by Maryann Tomovich Jacobsen, MS, RD
In recent years skim milk has been targeted as a drink that’s no longer good for health — and waistlines. When the article, “Is Skim Milk Making You Fat?” circulated the internet I found myself getting a bit defensive. And then the questions started coming in:
Should I switch to whole milk or reduced fat?
Will skim milk cause me to gain weight?
The truth? I have been drinking skim milk for years. While I used to buy more low fat and fat free products than I do now, fat-free milk has stayed. And I’ll tell you why.
Skim milk and weight Control
I don’t choose skim milk for weight control, I drink it because I want to leave room more for healthier fats that come from plant foods and fish. For example, my morning oatmeal includes a handful of walnuts which adds a hearty 20 grams of fat, and that keeps me nice and satisfied. Do I really need to add milk fat on top of that?
The problem with the skim-milk-makes-people-fat argument is the assumption that low or fat free milk drinkers also eat very low fat diets. After all, research shows that such low fat diets are not particularly heart healthy because fat is often replaced with refined carbs — and this is not good for weight because of the satiety factor.
But not all skim-milk drinkers are fearful of fat — we just are picky where our fat comes from.
I heart cheese more than milk
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people consume 10% or less of their calories from saturated fat. For a 2000 calorie diet that’s roughly 20g. I drink milk when I get a latte, eat cereal and cook certain dishes.
The truth is I prefer other sources of saturated fat over milk to fill my 20g allotment. For example, I enjoy cheese — not fat-free cheese– but regular cheese. I mostly use olive oil for cooking, but sometimes only butter will do. And there’s saturated fat in some of the protein foods that I prepare for my family.
Bottom line: I constantly strive for balance when it comes to the amounts and types of fat in my diet. (but I admit to using whole milk in my coffee)
There are bigger fish to fry
I think this focus on skim milk is missing the point — and overlooking another problem. According to a 2009 review published in Eating Behavior, energy intake from sweetened beverages has increased by greater than 200 calories in recent decades. Research demonstrates that such beverages do not decrease food intake at meals (low satiety factor), so those are just extra calories that most people don’t need.
Does anyone really think that getting Americans to drink whole milk is going to help them manage their weight? Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against someone choosing whole milk as a beverage. But I can’t find any convincing evidence that getting more fat from milk is beneficial for the health and weight of adults.
But if we could get people to drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, we might be onto something.
What do you think? Do you drink milk? And if you do, what type do you drink (and why)?