All about Whole Milk

Recent research and articles have shed new light on the role of saturated fat in today’s diet, and whole milk appears in a lot of these discussions. Even the taste of whole milk is a hot topic in some circles.  If all of this has you curious, or if it’s been a while since you’ve had some in a latte, let’s see why whole milk can be a good choice for you.    

Let’s start with the basics: What is whole milk? Whole milk is good old-fashioned cow’s milk that is most similar to its original state when it comes from the cow. The main difference between whole milk and other milks in the dairy case, like reduced fat, is the fat content. Let’s break it down.

Whole Milk Nutrition Facts

Every serving of milk provides vitamins, minerals, protein, and energy (calories). All milk, whether whole milk or fat-free milk, lactose-free milk or chocolate milk, comes with 13 essential nutrients, such as  proteincalcium, vitamin A and vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, zinc, selenium, iodine and potassium.

Fat and Calories in Whole Milk

Food provides energy, or calories, to help fuel your body. An 8-ounce serving of milk contains about 8 grams of fat and 150 calories. You could also say whole milk has roughly 3.25% milk fat. If you keep that in mind, milk fat percentages make more sense: reduced-fat milk (2%), low-fat milk (1%) and fat-free milk (or 0% if you want to be a stickler), which is also called skim milk.

How do we get these percentages? Here’s how it works: After the milk leaves the farm, it goes to a processor, where the milk is pasteurized, homogenized, and separated from the cream. Some of the cream is then added back in, like 2% of it, so that’s how you get reduced-fat milk. Or 3.25% is added back for whole milk. This type of fat is primarily saturated fat. Most guidelines recommend limiting saturated fat, but emerging science shows that dairy foods, regardless of fat content, can contribute to a healthy diet and offer health benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Thirsting for more info about whole milk? Here are answers to some of the most common questions.

Is Whole Milk Healthy?

What exactly do all those 13 essential nutrients listed above do anyway? Those vitamins, minerals and macronutrients (like protein) do everything from help build healthy bones and maintain a healthy immune system to help regulate your metabolism and maintain healthy skin. Most of us don’t get nearly enough of these nutrients, and milk is an easy way to meet daily requirements. That’s why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends low-fat dairy foods such as milk as part of a healthy diet. (Nerd alert: The dietary guidelines are led by nutrition experts and scientists and updated every five years as more science emerges about what our bodies need to be healthy.)

Is Whole Milk Healthier Than Skim Milk?

That’s like a trick question—the same nutrients are in all types of dairy milk, regardless of fat composition. Yes, the DGA recommends low-fat and fat-free dairy foods, but it doesn’t exclude saturated fat; the limit is capped at 10% of your daily total calories. It is possible to include a serving of whole milk dairy as part of an overall healthy eating plan.

Does Whole Milk Make You Gain Weight?

Any food could make you gain weight if not eaten in moderation. A potentially more helpful question may be “How else can whole milk help me maintain healthy habits?” Whole milk does contain more calories than low-fat or fat-free milk. The protein in foods made from whole milk, like yogurt or cheese, can help us feel fuller and more satisfied, which can in turn help curb your appetite. There are lots of ways to pair “produce & protein” for superb snack and meal ideas. Plus, there are other health benefits ─ dairy foods, including whole milk, can help with inflammation, immunity and gut health