“Low fat, No fat, Full cream, High calcium, High protein, Soy, Light, Skim, Omega 3, High calcium with Vitamin D and Folate or Extra dollop? Remember that ad on TV?
When did milk become so confusing? When it comes to milk and dairy, there is so much conflicting advice out there that it makes it difficult to decide what to choose. Know the facts and then you can decide what is right for you.
What are the different classifications of milk?
- Whole milk or Full cream/fat milk is around 3.5% fat
- Reduced-fat milk contains 2% fat.
- Low–fat milk contains 1% fat.
- Skim contains no more than 0.2% milk fat.
Full fat dairy: Higher fat content (particularly saturated fat), therefore has more calories. This is not necessarily a downfall as fat slows down digestion which can assist in keeping you feel fuller for longer. Being fuller for longer can mean less snacking. With this said, we know that high intakes of saturated fat can contribute to increased risk of cardiovascular disease or high cholesterol levels.
Note: The Heart Foundation has recently changed its recommendations around dairy (2019 position statement). The position statement states that there is not enough evidence to recommend full fat over reduced fat products or reduced fat over full fat. Moderate consumption of full fat dairy does not increase risk of cardiovascular disease. However, it is still recommended that those with existing heart disease or high cholesterol should choose low fat dairy products.
Low fat dairy: Lower calorie due to lower fat content. If you enjoy milk and your goal is to reduce calorie intake, this may be a good option for you.
Note: Low fat dairy does not have sugar added to it. The nutrition label tells us this. The “sugar” that is in milk is called lactose. The reason that low fat milk appears to have slightly higher sugar content is because when you take out the fat, you are left with more concentrated amounts of milk sugar (lactose), water and protein.
Skim: The lowest calorie option. Some may argue that it tastes quite watery. If you prefer skim milk then you do you. It is worth noting, however, that when the fat is removed from the milk, fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) are also removed. Some brands may add these back in, such as PhysiCAL adding vitamin D.
What about calcium?
There is a marginal difference between the amount of calcium in dairy milk though many of the lower-fat milks provide more calcium per 100ml than the full fat version. Skim milk has around 330mg/100ml whilst whole milk has around 292mg/100ml.
Plant based milks
Soy milk: the most comparative milk to dairy in terms of calcium content and nutritional profile. When choosing soy milk, look for an unsweetened option.
Almond/oat/ rice milks: lower calorie option if this is what you prefer. When choosing a plant based alternative, choose an unsweetened and calcium fortified option as plant milks naturally have very little calcium.
Lactose-free: there is no extra benefit in having lactose-free dairy unless you have lactose intolerance.
For more information, see an APD about the right milk choice for you.