Skim milk is usually considered to be healthy, though a lot of this depends on the circumstances and the individual at issue. The biggest difference between skim and other varieties of milk is fat content; in most cases, the word “skim” is synonymous with “nonfat,” probably in reference to the way the fat is skimmed off the top of the milk and removed during processing. Sometimes this removal process can also reduce the milk’s vitamin content, which is why many commercial manufacturers fortify their offerings before packaging them for sale. Milk that has no fat and fewer vitamins isn’t as nutritionally significant, but it isn’t usually considered unhealthy. In most cases its protein count is the same, and it is still a good source of calcium. It isn’t usually recommended for babies and young children, both of whom often need the fat of whole milk, but people who are watching their caloric intake often prefer skim varieties.
Understanding Milk Fat
Most dairy cows produce milk that has a high animal fat content. This milk is sometimes spun in steel tanks until the fat rises to the top of the container, while the protein-rich liquid settles below. Milk with its original fat composition is usually marketed as “whole milk,” but it’s also very common for some if not all of the fat to be separated out. In most places the standard designations for these offerings are 2% fat, 1% fat, and skim or nonfat.
Many health experts actually advocate the regular consumption of skim or lowfat milk for adults. Although the fat has been removed, a single serving of nonfat milk typically contains more nutrients than whole milk. This is because the reduction of fat makes room for a lot more nutrients per serving. A glass of fat-free milk generally contains a higher amount of protein, calcium and potassium than other types of cow's milk. Another benefit is that skim has lower levels of cholesterol, which can contribute to heart disease and strokes.
The extra protein in nonfat milk is often very useful to body-builders or people under great physical strain, like athletes; these people are often looking to maximize their nutritive intake without consuming a lot of calories. Milk contains casein protein, which can take up to several hours to digest and break down inside the body. This property strengthens and preserves muscles over time. Some people also choose to drink it right before bed because it can supply the body with nutrients during long periods when no other food is being consumed.
Possible Role in Weight Loss
Fat-free milk also tends to be popular with people wishing to lose weight. Studies have shown that this type of milk not only significantly reduces the amount of fat intake, but also helps the metabolism digest food faster. Skim milk is often used in weight-loss plans, although the results of following such programs have often varied between people.
Possible Vitamin Loss
In general, milk is often credited as an excellent source of vitamins, but one of the downsides of skim is that it may not have the full profile. Whole milk is rich in vitamins A and D, which help improve eyesight and bone structure, among other things. When the fat is trimmed off, though, much of the vitamin content is lost.
To compensate for this disadvantage, many manufacturers artificially add these vitamins to the nonfat milk through a process known as “fortification.” Fortification typically involves vitamins that are naturally sourced, and they’re absorbed by the body in the same ways they would had they occurred naturally. The final product often has the same amount of vitamins as whole milk, but with the added benefit of fewer calories and less fat.
Concerns for Infants and Young Children
Most medical experts don’t recommend giving skim milk to babies and toddlers, but this often has more to do with the nutritional needs of very young children than with the inherent healthiness of this particular variety of milk. Natural animal fat can help early brain development and may also support things like healthy weight gain and muscular strength. For this reason, whole milk is usually the preferred milk for children under the age of three.