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Is Skim Milk Unhealthy? The Surprising Truth!

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

is skim milk unhealthy

Is skim milk unhealthy? The answer might surprise you. Milk contains calcium and vitamin D, which are essential nutrients most Americans don't get enough of.

Vitamin D helps boost weight loss, fights depression, and lowers your risk of developing osteoporosis. Calcium is also useful for maintaining strong bones and muscle mass.

But vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it needs some fat to get absorbed efficiently.

Since skim milk doesn't contain fat, you might be wondering if you're better off drinking 2% or whole milk to reap the bone-protecting benefits of vitamin D.

Knowing more about the pros and cons of skim milk can help you make an informed choice.

Is skim milk unhealthy? Read on to find out.

Knowing more about protein, carbohydrates, dietary fat, vitamins, and minerals, and how much of each to consume, can maximize your energy and overall health. Here's what you need to know about macronutrients and micronutrients.

Is Skim Milk Unhealthy?

Skim milk has its benefits and drawbacks.

After hearing conflicting information about fat-free dairy foods, you might be confused.

Skim milk is loaded with essential nutrients, including:

  • Protein
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
  • B vitamins
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorous
  • Zinc

Skim milk only contains 80 calories in each one-cup portion, so it is often touted as promoting weight loss.

However, because skim milk is fat-free, it might not stimulate the same amount of vitamin D (and other fat-soluble vitamins) absorption as milk containing at least some fat.

Dietary fat also creates a feeling of satiety, which helps you feel full and lower your risk of overeating at mealtime.

Furthermore, skim milk might not be the best option if you're trying to get pregnant, or if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Learn how to create a healthier lifestyle and body with these 5 actionable tips!

Is Full-Fat Milk Healthy?

While skim milk has its pros and cons with regard to chronic disease risks, weight management, and fertility in women, so does full-fat milk.

Knowing more about the pros and cons of full-fat milk can help you decide if consuming it over skim milk is the right choice for you.

Chronic Disease Risk Factors

Many experts used to discourage consuming full-fat (whole) milk and other full-fat dairy foods because of their high saturated fat content, which was thought to increase your risk of high cholesterol and heart disease.

However, new evidence suggests that dairy fat is not associated with a higher risk of heart disease, weight gain, or type 2 diabetes as once thought, despite the fact that it's much higher in calories and fat than skim milk.

Researchers who conducted this research recommend consuming a variety of dairy products daily, even full-fat dairy foods.

Additional studies show that drinking two cups of whole milk doesn't adversely affect blood cholesterol, glucose, or insulin compared with skim milk, and whole milk may actually increase HDL cholesterol, which is the good cholesterol that helps protect against heart disease.

Healthy Weight Management

If you're trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, you might automatically steer clear of whole milk and other full-fat dairy foods.

However, you may not have to do so.

Studies show that high-fat dairy foods are not associated with obesity, specifically abdominal obesity, and could even help prevent future weight gain.

Why is this the case? It might be due to the effects of whole-milk and other full-fat dairy foods on satiety.

Regardless of the reason full-fat dairy foods appear to be beneficial for healthy weight management, you may want to opt for milk with at least some fat in it over skim milk.

Fertility

If you're trying to get pregnant, full-fat milk products might be the way to go.

Studies show that full-fat dairy foods are associated with a lower risk of ovulatory infertility in women compared to skim, 1% milk, and 2% milk.

Other studies have found inconsistent results, but many experts recommend women trying to get pregnant choose whole milk or whole-milk yogurt over fat-free versions of these foods.

Which Type of Milk Should I Choose?

You don't have to avoid skim milk if you love it, as it's an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals.

However, if you do choose skim milk, you might want to drink it with a source of dietary fat to optimize fat-soluble vitamin absorption and satiety.

Examples include nuts, seeds, nut butter, avocados, hummus, and cheese.

Different Types of Milk

In addition to skim milk, other options include 1% milk, 2% milk, whole milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and other plant-based milks.

Choose unsweetened plant milks (without added sugar) whenever possible.

Many plant milks contain more fat than skim milk, but not as much as whole cow's milk. Whole milk is often the highest in calories.

Milk Calorie Content

Different types of milk and their corresponding calorie contents (one-cup portion size) are listed below:

  • Whole milk: 150 calories
  • 2% milk: 120-130 calories
  • 1% milk: 110 calories
  • Skim milk: 80 calories
  • Unsweetened soy milk: 80 calories
  • Unsweet coconut milk: 40 calories
  • Unsweetened almond milk: 30 calories

While some plant-based milks are much lower in calories than cow's milk or soy milk, their protein content is usually much lower too, unless you choose plant-based milks fortified with protein.

Consider mixing your favorite protein powder with low-protein plant-milk to boost its nutritional content.

Fat, Protein, and Carbohydrate Content

In addition to varying calorie contents, milk products contain different amounts of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.

The following list shows the nutritional breakdown of different types of milks:

Whole Milk

  • 150 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 12 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 8 grams

2% Milk

  • 120-130 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 12 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams

1% Milk

  • 110 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 12 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 2-3 grams

Unsweet Soy Milk

  • 80 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 3 grams
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams

Unsweet Almond Milk

  • 30 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 1 gram
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 2-3 grams

Unsweet Coconut Milk

  • 40 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 1 gram
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams

Which Type of Milk is Right for Me?

The right type of milk for you depends on your preferences.

Choosing low-fat or full-fat milk and yogurt, or plant-based milk and yogurt, can help you reap all of the nutritional and health benefits associated with calcium-rich foods.

Pick lactose-free cow's milk or plant milk if you're lactose intolerant.

Is skim milk unhealthy? If you're still unclear about the answer to that question, here's the simple answer. Consume a variety of milk products.

You can still include fat-free milk in any healthy meal plan.

However, to reap the most health benefits associated with skim milk and its nutrients, consume some dietary fat with skim milk to optimize fat-soluble vitamin absorption.

Begin understanding how food affects your body and take your health to the next level!

How Much Milk Should I Drink?

The amount of milk, other dairy foods, or calcium-rich dairy equivalents women need daily is three servings (3 cups) per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

This amount helps you meet your body's daily calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other essential nutrient needs.

If you'd like, replace cow's milk with soy milk, almond milk, other plant-based milks, dairy-free yogurt, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or kefir.

If you're trying to become pregnant, choose milk or yogurt with at least some fat in it.

Should I Take Dietary Supplements?

It's generally a good idea to take a multivitamin supplement, to help avoid nutritional deficiencies and their complications.

Your doctor can let you know which dietary supplements for women, if any, are right for you.

Even if you take a multivitamin, sometimes calcium or vitamin D deficiency can still occur.

If you're consuming three servings of dairy foods and eating a nutritious diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and you still develop a deficiency, your doctor might recommend you take extra vitamin or mineral supplements in addition to a multivitamin.

For example, you might take a multivitamin supplement plus additional vitamin, calcium, or both as needed.

Ask your doctor about taking probiotics supplements, fiber supplements to enhance weight loss, or omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Some herbal supplements for women may help reduce hot flashes and other symptoms associated with menopause.

Additional Healthy Lifestyle Tips

In addition to consuming three servings of milk, other dairy foods, or calcium-rich equivalents daily, it's important to adopt other habits to maintain excellent health and disease prevention.

Increase Your Vegetable Intake

Many Americans don't consume enough vegetables and essential nutrients needed to achieve optimal health.

If you're not eating vegetables at each meal, work them into your daily menus.

Fill half of each plate with greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, zucchini, asparagus, mushrooms, green beans, or other non-starchy vegetables.

Corn, peas, potatoes, dried beans, lentils, and other legumes count as starches.

Aim to fill 1/4th of each plate with starchy foods and the other 1/4th of your plate with chicken, fish, eggs, tofu, or other nutritious protein foods.

Focus on Protein and Fat

Protein and fat are both satiety boosters, meaning they help you feel full for longer time periods.

That's one reason ketogenic diets are so popular for weight loss.

In fact, studies show that keto diets (high in fat, moderate in protein, and low in carbs) are more effective than low-fat diets for weight loss over the course of one year.

Skim milk, other cow's milks, and some plant milks are good sources of protein.

So is Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, protein shakes, low-sugar protein bars, kefir, eggs, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, tofu, seitan, and lean organic beef.

Additional foods that offer dietary protein include nuts, seeds, nut butters, and legumes.

Choose a variety of fats from dairy products, olive oil, other plant oils, fatty fish (tuna and salmon), nuts, seeds, olives, avocados, nut butters, and hummus.

Add healthy fat to each meal and snack to achieve optimal weight management and improved health.

How much protein do we need per day? Learn how to calculate your daily protein intake!

Drink Water

Drink enough water throughout the day to keep your metabolism and energy levels high, and lower your risk of overeating and unwanted weight gain.

Many women need at least 12 cups of water or other fluids every day.

Milk counts as part of this fluid recommendation!

Track your intake, and keep a water bottle with you throughout the day to ensure you meet fluid intake goals.

Pre-Plan Meals

To ensure you're getting the protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients your body needs daily, plan out your meals ahead of time.

Ensure each meal contains a non-starchy vegetable, protein food, fiber-rich starch, and healthy fat.

Add dairy foods or plant-based (calcium-rich) equivalents to meals or snacks three times daily.

If you have a busy work week, pre-prepare your meals on the weekends and place them in airtight containers in the refrigerator or freezer.

Simply heat the meals up during the week to ensure you and your family can eat nutritiously when you're tight on time.

This video will provide you with a guide to easy meal prep for weight loss for you and your busy family.

Consider Protein Shakes

Consume protein shakes between meals or in place of meals to help you meet daily protein, calcium, and other essential nutrient needs.

Women need at least 46 grams of protein every day, but many women, specifically athletes, can benefit from consuming about one gram of protein per pound of their desirable body weight daily.

Mix your favorite casein-, whey-, or plant-based protein powder with water, cow's milk, or plant milk and add your favorite fruit if you'd like! Or, choose a homemade protein shake recipe!

Complete Fat-Burning Workouts

Now that you're on track with healthy eating, incorporate fat-burning exercises into your everyday routine.

Consider Fit Mother Project workouts to build muscle, lose weight, and maintain a lean, fit body for a lifetime.

Create your own exercises at home if you're tight on time.

Combine resistance training with cardiovascular workouts to achieve optimal toning results.

For example, combine rope jumping, jumping jacks, high knees, or box jumps with pushups, sit-ups, squat-to-press, weighted lunges, biceps curls, and triceps extensions during circuit training workouts.

Consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT) while jogging, biking, rowing, or stair climbing.

During this type of workout, alternate high-intensity exercises with lower-intensity bouts.

Try this resistance band workout for weight loss! You can do it at home in under 30 minutes!

Join a Women's Nutrition and Fitness Program

Now that you've answered the question: is skim milk unhealthy, you can progress to the next step of weight loss and better health.

For more information about healthy eating, workouts, and weight loss, consider joining the Fit Mother Project.

Upon doing so you receive custom meal and menu plans, fat-burning workouts, recipes, health coaching support from medical experts, and much more!

Try a FREE FMP diet and workout to get started today!

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Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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