Who woulda thought something as commonplace as milk could become the subject of so much controversy? Granted, it's only controversial among people who think that milk nutrition facts are worth obsessing over—but since I'm one of those people I'm somewhat fixated on the issue.
Like you, I've spent my life believing that non-fat (in the case of milk and yogurt), and low-fat (in the case of cheese) were the only kinds of dairy products to consume. Eating full-fat dairy was a recipe for extra flab in the short term and a heart attack in the long term, or so the conventional wisdom went.
And that's still the party line coming from mainstream health authorities. In the dietary recommendations that accompany the 2011 Food Pyramid, the USDA specifies that "Most dairy group choices should be fat-free or low-fat." (Although, as I wrote when they were released, government diet guidelines are not exactly cutting edge.) But it seems like a growing chorus of people are extolling the benefits of whole milk, saying that it is actually good for us, better for our hearts and our waistlines than milk that's had the fat sucked out of it.
So, is whole milk better for you than skim milk? Well, the following information may help you decide.
Over at the Experience Life website, blogger Laine Bergeson lists seven reasons she believes that whole milk is healthiest. Chief among them is the point that our bodies need fat to absorb the nutrients in milk, such as vitamins A and D, both of which are fat-soluble.
The Weston Price Foundation, which advocates a "traditional" foods diet heavy on unprocessed animal products, maintains that milk should not only be whole, but raw too. It's at the forefront of a campaign to get raw/unpasteurized milk more widely, legally, available. Dr. Mercola also advocates only whole, unpasteurized dairy products.
As I've reported previously, a fatty acid that's found in full-fat milk and beef, called conjugated linoleic acid (or CLA) is associated with heart health, and there's also evidence that higher levels of CLA can reduce people's risk of obesity and high blood pressure.
So who do you believe?
Do you buy non-fat, low-fat or full-fat dairy products? Whole milk or skim milk? I don't drink much milk, beyond what I put in my coffee, but others in my family do, and for the past couple of years I've been buying whole milk (unhomogenized, but not raw—I'm not quite that alt, though I may be soon). Although I can't say for certain whether to listen to the USDA or the alternative health crowd on this one, my instincts tell me that eating food in its natural form has got to be the best thing for our bodies.
More milk-related debates: