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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 01/25/2011

Got milk? What kind?

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

I'm pretty sure that today's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column about whether it's okay to drink whole milk (as opposed to a lower-fat or nonfat variety) will attract comments from people who believe that humans have no business drinking cow's milk in the first place. But for better or worse, most of us have grown up drinking milk, and mainstream nutrition experts maintain that cow's milk is an excellent source of nutrients (including protein, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin A) that we humans need.

I myself am not milk's biggest fan. I wasn't one of those kids who drank it by the tumblerful, and I only recently have started drinking it daily -- for those nutrients I just mentioned. I drink skim milk only, because it's what tastes best to me and also because it has (obviously) less fat and therefore fewer calories than other milks with varying percentages of milk fat.

So I was surprised to learn that, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, while sales of whole milk have dropped dramatically since 1975, when more than 70 percent of milk sold in America was whole, whole milk still easily outsells skim and 1%. In 2009, nearly 40 percent of milk sold was 2%, 30 percent was whole, skim accounted for about 15 percent of the market, and 1% about 13 percent. (Thanks to the National Dairy Council for helping me pin down that data.)

That, despite the urging in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 that we stick with fat-free or low-fat milk (or milk equivalents).

Do you and your family drink much milk? What kind do you choose? Do you all drink the same kind? Please comment below and take a moment to vote in the poll!

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | January 25, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Dietary Guidelines, Kids' health, Nutrition and Fitness, Parenting, Women's Health  
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Comments

My family drinks whole - after about 30 years of drinking skim. A nutritionist told me that milk fat is a good fat (like avocados) and good for brain development for the kids. I don't drink a lot of milk anyway, but I love having a warm mug of whole milk with honey and nutmeg before bed. Decadent!

Posted by: mdem929 | January 25, 2011 7:56 AM | Report abuse

Almond milk... pretty good, really - same nutritional value of milk, but completely free of Monsanto's synthetic BGH (bovine growth hormone) that dairy farmers love to feed their herds.

Posted by: ProfessorPeabody | January 25, 2011 9:49 AM | Report abuse

After drinking skim milk for years we switched over to soy after reading reports of pus, hormones, and antibiotics floating around in your "excellent source of nutrients" cow's milk. Thanks I prefer my cereal minus the pus.

Posted by: Desertdiva1 | January 25, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I drink skim milk..have been drinking it 'by the tumblerful' since childhood. Love it.

I buy organic whole milk for my two boys (12 and 5), who are skinny, skinny, skinny. I figure they - unlike most Americans - really need the calories.

Posted by: littles1 | January 25, 2011 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I love whole, organic cows milk packaged by a small, independent dairy. Woops! I forgot our society put the food supply of a once great nation into the control of a small, select group of money driven mafia-like big businessmen.
Arrest granny for selling some of the milk from her cow to the neighbors. A safe food supply needs many diverse sources of supply.

Posted by: citizen625 | January 25, 2011 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Professor Peabody--

I drink almond milk in my cereal, too-- but don't kid yourself that it has the same nutrients as milk! It's got almost no protein and calcium.

Posted by: susannochka | January 25, 2011 4:10 PM | Report abuse

My family drinks soy milk due to our childrens' dairy allergies. It is much more expensive than milk unfortunately.

Posted by: superdupermd | January 25, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

We drink Organic skim. It tastes a lot creamier than regular skim. Even our three young boys love it.

Posted by: tritan | January 25, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

I drink 2%. I grew up on it. I flirted with skim and 1% for a while, but ultimately found that 2% tastes better and is more filling, making it a good after-workout snack or a heartier with whole grain cereal for breakfast. It seems to me to be a reasonable compromise between flavor/nutrients/good fat vs. the caloric wallop of whole milk.

Posted by: ShawnDC | January 25, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Why wasn't raw milk included in the voter tally?

I'll bet if you and your daughter tried raw milk, you'd be amazed at not only how delicious it is (wondering how you've tolerated tasteless, chalky, unhealthy white liquid for so long), but what incredible health results you will probably start to notice.

Know someone who is lactose intolerant or allergic to pastuerized milk? Suggest raw, unpastuerized milk. They'll almost surely discover that the discomfort and ill-health disappear.

Raw milk from a clean, organic, caring farm with grass-fed cows (what they're designed by nature to eat) provides us with complete nutrition: natural enzymes, vitamins, minerals, bio-available calcium, beneficial bacteria, and much more.

And, yes, fat. Healthy fat. Fat our bodies -- and especially our brains -- need for high functioning. Fat that does not create cholesterol (please help your readers learn more about the cholesterol myth still loitering around that cholesterol is produced primarily from foods we ingest). Fat that makes you feel full (at the expense of a FEW additional calories) so that you do not substitute carbs or sugary foods to try to alleviate those ongoing hunger cravings -- thus eliminating a whole lot more calories than you may have added.

Encourage everyone to follow the "real milk" links and suggested reading at the unbiased, non-profit Weston A. Price Foundation (www.westonaprice.org).

Many thanks for your excellent columns. A much-healthier, skinnier, satisfied raw milk drinker.

Posted by: allison14 | January 25, 2011 6:05 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I have discussed much about the virtues of the different milks. We have at last decided that organic whole milk is the best option today.

Raw cow’s milk has the most nutrients and is by far the healthiest option, but here, in Australia, it is illegal to sell. Non organic milk may have hormones and pesticide residues. Not a good option.
Skim milk is like watered milk but less healthy, being far too processed. It has been turned into powder, removed the fat, and reconstituted. Already milk is pasteurised and homogenised. We don't want it treated further.
We use organic whole milk for cooking and cereals, but in moderation. If we don't want too much fat we water it down.

We wish we could access organic raw milk. We could then produce our own cheeses and yoghurt.

Posted by: TirantLoBlanc | January 25, 2011 7:52 PM | Report abuse

My wife and I have discussed much about the virtues of the different milks. We have at last decided that organic whole milk is the best option today.

Raw cow’s milk has the most nutrients and is by far the healthiest option, but here, in Australia, it is illegal to sell. Non organic milk may have hormones and pesticide residues. Not a good option.
Skim milk is like watered milk but less healthy, being far too processed. It has been turned into powder, removed the fat, and reconstituted. Already milk is pasteurised and homogenised. We don't want it treated further.
We use organic whole milk for cooking and cereals, but in moderation. If we don't want too much fat we water it down.

We wish we could access organic raw milk. We could then produce our own cheeses and yoghurt.

Posted by: TirantLoBlanc | January 25, 2011 7:53 PM | Report abuse

Write-in: raw milk.

Posted by: aed939 | January 25, 2011 10:15 PM | Report abuse

My grandfather owned a dairy. Milk was always plentiful in my family. I loved it. I even craved it. My grandfather, who was a man of moderatation in all things, insisted that there was not enough difference between 4%, 2%, 1%, or 0% of an 8 oz. glass of milk to worry about it, but he sold all 4 grades of milk anyway.

I was raised on whole or 2% milk but changed to skim or 1% in my early adult years (back in the 80's). One thing I noticed when I would occasionally drink whole milk after that is that a small glass of whole milk satisfied my taste for milk where I needed "tumblers" full of skim or 1% before it was enough. Total calorie intake-wise the whole milk was probably the better choice.

After I was diagnosed with diabetes and began noticing more about carbs and sugars, I noticed that higher fat millk has less carbs per volume. Interesting.

However some years ago I came to the realization that my chronic sinus problems were definitely escalated if not caused to some extent by excessive consumption of milk. A glass of milk is now a very rare treat, but I still insist on half-n-half in my coffee.

I use soy milk for things like cereal, smoothies, and other foods I might add milk to. I like it very much for those purposes but have not been able to acquire a taste for just drinking it straight up.

Posted by: viccimoore | January 26, 2011 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Only buy & drink whole, organic milk. I'd buy raw milk if I could find it!! Then I could skim the cream off the top and make my own butter...........

Posted by: cvillesister | January 26, 2011 9:36 AM | Report abuse

Grass-fed, whole, raw or lightly pasteurized gets my vote. In switching from soy to whole, I've actually lost weight.

cvillesister, if your name is any indication of your geographic location, you've got some great resources in your area. I've got a CSA share in town that allows me to purchase dairy from a local farm. The mild is lightly pasteurized and non-homogenized. Good luck!

Posted by: MzFitz | January 26, 2011 11:22 AM | Report abuse

The statement that skim milk has fewer calories than whole milk is silly. In fact, nutritionists who talk about the caloric density of foods are being silly. We don't eat a particular weight of food, so caloric density is nonsense.

I gained weight on skim dairy products and lost weight on whole dairy.

If you really think caloric density is what matters, drink whole milk and then have some water or sawdust to lower the caloric density of your snack or meal.

Posted by: jchinnis | January 26, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

The protein in milk INCREASES the risk of OSTEOPOROSIS. Look it up if you don't believe me (but don't read the dairy industry sponsored studies).

If you must drink milk, take MAGNESIUM supplements to make your bones stronger. Calcium alone is like chalk, not like ivory. Magnesium is like the rivets that keep the Eiffel Tower together.

Or, ditch the supplements and stick to magnesium-rich foods:
Green leafy (kale, spinach etc)
Whole grains
Nuts (choose them raw or plain roasted)
Beans (red, pinto, black, etc. Frijoles!)
Bananas
Avocados
Apricots
Raisins
Paprika
Basil
Parsley
Lemongrass
Peppermint
Pumpkin!
One of the best sources of magnesium is COCOA: is there a hidden reason behind chocolaholism? But please, stick to dark chocolate, or use cocoa as a spice (think mole poblano!)

Posted by: Voiceinthedesert | January 27, 2011 8:22 AM | Report abuse

I am concerned to see no mention of the well-documented health problems related to cow’s milk consumption. The public deserves to know, for example, that there are now 20 studies linking cow’s milk consumption and prostate cancer. Moreover, the societies where the most milk is consumed, including the US, have the highest rates of bone fracture. If it’s calcium one is after, keep in mind that humans only absorb 32 percent of the calcium in a glass of milk. Calcium absorption levels are higher (up to 63 percent) for broccoli, kale, mustard greens, and fortified orange juice. Since each glass exposes the drinker to nearly 60 hormones and growth factors, (even if it’s organically produced) and often pesticide and antibiotic residues, and dioxin, it seems we should be rethinking the advice that “milk does a body good.” For a better understanding of the subject, please see Whitewash: The Disturbing Truth about Cow’s Milk and Your Health.

Posted by: whitewash | January 27, 2011 12:39 PM | Report abuse

If milk is so essential to human health, why do so many of the world's longest living populations, such as Okinawans, Asians in general, and many other areas, consume virtually no dairy at all? These areas have far less heart disease and generally lower rates of chronic diseases including cancers, as well as much better longevity than Americans, despite often having far lower standards of medical care. Clearly milk is not essential to human health, and there are certainly many reasons to doubt that it is healthy at all.

By the way, 2% milk may be 2% fat by weight, but your body only cares about calories. 2% milk is actually around 34% fat in calories. How many people are even aware that they're consuming 34% of calories as fat when they drink 2% milk?

There is also long established medical research showing that consumption of an alkaline animal protein based diet causes the body to leech calcium out of bones as a way to buffer the alkalinity. This may explain why fracture rates are so much higher in countries that consume higher amounts of dairy.

Posted by: ccman1 | January 31, 2011 12:05 PM | Report abuse

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