Skim Milk May Not Be the Healthier Choice You Thought It Was

milk being poured from a pitcher

If you've been forcing yourself to drink watery, tasteless skim milk with your coffee because it's so much better for you, you're going to love this: New research shows that isn't necessarily the case.


Time for a happy milk-drinking emoji! A study published in the medical journal Circulation found that whole-fat dairy products -- you know, the stuff that actually has texture and taste -- aren't to be avoided. In fact, they could actually help you lose weight and lower your risk of diabetes.

Researchers tracked over 3,000 adults' dietary habits for 15 years. What they found: Those who used whole dairy products had a 46 percent lower risk of developing diabetes.

A totally separate new study published in the American Journal of Nutrition -- which included a whopping 18,000+ women -- discovered that those who ate the most high-fat dairy products actually reduced their obesity risk by 8 percent.

If you're familiar with the US dietary guidelines, you're probably confused. Because according to that, we should choose skim or low-fat whatever, whenever we can.

So, WTF?

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"Though we may not know for sure how whole fat is working to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, it's possible that it may help regulate blood glucose in several different ways," explains Debra Nessel, RD, CDE, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Torrance Memorial Medical Center in Torrance, California.

"Full-fat diary, though higher in calories, may [be] more satisfying and quench hunger longer," Nessel explains. "If you're not hungry, you may not need additional calories from extra treats. There's also a theory that certain potentially high-fat dairy foods, like cheese and some yogurts, contain microbes that help balance gut bacteria."

Which, in turn, improves your body's insulin response.

So in light of what sounds like pretty sound evidence, should we all ditch the skim and return to whole -- even cream -- in our coffee?

"I find myself leaning towards moderation," Nessel says. "If you're only looking to save calories, a lower-fat milk choice would be obvious. However, if skim milk shares the plate with chocolate cake, the good intention is lost."

And full-fat milk does have its benefits. Like mentioned above, it will fill you up more, so you're less likely to keep grazing between meals.

Because of that, Nessel recommends eating a variety of dairy. But "choose wisely," she adds.

Enjoy small portions of full-fat yogurts so you're not loading up on calories. Beware of trading whole-milk ice cream or yogurt for a lower-fat version; you may be picking up more sugar than you bargained for. (Not to mention you may be prone to eat a larger serving because the label says it's low-fat.)

"Look at your diet in its entirety," advises Nessel, "and try not to focus on only one feature."



Image via Valentyn Volkov/Shutterstock

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