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Low-Fat or Full-Fat Dairy Milk?

low-fat or full-fat milk - INside Out Nutrition

Introduction to Dairy Milk and Its Nutritional Profile

Cow’s milk is a highly nutritious drink, containing abundant nutrients that can help support and maintain growth and development across the lifecycle. 

Some people may fear milk due to its fat content; however, when we look at the nutritional profile of milk, it is composed of 3.5% fat. A food is classified as high fat if it contains over 17.5g of fat per 100g and low fat if it contains less than 3g of fat per 100g. When we look at liquids, low fat is less than 1.5g fat per 100 ml. Therefore, milk is nowhere near being high in fat. 

The Difference between Full Fat and Low Fat Dairy Milk

A glass of whole milk (200mls) will provide you with about 7g fat and 6g protein. While a glass of low-fat milk will provide about 2g of fat and similar protein content. If you switch from whole milk to low-fat milk, this would reduce your fat intake by about 5g for every 200 ml of milk you drink. So, the point I’m trying to make is that there is no reason to stress over ‘full fat’ vs low-fat milk. A more substantial way to lower your overall fat intake would be to cut down on the amounts of animal fats you consume, such as switching butter for olive oil when cooking or replacing half your portion of meat with plant-based proteins, i.e. beans/pulses/legumes. 

Here is a closer look at the nutritional profile of both full-fat and low-fat milk. As you can see from the tables below, they are both nutritionally very similar. 

Here is a breakdown of the nutritional content of regular, low-fat and fortified milk.  Of importance is that the calcium content of full-fat, low fat and skimmed milk is the same.  

Is full-fat milk good for you? 

  low-fat or full-fat milk - Inside Out Nutrition

Is low-fat milk good for you? 

low-fat or full-fat milk - Inside Out Nutrition

The Nutritional Profile of Fortified Milk

Often people can notice taste changes made to low-fat milk due to the processes it undergoes to remove some of the fat content. Low-fat milk is often referred to as less creamy compared to whole milk. This may make low-fat milk more/less desirable for people. Interestingly, Irish research has shown that 61% of Irish adults prefer whole milk and that 51% of Irish adults prefer to consume low-fat, skimmed or fortified milk. So, the jury is still out there. 

The Importance of Vitamin D in Milk & Its Benefits

When we look at fortified milk, however, this is milk which has vitamins and minerals added to it. These include essential nutrients like extra calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and folic acid. This gives fortified milk an enhanced nutrient quality compared to non-fortified versions and maybe a simple way to include more vitamins in your diet. Such an example is vitamin D. It has been found that about 90% of Irish adults do not consume enough vitamin D. By switching your regular milk to a fortified variety, it can help to increase your vitamin D intake significantly per glass, so drink up!

Fortified whole milk 

low-fat or full-fat milk - INside Out Nutrition

Take Home Message – Choosing the Right Milk for Your Diet

The type of milk you choose to drink is up to you. Full fat, low fat, skimmed or fortified are all nutritious varieties and can all fit within a healthy balanced diet. All dairy is good to help support and maintain strong bones and muscle mass. Drink up!

References 

  1. Irish Universities National Alliance (IUNA). National Adult Nutrition Survey. 2011. 
  2. Food Safety Authority of Ireland. Information on nutrition and health claims [Internet]. 2015 [cited 2022 Feb 2]. Available from: https://www.fsai.ie/publications_nutrition_healthclaims/
  3. McCance and Widdowson’s composition of foods integrated dataset (CoFID) [Internet]. GOV.UK. [cited 2022 Feb 7]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/composition-of-foods-integrated-dataset-cofid