Which Type of Milk is Best for You?


As with many foods, milk has undergone an extreme love-hate relationship in the health community. It has swung from being a necessary part of everyday life (remember the ‘Got Milk?’ slogan?) to a potential risk to your health.  (The China Study). As with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Is milk necessary?

Beyond your mother’s milk, the average adult can get all their vitamins and minerals (even calcium) from non-dairy sources. So if you cannot tolerate milk, or if you’re lactose intolerant, you can still live a perfectly healthy and happy life without milk.

So should I avoid milk?

The answer to that is also no. The only reason you need to avoid milk is if you are lactose intolerant, if it makes you feel bloated or you break out after having dairy products. If none of those apply to you, milk is a great source of protein that you can integrate into a healthy diet.

What are the different types of milk?

Whole Milk

Whole milk is just milk where no fat or other elements are removed. It contains about 3-4% fat.

Partially Skimmed Milk (1% or 2%)

Partially skimmed or reduced fat milk is when a portion of the fat has been skimmed off thus reducing the overall fat content. 

Skim Milk (Fat-free)

Skim milk has had all of the fat removed so that it is still high in protein but still fat-free.

Organic Milk

This is milk from cows that have been fed organically grown crops.  Organic milk is typically offered in whole, reduced fat and skim varieties.

Raw Milk

All milk that is not designated as raw has undergone pasteurization. Essentially this means that it has been heated to an extraordinarily high temperature to kill any potentially harmful bacteria. Pasteurization also kills certain active enzymes so proponents of raw milk feel that raw milk is an easier to digest and healthier way to drink milk.

Lactose-free Milk

This milk has been processed to break down lactase so that people with lactose intolerance can more easily digest the milk.

Milk Alternatives

Milk alternatives have the consistency and color of cow milk but are typically produced using plant based products. Some examples include almond milk, coconut milk, and soy milk. Although they can be used as a milk alternative for food like cereal or smoothies, they lack protein and a lot of the other vitamins and minerals that milk provide. They can still be a healthy addition to your diet but I wouldn’t consider them in the same category as milk.

So what type of milk do you recommend

I recommend either organic whole milk or organic 2% milk. The small amount of fat that these options contain help make the milk more satisfying – not to mention taste better!  Fat also helps your body absorb certain fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).

Tara Coleman

Tara Coleman is a Clinical Nutritionist with a private practice in San Diego, CA. She speaks nationally on the topics of health and nutrition and has been cited as a nutrition expert by media such as NBC, FOX, SELF, Cosmopolitan and Dr. Oz The Good Life. Download her FREE 4 Step Nutrition Quick Start Guide and start feeling better today!

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