me, try Utah Natural Meat for cow’s milk (and a host of other awesome range fed products) and if you have a hankering for goat….Drake Family Farms in West Jordan sells raw goat milk. Or, talk to me in the spring after our goats kid.
Here is an online source to help you find raw milk near you.
As for my family, we went from exclusively skim store-bought to only whole. Most of the time, our own fresh goat milk. On the off-season (we miss our milk desperately!) we buy one or two gallons a week at the store of organic. When I can afford it, we buy one gallon of raw cows milk. Sometimes, we simply go without until the happy day we are swimming in fresh milk again! You choose what works best for your family, but I hope this helps you consider whether skim is the healthy choice you thought it was!
PS Those skim drinkers who complain that whole milk tastes too thick will find your tastes will adapt. After drinking real milk for so long, skim milk tastes watery and pasteurized milk tastes flat. You will probably find you use milk more as a “food” than as a “beverage” when you first change from skim to whole.