Is Skim Milk Nutritious

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Glass of milk

With so many milks available to choose from, you may be feeling overwhelmed when deciding which one to purchase for you and your family. Whether you pick fat-free (skim) milk, low-fat milk, whole milk, high protein milk or plant-based milks, benefits and drawbacks exist for each. Skim milk is one of the lowest-calorie options available, but is it the best choice for you?

Skim Milk Nutrition

Skim milk is indeed nutritious as it's loaded with essential nutrients and fairly low in calories. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database, 1 cup of skim milk contains about 80 calories, 8 grams of protein, 12 grams of carbs, and no fat. It's also rich in vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium, phosphorous, potassium, vitamin B12, and iodine.

Skim Milk vs. Other Milks

Skim milk has a clear advantage over many other milks. For example, it contains just half the calories (but the same amount of protein and other nutrients) as whole milk. It's an excellent choice for healthy weight management. However, because skim milk is fat free, it may not be quite as satiating as milks with a higher fat content (1 percent milk, 2 percent milk, soy milk, and almond milk). Some plant-based milks are lower in calories than skim milk, but these often contain a lot less protein as well.

Because cow's milk contains whey and casein proteins, it provides you with all of the essential amino acids your body needs making skim milk a source of complete protein your body utilizes more efficiently than many plant-based milks (such as almond and rice milks). The following chart gives you a comparison of skim milk versus other milks:

Calories

Carbohydrates

(Grams)

Protein

(Grams)

Fat

(Grams)

Calcium (DV)

Skim milk

80

12

8

0

30%

Whole milk

150

12

8

8

30%

1-Percent milk

110

12

8

2

30%

2-Percent milk

130

12

8

5

30%

Protein-fortified 2% milk

140

13

10

5

30 to 40%

Protein-fortified, low-carb skim milk

60

3

11

0

30 to 40%

Chocolate milk

140 to 180

20 to 30

8

2 to 4

30%

Protein-fortified, low-carb chocolate milk

80

7

11

0

30 to 40%

Soy milk

80

3 to 4

7 to 8

4

30%

Almond milk

30

2

1

2 to 3

30 to 45%

Protein almond milk

80

3

10

3

25 to 30%

Rice milk

120

23

1

2 to 3

30%

Hemp milk

80

1

2

8

30%

Coconut milk

45

2

0

4

10 to 30%

Flax milk

25

1

0

2 to 3

30%

Hazelnut milk

110

19

2

3 to 4

30%

Cashew milk

40

3

1

3

30%

Oat milk

130

24

4

2 to 3

30 to 40%

Health Benefits

Believe it or not, you can gain significant health benefits from consuming skim milk or other dairy foods on a regular basis. A 2016 review published in Food and Nutrition Research found drinking milk is associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity, improves body composition, and enhances weight loss when dieting. The review points out milk is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, many types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. It also helps improve bone mineral density. Researchers who conducted the 2016 review say few negative side effects have been reported from consuming milk and other dairy foods.

Potential Drawbacks

While you may reap numerous health benefits from adding skim milk to your meal plan, potential drawbacks exist for some people. For example, if you have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy, skim milk may not be a good fit for you. Lactose-free skim milk is an option, however, if you are lactose intolerant; however, it won't work for people with dairy allergies.

Hormones in milk may also be a deterrent when it comes to feeling good about drinking it. Hormones may be detected in cow's milk, and while the 2016 review in Food and Nutrition Research says milk is associated with lower risks for bladder cancer, colorectal cancer, and breast cancer, evidence for milk's effect on prostate cancer is inconsistent. A 2015 review in the Iranian Journal of Public Health says the presence of hormones in dairy foods should be considered as a risk factor for certain cancers, but further research is needed. Because of this, opt for skim milk from cows not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and choose organic skim milk when possible.

How Much to Drink

Mother and daughter drinking milk

To reap milk's health benefits, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020 recommend getting in at least three (1-cup) servings of milk or other dairy foods daily if you're eating 1,600 calories or more. For reduced-calorie weight-loss diets containing 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day, aim for 2 1/2 cups of dairy products.

A Good Choice

Because skim milk is packed with nutrients and beneficial for healthy weight management (and reduced disease risks), it's a good pick as long as you like the taste and aren't allergic to it. To avoid potential added hormones, choose organic skim when possible. If you're lactose intolerant, consider lactose-free skim and if you want an extra boost of protein without the carbs, pick high-protein low-carb skim milk. With so many nutritious milks available to choose from, if skim isn't up your ally you'll likely find another milk with similar nutrition content and health benefits that's right for you.

Is Skim Milk Nutritious