Ever stand in the milk or yogurt aisle and become completely overwhelmed by all the options? Believe me, I’ve been there. Many people are confused about whether they should choose the low-fat or full-fat dairy options, and I don’t blame them. There is a lot of conflicting information regarding low-fat vs full-fat dairy options. Today, I hope to address this issue and dispel some myths surrounding dairy fat.

The main type of fat that is found in dairy products is saturated fat. Saturated fat is not necessary for health, which means that we don’t need to consume it to live, unlike some other types of fats. Saturated fat can also be found in animal meats and a few vegetable oils like coconut oil and palm kernel oil.

Most organizations recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of total energy intake. The reason for this recommendation is that consuming too much saturated fat can raise the “bad” LDL cholesterol in our bodies and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. However, recent research suggests that the saturated fat found in dairy products doesn’t seem to be associated with the higher risk of cardiovascular disease like the saturated fats found in high fat meats. More research is needed in this area.

Another reason that some people select low fat over full fat milk products is for calorie reduction purposes. The tables below compare 1 cup of nonfat milk and Greek yogurt with the full fat versions.

 

Calories Total fat Saturated fat
Nonfat milk 80 0 grams 0 grams
Whole milk 150 8 grams 5 grams

 

Calories Total fat Saturated fat
Nonfat Greek yogurt 120 0 grams 0 grams
Whole milk Greek yogurt 190 9 grams 6 grams

 

As you can see from these tables, per 1 cup serving there is about a 70-calorie difference. This isn’t very significant for just one serving, but can easily add up depending on the total amount that you’re consuming each day. Health Canada recommends 2-4 servings of milk and alternatives per day depending on your age and gender.

I didn’t bother listing the protein, carbohydrate, or any vitamin and mineral content because there is no significant difference between the full-fat and low-fat versions. The only real difference is fat content and calories as a result.

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Your decision on choosing full fat versus lower fat milk products should take into consideration a few things. First, look at your total consumption of other milk products that are high in saturated fat such as cheese, ice cream or butter. If you’re consuming these on a daily basis, making the lower fat milk or yogurt option may be a better choice. On the other hand, if you rarely, if ever, consume these then the extra saturated fat from a glass of whole milk shouldn’t be a concern.

Other considerations include your overall health goals. If you’re trying to watch your waistline, then selecting the lower fat option may be a wise decision. However, there is a lot of debate on whether the full-fat milk options make you more full and as a result, make you consume less food later on. However, I personally am not completely sold on this argument because most people over consume foods regardless on their level of fullness (but that’s a whole other topic of discussion).

There are a few situations in which the full-fat milk should always be selected, including:

  • Those with menstrual dysfunction and/or infertility. Research suggests that there are lower rates of infertility and menstrual dysfunction in women who consume high fat dairy products
  • Babies 9 months- 2 years of age. Babies need the extra fat found in full-fat milk for growth and to help their brains develop.

Evidently, in most situations, there is no clear-cut answer on whether a low-fat or full-fat milk product should be selected. Many factors have to be taken into consideration, including personal taste preference. Regardless of your choice, milk is a super nutritious food that should be included in our diet on a daily basis. Whether it’s a glass of full-fat or skim milk, it provides important nutrients!