If you’ve recently ditched skim milk in your morning cup of Joe and are back on the full-fat bandwagon, it’s time to think again. While a lot of people are opting for what they feel is a more ‘natural’ option, you can rest assured that there is absolutely nothing wrong with having a reduced-fat variety. Sometimes, it’s even the better option. Here’s why.
Reduced fat vs. full cream
For a quick comparison, one cup (250mls) of full cream milk has roughly 720 kilojoules (or 170 calories) and 5.6g sat fat, whereas a cup of skim milk has 370 kilojoules (90 calories) and 0.2g sat fat.
As you can tell, having reduced-fat dairy is a good idea with your waistline in mind – particularly if you’re drinking a lot of it because all of those calories can really add up.
What’s more, saturated fat is bad for the health of your heart. To get you up to speed, it can raise the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and lead to a buildup of plaque in your arteries. But, there has been new research suggesting that the fat from dairy does not have the same detrimental effect as saturated fat from, say, pastries. Nonetheless, more research is needed to confirm this.
Something that I’m asked about regularly (like every. damn. day.) is the sugar content of skim milk. Contrary to what you probably think, skim milk does not have the mountains of sugar that most people think it does.
Picture this: 100mls of full cream milk has about 4 grams of fat. If you remove those 4 grams of fat, you need to add in more milk to bring the volume back up to 100ml. That tiny bit of extra milk brings with it a tiny amount of extra sugar, but this sugar is nothing to fear. It’s simply the natural sugar found in milk called lactose.
To convince you even more, here’s the nutritional breakdown. One cup of full cream milk has 12g sugar, whereas one cup of skim milk has 12.3g of sugar – and trust me, that extra 0.3g of natural sugar is nothing to worry about.
Your overall diet
Of course, the context of the rest of your diet is important when choosing the right type of milk for you.
If you eat balanced meals and snacks most of the time, a little bit of saturated fat from full cream dairy probably isn’t going to do any damage.
But the reality is that so many people could do with eating less saturated fat (FYI – it doesn’t just come from full fat dairy, but also fatty and processed meat, biscuits and pastries, for example).
So, the recommendation still stands that we should be choosing reduced-fat dairy most of the time.
Why you need to include dairy
At the end of the day what’s important is that you actually have enough dairy (or alternatives) in your diet to get enough of that all-important calcium for strong bones and teeth. After all, more than half of us don’t have enough calcium in our diet in the first place.
So, to get you up to speed, here’s what to aim for. If you’re between the ages of 19-50, you’re recommended to have two and a half serves of dairy a day. One serve is equal to one cup of milk, three quarters of a cup of yoghurt or half a cup of soft cheese, like ricotta. Two slices of hard cheese counts as a serve, too.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can follow her @honest_nutrition.
This is how to get the benefits of dairy when you’re lactose intolerant, plus this is what the ‘low-fat’ label actually means.
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