New recipes

8 Reasons Skim Milk Is Unhealthier Than 2% or Whole

8 Reasons Skim Milk Is Unhealthier Than 2% or Whole

There’s nothing more delightful than finding out that a favorite food — one which you considered a guilty pleasure — is actually kind of good for your health. Take red wine, for instance: some years ago, we thought this treat was merely an indulgence — just a bunch of empty calories, and full of alcohol and sugar to boot. But now we know that sipping red wine, in moderation of course, can actually help lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, and reduce the risk of depression, among other benefits.

8 Reasons Skim Milk Is Unhealthier Than 2% or Whole (Slideshow)

Remember thinking that a creamy guacamole dip was just the biggest extravagance? Now we know that adding avocado to your diet is one of the best things you can do for your body. They’re fatty, yes, but now we know that they’re packed full of good fats — and that’s not just an excuse you can repeat to yourself as you scoop a little extra onto your plate. It’s the truth: avocadoes can help lower blood pressure, strengthen the immune system, and may even prevent Alzheimer’s.

Chocolate used to be thought bad for you too — it was especially blamed for teenage acne and “problem skin,” and was just considered bad for your health in general. Now? Some of the unequivocally most awesome research studies ever performed have determined that the wealth of vitamin A in dark chocolate can actually brighten your skin up, and that chocolate contains health benefits that extend from warding off cancer to improving math scores. Plus, a bar of chocolate can heal mild contact with Dementors, so, you know, there’s that.

In this grand tradition of our favorite indulgence foods suddenly going good-for-you, it turns out that delicious, rich whole milk may actually be better for you than healthy-seeming two-percent or skim. We spoke with Deborah Enos, a certified nutritionist and board member of the American Heart Association, who gave us her opinion on the subject.

“I’ve been in health care for 26 years and I have never consumed a glass of non-fat milk nor have I ever recommended it,” she says. “Why? Since it’s fat-free it will never fill you up! Fat-free foods, dairy or otherwise, will just leave you feeling empty.”

That’s not to say that she recommends going crazy by downing cup after cup of cream and calling it a healthy choice.

“While I believe the ‘jury is still out’ when it comes to consuming large amount of full-fat milk, I have no issue with adding in a serving a day,” she told us.

Now if only we could coax a brilliant research scientists into determining that crème brûlée is actually critical for, um, improving kidney function and memory. We can’t guarantee they’d win any Nobel Prizes, but we’d nominate them for Best Scientists Ever.

Whole Milk or Skim? The Jury’s Still Out

Research is turning our notions about dietary fat on their ear as new studies show that whole-fat milk may protect us against diabetes. The confusion around this issue with whole milk derives, in part, from an idea that’s been around since the 1970s: “If you eat fat, you’ll get fat.”

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Nothing could be further from the truth, though it’s only recently that there’s some agreement about which fats are nourishing, says internal medicine specialist Roxanne B. Sukol, MD, MS.

Beginning a few decades ago, the nutrition field switched from a focus on quality to focusing on quantity, in the form of calories, to assess food value. With fat relatively high in calories, low-fat options like skim milk became staples in the American diet.

At the same time, rates of diabetes and obesity skyrocketed, and people began looking for answers.

There is general agreement that fats in the Mediterranean diet — olives and olive oil, avocados, fatty fish such as salmon, ocean trout and sardines, and nuts and nut butters — are nourishing. What we are working to understand now is which, if any, other fat sources might be beneficial for our health and well-being. This confusion about fats is not just among patients. Many doctors aren’t sure what to think either.

Whole vs. Skim Milk for Bodybuilders

Back in the 1950s, bodybuilders had few options for protein products. Those that did exist tasted terrible and were likely hard to digest. That’s why many muscle builders turned to milk for its relatively high protein content and its easy-to swallow calories. Today, milk has fallen out of favor with many bodybuilders, but it still remains a great food for young bodybuilders seeking to add mass. The question, though, is: Which type of milk is best?

Consuming whole milk can help slow protein absorption and reduce inopportune insulin releases.

Often bodybuilders turn to skim milk because it provides more protein per calorie. But that doesn’t necessarily make it a better choice. Whole milk contains plenty of dietary fats (including 4.6 grams of saturated fats in an eight-ounce glass) that will help slow down the absorption of protein while also reducing the release of insulin at the times of day when you don’t want that. That translates to a steady release of muscle-building protein.


At all times of day except around your workouts. The reason you’re likely drinking milk is for its high protein content and calories. Whole milk is better when you factor in both of these reasons. And it causes less insulin release. On the other hand, nonfat milk is a reasonable substitute for a post-workout shake, containing very little fat and a fairly equal amount of protein and carbs from sugar (lactose). Take in the nonfat form after training if you don’t have a protein shake available.

Why Whole Milk is Better for Your Skin than Skim Milk – and 2 More Surprising Milk Facts

Our research has found whole fat, hormone-free milk may be best for your appearance – but your genes and cultural background also play a strong role in how well your skin and body overall tolerate milk. (Photo credit: Salim Virji)

Ask any mother, grandmother, nutritionist, or physician, and they’ll all tell you their honest opinion about milk. From full-fat to skim, hormone-free to vitamin D enriched, there is a variety of milk to appease everyone’s desires. But what does science actually say is best for your health, skin, and overall appearance? Our Contributing Writer and Editor Natalie K. Bell takes a look at the fascinating research:

1. Drink whole milk.

On the glycemic index chart, skim milk has a level of about 32 and whole milk has a low level at about 27. Skim milk, because it is high on the glycemic index, has a more profound impact on blood sugar. It breaks down more quickly than its whole milk counterpart. The high placement on the glycemic index makes skim milk cause acne and prematurely aged collagen.

Whole milk has a lower glycemic index than skim, meaning that it has less of a “spiking” effect on blood sugar. Chocolate milk, on the other hand, is higher on the glycemic index than both! (Photo credit: pheezy)

A number of studies, including this study, suggest there are significant acne-clearing effects of a low-glycemic diet.

Over time, elevated blood sugar from a high-glycemic causes you to form more advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs), which in turn form glucosepane, the hardened, rough state of collagen in old age. (For instance, when you push in a baby’s check and it pushes back, this is due in part to increased amounts of collagen and softer collagen. When you touch an elderly person’s face and it is more delicate, this is due to the fact there is less collagen and what is there is more fragile and less resilient). As a result, you may want to start drinking whole milk over skim milk. Even better: fat can be satiating, so you’ll stay fuller longer.

2.) Drink hormone-free milk.

Hormone free milk may be an excellent option for the acne-prone, as IGF-1 in milk has been shown to stimulate oil production and hence acne (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scientists have made links between milk and acne, like in this study done by F. William Danby at the Harvard School of Public Health. Danby’s study also found that skim milk in particular negatively impacted acne due to its placement on the glycemic index. However, Danby concluded that all milk with the hormone DHT (androgens) caused the skin to secrete more oil, leading to acne.

3.) Your genetics may very well determine how well your skin – and your body overall – tolerates milk.

Genetics and culture play a role in milk tolerance in the body. For instance, a high percentage of people of Asian or African descent are lactose intolerant. How this relates to skin – if at all – remains yet to be determined.

Many critiques of milk drinking beg the question: Is it natural? It might surprise some to know that the answer might not yes or no, but rather: Does it matter?

Suggesting that biology and nature are the crucial deciding factors of “right” and “wrong” oversimplifies the complex role of culture, as explained in Why Some Like it Hot by Gary Paul Nahban. In a conversation with a food psychologist, he comes to contemplate whether culture can have an effect on biology.

His findings were perplexing: For example, people generally become lactose intolerant between ages 5 and 8, when they no longer need their mother’s milk. But not everyone does and mounting evidence suggests the genes for this came after their ancestors became pastoralists. Their diet improved with the presence of milk products and the evolutionary pressure lead to a gene change.

This idea complicates the idea of “natural” and makes us think more about “advantageous.” There isn’t a universal answer for whether people should drink milk into adulthood. But there’s still the question of what positive or negative affects it might have on skin health. That’s not an easily answered question.

Bottom Line

Most children become lactose intolerant between the ages of 5 and 8, evolutionarily a stage when mother’s milk would no longer be available. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

This kind of information often leads people to debate whether a Western diet that includes dairy is healthy. There are causal factors like hormones given to dairy cows to increase milk production, levels of iodine, and sugar. As Danby suggests in this essay, we have a lot more investigating to do before we uncover the exact cause of acne and why dairy can make it worse. With so many factors, while we recommend drinking hormone-free full-fat milk for now, don’t pour out any your milk just yet – the data is still coming in.

You'll consume less fat and calories when choosing skim milk over 1 percent milk. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 1 percent milk contains 102 calories and 2 grams of fat per 8-ounce serving. In comparison, skim milk has 83 calories and 0.2 grams of fat per serving.

You are not undermining your intake of essential nutrients when drinking skim milk instead of 1 percent milk. Non-fat milk contains 299 milligrams of calcium, 8 grams of protein and 382 milligrams of potassium, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Cow's milk with 1 percent fat content has 305 milligrams of calcium, 8 grams of protein and 366 milligrams of potassium.

Whole Milk for Vitamin D

Although 2 percent milk has more added vitamin D than whole milk, it's better absorbed in whole milk. A study involving children, ages 1 to 6, compared the effects of whole milk to those of low-fat milk. Results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, indicate that the group drinking whole milk had higher levels of vitamin D and lower body mass than those who drank low-fat milk. Researchers speculated that these findings resulted from vitamin D being fat-soluble and perhaps better absorbed when paired with the fat in whole milk. Also, whole milk is more filling, which could result in a lower calorie intake for weight maintenance.

Skim Milk vs. Whole Milk: What's Actually Healthier?

Full-fat dairy is better for you than you might think.

Full-fat dairy is making a comeback. Long demonized for being calorie-dense and full of saturated fat, whole milk and yogurt are now reclaiming their reputations as healthier options compared to low-fat and skim alternatives.

First, let’s backtrack to understand how we even got here. �k in the fat-phobic 1990s, the mainstream advice from health agencies and health professionals was to cut back on fat throughout the diet, including fat from dairy products like milk,” explains Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of Eating in Color.

As more people opted for items like fat-free or low-fat yogurts, manufacturers started pumping their products with sugar and artificial ingredients to make them taste better. The result? We could consume nearly a day’s worth of sugar in a single serving of strawberry yogurt.

Skim milk and fat-free, flavored yogurts aren&apost just unsatisfying and, in the case of fat-free yogurt, often full of added sugars, though—they also deprive us of the health benefits of full-fat dairy, Largeman-Roth says.

"Surprisingly, full-fat dairy products may actually help you stick to a healthy weight," says Largeman-Roth. She cites one study that followed 18,000 middle-aged healthy weight women for nearly a decade and found that those who drank more whole milk and full-fat dairy products were less likely to become overweight or obese compared to women who didn&apost consume any full-fat dairy. A small study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition also found that daily consumption of whole milk increased participants’ HDL (or good) cholesterol levels, whereas daily skim milk consumption did not.

"Other studies have found that kids who drank whole milk had higher blood levels of vitamin D compared to their peers who drank low-fat milk," Largeman-Roth adds. "The researchers think milk fat may help kids’ bodies absorb vitamin D more efficiently."

The good news? Times have changed. Plenty of us now know that there’s no reason to fear healthy fats. Still, some healthy foodies may be accustomed to eating plain, non-fat yogurt to avoid saturated fats and adding their own sources of good fats like nuts and seeds on top.If you’re part of this cohort, you may still want to consider eating the full-fat version every now and then.

"Both are good choices, but organic whole milk dairy products have the added advantage of being higher in omega-3 fatty acids as well as conjugated linoleic acid, which is helpful for maintaining a healthy weight and may help manage type 2 diabetes,” says Largeman-Roth.

As with any food group, overdoing it on dairy isn’t a good idea either. If you tolerate dairy well, stick to the recommended three servings per day. Not sure what that might look like? "You might use eight ounces of milk in your overnight oats, then have a yogurt as a post-workout snack and then nibble on 1.5 ounces of aged cheddar in the later afternoon,” says Largeman-Roth, adding that “milk and other dairy products are an excellent source of calcium and women need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily.”

If you have trouble digesting lactose, the naturally occurring sugar in milk, be sure to opt for lactose-free dairy products (there are tons available in supermarkets these days). Also good to know: “Greek yogurt is very low in lactose due to the way it’s made, and hard cheeses don’t contain any lactose, so they can be eaten by people who can’t digest it,” Largeman-Roth says.

Full-fat dairy products might not be the best choice for people following the DASH diet to treat hypertension. "Your doctor or registered dietitian may recommend that you make the switch to low-fat dairy products on the DASH diet, which is packed with fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy," notes Largeman-Roth.

For the rest of you, feel free to add a few servings of full-fat dairy to your daily diet, and opt for organic products if they’re accessible to you. "A review of several studies found that milk from organic cows is higher in heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3 fats, vitamin E, iron, and CLA than conventionally farmed milk," Largeman-Roth says.To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter

If you're not inspired to do any of the above things, just freeze your extra milk. It'll be there when you need it.

What did I say about not panicking? Even if your milk has gone a little sour, there are still ways you can use it. According to TreeHugger, you can use sour milk for gardening, crafts, and beyond. But if that sour milk is ultra-pasteurized, just forget about it and dump it down the drain.

However you decide to use your extra milk, have fun with it and milk it down to the last drop, y'all.

This post was originally published on June 17, 2016. It was updated on Aug. 19, 2019.

Low-fat or skim milk

If you enjoy the taste of traditional milk but looking to lower your caloric or fat intake, then low-fat or skim milk is the best choice for you. At the grocery store, you’ll find it in the same section as the whole milk, so you’ll barely have to adjust your shopping habits.

As you might expect, using one of these types of milk as a whole milk substitute is very easy. Whether you’re adding it to coffee, baked goods, creamy sauces, or just drinking it, simply swap it in using the same amount of whole milk you’d normally use.

8 Reasons You Should Stop Drinking Milk Now

What could be more American than a glass of milk? Cow's milk, that is. In light of this common perception, the time is long overdue to add the milk mustache to that ever-growing list of American myths. Human beings are not designed to drink any milk except human milk (only during infancy, of course). As you'll see below, consuming dairy products&mdashmilk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, ice cream, etc.&mdashis not green and it's not healthy.

It's also a nightmare for the cows themselves. Here's a little of how the folks at GoVeg describe it: "The 9 million cows living on dairy farms in the United States spend most of their lives in large sheds or on feces-caked mud lots, where disease is rampant. Cows raised for their milk are repeatedly impregnated. Their babies are taken away so that humans can drink the milk intended for the calves. When their exhausted bodies can no longer provide enough milk, they are sent to slaughter and ground up for hamburgers."

*Living dairy-free has never been easier. so here's a little motivation to get you on the greener, cruelty-free, not-milk track.

The first four are environmental reasons to avoid milk.

1. Dairy cows produce waste.

Lots of waste. In fact, your average dairy cow produces 120 pounds of waste every day&mdashequal to that of more than two dozen people, but without toilets, sewers, or treatment plants.

2. Let me repeat: Dairy cows produce lots and lots of waste (and greenhouse gases).

California produces one-fifth of the country's total milk supply. According to, "in the Central Valley of California, the cows produce as much excrement as a city of 21 million people, and even a smallish farm of 200 cows will produce as much nitrogen as in the sewage from a community of 5,000 to 10,000 people, according to a U.S. Senate report on animal waste."

3. Milk production ultimately leads to climate change.

The dairy industry is an extension of the beef industry (used-up dairy cows are sent to the slaughterhouse after an average of four years, one-fifth their normal life expectancy) which means it plays a major role in creating climate change. Here's the equation: The dairy industry uses cows before passing them on to be slaughtered by the beef industry which is now recognized as an environmental nightmare. "According to a UN report," writes Brian Merchant, "cows are leading contributors to climate change . Accounting for putting out 18% of the world's carbon dioxide, cows emit more greenhouse gases than cars, planes, and all other forms of transportation combined." That means the industry of exploiting all cows&mdashincluding dairy cows&mdashinvolves destructive practices like deforestation and polluting offshoots like runoff.

4. Milk often contains unwanted ingredients.

Under current industrial methods, cow's milk is often a toxic bovine brew of man-made ingredients like bio-engineered hormones, antibiotics (55% of U.S. antibiotics are fed to livestock), and pesticides&mdashall of which are bad for us and the environment. For example, unintentional pesticide poisonings kill an estimated 355,000 people globally each year. In addition the drugs pumped into livestock often re-visit us in our water supply.

Which brings us to. health reasons to avoid milk.

The biochemical make-up of cow's milk is perfectly suited to turn a 65-pound newborn calf into a 400-pound cow in one year. It contains, for example, three times more protein and seven times more mineral content while human milk has 10 times as much essential fatty acids, three times as much selenium, and half the calcium. Some may like cow's milk but drinking it is both unnecessary and potentially harmful.

6. Milk is actually a poor source for dietary calcium.

6. Milk is actually a poor source for dietary calcium. Humans, like cows, get all the calcium they need from a plant-based diet.