Traditionally, people had the option to drink only dairy milk (whole milk), which, even today undergoes only basic processing. The natural taste, appearance, and the nutritional value of raw milk are almost maintained during processing. Whole milk is the best option for toddlers as it provides them with essential nutrients required for growth. When whole milk is processed and almost all fat is removed from it, it is called skim milk or fat-free milk, depending on the amount of fat removed.
Skim Milk Facts
Conventionally, skim milk was prepared by simply removing the thick top layer of fat or cream from the dairy milk. These days, machines help remove the fat completely. In the U.S., this type of milk is referred to as 'skim milk' while in Canada and U.K., it is known as 'skimmed milk'. Following are the nutritional components of 1 glass (16 oz) of skim milk.
- Fat - less than 0.5%
- Calcium - 316 mg
- Calories - 90
Fat-free Milk Facts
While skim milk is known for reduced level of fat, fat-free milk is known for a negligible amount of fat. Level of fat in skim milk can be less than 1% or it may be up to 2.5%. Fat content may vary according to the variety of milk. Generally, people are confused about dairy labels. The dairies label their products as '1% Milk' (containing 1% fat) and '2% Milk' (containing 2% fat); so as to give the consumer more options. Since people have become more conscious about fat content in each and every food item, dairies are also stressing on the words 'fat-free'. This type of labeling is a part of marketing strategy too. 'Fat-free' sounds better than 'skim' and thus sells more. In many countries, skim milk with a negligible amount of fat is sold under the label of fat-free milk. There, the dairies are allowed to label the milk as 'fat-free milk' or 'non-fat milk'. But it actually contains a small amount of fat. It is not completely free of fat as the name suggests.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently changed the laws for milk labeling. Four types of milk are recognized by the USDA. Types of milk are differentiated on the basis of the amount of fat (cream or butterfat) present in them. Following are the types of recognized milk:
- Whole milk - Minimum fat - 3.25%
- 2% Milk - Reduced fat content- 2.0 to 2.5%
- 1% Milk - Reduced fat - 1 to 1.5%
- Fat-free Milk - 0 to 0.5% fat
Which Type of Milk Should You Drink?
From the above discussion, it is quite clear that skimmed milk which contains 0.5% fat, is known as fat-free milk. 1% milk is the low fat milk. Both 1% and 2% milk can be considered as skim milk. Milk containing 0.5% fat is recognized as either fat-free milk or skim milk. Normally, one cup of skim milk or non-fat milk contains less than 0.5 gm of fat per cup. Skim milk (0.5% fat) and fat-free milk, being the same, do not portray any marked difference in their nutritional value. Fat-free milk is just the new term for marketing skim milk which has negligible fat.
We know that excessive consumption of saturated fat leads to heart diseases. So, adults can choose skim or low fat milk instead of whole milk. This can help reduce the chances of heart diseases. According to some experts, the procedure of making skim milk is wrong. After removing the fats, dry milk powder is added to the milk, in order to improve its protein content. This dry milk powder lacks in nutrients. Moreover, it can bring about oxidization of milk's cholesterol (though its level is low) which in turn can increase the risk for heart diseases.
Every type of milk has its own set of advantages and disadvantages, no matter what the level of fat content. Overweight people need to consume skim milk or fat-free milk; while underweight people may consume whole milk. Milk is a precious gift of nature and it is an invariable part of our diet. It is one of the most nutritious drinks known to us.