A couple of weeks ago I broke the big news that cereal is junk food. All of it. Even your high fiber oat flakes. Next up to bat: skim milk (or for that matter 1% or 2% too).
There are so many topics to discuss when it comes to milk: organic vs. conventional, pasteurized vs. raw, grass-fed vs. grain-fed cows, homogenization, and whether to drink milk at all. Today we're mostly focusing on the myths and facts of skim and low fat versus whole fat milk, but you can read about many of the other issues here.
SKIM MILK MYTH #1: Organic skim milk is part of my healthy diet – the USDA says so too!
FACT: Your skim milk, organic or not, is a highly processed food. When your milk is pasteurized it undergoes high heat, killing all the microbes, good and bad. This leaves the milk inert and toxic to the human digestive tract leading to lactose intolerance, allergies, and a whole host of other issues.
Homogenization makes the milk a uniform thickness by putting the milk though a high pressure process to reduce the size of the fat particles. This process puts the milk at risk of rancidity.
Finally, the skimming process not only strips the milk of essential saturated fats, fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2 and healthy cholesterol; but also most reduced fat milks have powdered non-fat milk added which contributes toxic nitrates and oxidized cholesterol.
Up until WWII, skim milk was consider an inferior, undesirable product, and has since gone in and out of popularity seemingly based on political agenda. This is one of the many reasons I don't tend to put much stock in nutritional advice from the government.
SKIM MILK MYTH #2: Non-fat or low fat milk is preferred to their evil full-fat sister, because saturated fat causes heart disease and other health issues.
FACT: I've said this before, but it surely bears repeating – saturated fats are essential for health, are not the cause of disease, and are, in fact, a health food!
If you're a “show-me-the-studies” kind of person:
- Diets high in saturated fat actually have been shown to increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol and not affect LDL, the “bad” cholesterol (Journal of American College of Nutrition, 2004).
- Cholesterol does not clog arteries, and is essential for many functions in the body, including hormone production and regulation, proper digestion, and immune health.
- A fairly recent study actually shows that lowering cholesterol has no affect on plaque build-up in the arteries (American Journal of Cardiology, 2003).
The modern epidemic of heart disease should not be blamed on full fat milk, high- quality bacon, and delicious butter, but on unhealthy vegetable fats such as margarine, canola, corn, and soy oils as well as the groceries' aisles of other processed foods.
As mentioned above, reduced fat milks also contain dried milk powder (producers aren't required to label as such since it is a form of milk). Milk powder contains oxidized cholesterol, which is essentially rancid cholesterol that absolutely contributes to heart disease and other serious health conditions.
SKIM MILK MYTH #3: I drink skim milk because I want to stay thin.
FACT: Eating anything in excess will make you fat, but the reality is, when you eat nutrient dense foods rich in saturated fat, your body will become satiated faster and for a longer period of time than when you eat low-fat, nutrient deficient foods like a bowl of cereal with skim milk or an apple with fat-free cheese. It tends to be the carbs, sugar, and processed foods that make us fat because we can eat and eat and eat them and never feel satisfied for long, so we eat and eat some more.
So by all means, drink full fat organic milk and use real cream in soups and sauces. Your body will thank your for the nutrients, and if you've got curves when you look in the mirror, then blame your cereal, toast, pasta, and cake – not the fats.
SKIM MILK MYTH #4: I get all the calcium I need from skim milk plus essential vitamin D.
FACT: Skim milk will leave you skimped on nutrition. While skim milk may contain calcium, it is missing the fat and cholesterol you need to assimilate the nutrients in milk. The vitamin D that fortifies most commerical milk is D2, known to be toxic to the liver. Cream from grass-fed cows naturally contains vitamins D3, A, and K2 – fat soluble vitamins in their natural form that are essential to good health. Simply put, full-fat milk from grass-fed cows will provide you with the nutrition you need, not skim.
SKIM MILK CONUNDRUM: Nevermind. This is too confusing. I'm going to skip cow's milk altogether and go with soy, rice, or almond milk.
SOLUTION: Soy is not a good food for human consumption unless it's been fermented (as is traditionally made soy sauce or tempeh). Read why here. Even unsweetened packaged milk-alternatives contain lots of added sugar and preservatives. Real milk from grass-fed cows is a nutrient-dense, traditional health food. Ideally, this milk will be unpasteurized and non-homogenized. You can find out more about the benefits of raw milk from pastured cows here.
So, in order of best to worst:
- Full-fat (whole) raw milk from grass-fed cows raised on pasture – drink it in abundance if it feels good in your body.
- Pasteurized full-fat (whole) organic milk from grass-fed cows raised on pasture – if raw isn't available.
- Pasteurized, homogenized full-fat (whole) organic milk from grass-fed cows raised on pasture.
- Homemade “nut” milks (coconut, almond, cashew, etc.)- If your system can't tolerate dairy or you don't have access to milk from grass-fed cows.
Avoid all (in no particular order):
- Non-organic milk
- Ultra-pasteurized milk and cream
- Reduced fat and non-fat milk and dairy products
- All soy milk
- Packaged rice, oat or nut milks
Still have Q's about skim milk? Ask below!