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?