Food Fallacies: Whole Milk vs. Skim Milk

You come to the refrigerator aisle, and behind the glass doors a collection of plastic jugs awaits your choice: whole, 2%, 1%, or skim milk? Well, surely whole milk is out of the picture–that’s too much fat; 2% and 1% sound better, and skim is the best for a diet, right? Uh, no.

The first misconception is that whole milk has nowhere as much fat in it as it may sound. This isn’t exactly the fault of the consumers, though; whoever named it way-back-when is at fault. “Whole milk” just sounds like ‘wholly fat’, ‘100% fat’, and ‘just plain a lot of fat’, but that’s misleading. Milk is not completely made of fat (although I was certainly fooled into thinking so when I was younger); depending on the breed of cow, whole milk can be somewhere from 3.0% – 6.0% fat. The stuff on the supermarket shelves is usually somewhere around 3.25%.

So there’s the first thing out of the way–the percentages aren’t that different. But when it comes to health, what’s best? If you’re trying to cut back on calories, isn’t it better to choose milk with less fat? Well, maybe not. Your body feels it when you’re not getting enough fat calories, and compensates by getting you to consume more carbohydrates and simple sugars, which have been shown to be clearly more weight-putting than fat calories. Thus, those who drink skim milk are actually much more likely to be overweight than those who drink whole milk.

Death to misconception: Whole milk is 3.25% fat, and skim milk is actually more likely to help you put on weight.

But okay, maybe you’re drinking skim milk to try and lower your risk of heart disease. The old rumors say that saturated fat is linked to high cholesterol and the like, but of course, that’s since been disproven; it’s the partially hydrogenated, or trans fats which aren’t so cool. In total, though, it’s still up in the air on whether skim or whole milk is truly better for your heart.

Other small points for each side are that whole milk has many nutrients that skim milk no longer does, but the absence of fat in skim increases the ability of your body to absorb calcium from the milk itself.

So, in the end, weigh out the benefits of each side, and choose for yourself. Kids are probably better with whole milk (so that they are at lower risk of being overweight) and elders are probably better with skim milk (because of the heart disease stuff). Personally, I’m compromising with 1%. And come on, doesn’t anyone else think skim milk tastes absolutely gross?


Food Fallacies: Whole Milk vs. Skim Milk

Food Fallacies: Natural and Artificial Flavors

(As a forenote, I’ve neglected this blog for a bit due to a combination of perfectionism and a busy March. I’m still trying to figure out what sort of quality standards I have, but there is one thing I have decided: I’m a jack of all trades, and I’ll blog about any trade that interests me.)

One of the most heated discussions these days is what to eat and what not to eat–which product advertisements to believe and what chemicals are unfit for ingestion. Unfortunately, too many popular lines of thinking are myths, and ever since I started learning about food science in 2011, I’ve dreamed of spreading the truth. I bring you death to the misconceptions in “Food Fallacies”.

“No artificial flavors”, advertises the front of the box. “Naturally flavored,” claims the next. The word ‘natural’ just sounds so much better than ‘artificial’, doesn’t it? You hear ‘artificial’ and imagine scientists in a lab, creating strange reactions and performing horrifying mutilations on our to-be food. On the other hand, the word ‘natural’ triggers thoughts of wild nature–perhaps a flowing grassy field or a family-run farm. But when it comes to the terms ‘natural flavors’ and ‘artificial flavors’, the two have only one, small difference.

Firstly, everything is made of chemicals. Everything! Everything you can see right now, and especially every food you’ve ever put into your mouth. It’s just a question of which are the ‘bad’ ones. So there’s the first point–both natural and artificial flavors are chemicals.

So what’s the definition when it comes to these terms, according to the FDA?

The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional […].

The term artificial flavor or artificial flavoring means any substance, the function of which is to impart flavor, which is not derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof […].

So in the end, the main difference is the source, the derivation of the ingredients in the flavorings. Natural flavorings come from ‘natural’ sources, and artificial flavors are often made from scratch.

The main lie in the belief that natural flavorings are better than artificial ones is that natural flavorings are no less processed and man-made than artificial flavorings. Sometimes they even contain more chemicals! The only difference in the labeling is the source, and who knows how much ‘mutilation’ they do to that source after they collect it.

Death to misconception: Natural flavors aren’t any better than artificial flavors, and sometimes can be worse.

Footnote: I’m just being relative; I haven’t judged upon the absolute ‘good’-ness or ‘bad’-ness of flavorings for you in general.

More reading/citations:

Food Fallacies: Natural and Artificial Flavors