A Buyer's Guide to Milk
How to choose the right milk for you and your family.
With its balanced mix of carbs and protein and rich supply of calcium and other bone-strengthening nutrients, (cow’s) milk certainly does a body good. But with so many choices on grocers’ shelves, how do you know which one you should buy? EatingWell helps you cut through the confusion with this guide.
Whole, reduced-fat, low-fat or nonfat?
Consider whole milk—which delivers 150 calories and 8 grams fat (5 grams saturated) per cup—a once-in-a-while treat. Nutrition experts recommend drinking low-fat (1%) milk (100 calories, 2.5 grams fat) or nonfat milk (80 calories, 0.5 grams fat) to limit intake of the saturated fats that boost risk of heart disease*. Don’t be fooled: reduced-fat (2%) milk is not a low-fat food. One cup has 5 grams fat, 3 of them the saturated kind. You won’t miss out on milk’s nutritional boons when you opt for low-fat or nonfat milk (sometimes called "skim"): per cup, all varieties deliver about one-third of the recommended daily value for calcium and at least 20 percent of the daily value for riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamin D.
*Infants under age 2, who need extra fat to support a developing brain, should drink whole milk.
Organic or not?
According to The Nielsen Company, sales of organic milk jumped from $550 million in 2003 to almost $900 million in the first quarter of 2007. Polls suggest people associate organic milk with superior nutrition, better treatment of animals and a healthier planet. But there’s no evidence that organic milk is more nutritious. While preliminary research has suggested that grass-fed cows produce milk with more vitamin E and omega-3 fats than cows fed grains, organic standards don’t require that cows be solely grass-fed. (Farmers must use organic fertilizers and pesticides and may not give cows preventive antibiotics or supplemental growth hormones; animals must also get some time outdoors.)
This type of milk is basically regular cow’s milk minus lactose, the natural sugar in milk. It provides all of the same healthful nutrients (e.g., protein and calcium), just not the sugar that stokes digestive problems for up to 50 million Americans.