Milk is milk, right? Not so fast. Many people confuse the facts when it comes to low-fat versus fat-free milk.
The only major difference between the two is that low-fat milk has more fat than fat-free milk. Just to clarify, fat-free milk, skim milk and nonfat milk all describe milk with zero fat grams. Low-fat milk can be 2 percent or 1 percent. Percentages refer to the percentage of milk, by weight, that is fat particles.
Now that the terminology is clear, remember that the fat in low-fat or whole milk is mostly saturated fat. While saturated fat has received attention for its ability to raise levels of good cholesterol, it’s important to remember that it also raises total cholesterol.
Though trans fats are the worst in regard to heart disease, saturated fat has also been show to increase cardiovascular risk and the risk for other potentially fatal diseases and certain cancers.
As always, it’s what you eat the rest of the day that matters when determining which milk to drink.
A cup of 2 percent milk contains 120 calories and almost 5 grams of fat (3 saturated). A cup of skim milk contains 80 calories and 0 grams of fat. Skim milk also has a slightly higher amount of calcium.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says toddlers should be switched to low-fat or skim milk at age 2 because the excess fat is not necessary after this age. Between one and two years old, the extra fat aids in brain development and encourages appropriate calorie intake.
Now comes the issue of taste. If your child won’t drink skim milk, getting the extra fat in 2 percent is worth getting them to drink milk. Calcium recommendations are hard to meet without milk intake. Likewise, if the child is underweight or has a poor appetite, choosing 2 percent milk may help him/her meet overall nutrient requirements.
We need to look at how our food and drink intake balances out during the day.
If saturated fat makes up more than 7 percent of calories, we should choose skim milk. For a 2,000 calorie diet, 7 percent of calories is only 16 grams of saturated fat. If a person drinks 3 cups of 2 percent milk, this is more than half of their allowance of saturated fat.
See how easy it would be to over-consume saturated fat when drinking 2 percent milk? On the other hand, a very active person would need more calories, therefore would have a higher allowance for saturated fat and be able to “afford” the 2 percent choice!
If you’ve read my blogs before, you know I always find a way to bring it back to exercise!