Confusion in the milk aisle: Whole milk or skim milk?

Highlights on the benefits of milk consumption, regardless of what type of milk you’re consuming.

Deciding between whole milk and skim milk is yet another topic to add to the long list of consumer confusion. The Nurses’ Health Study of Health Professionals found that people who had higher levels of three different byproducts of full-fat dairy had, on average, a 46 percent lower risk of getting diabetes during the study period. Some studies have found that when people reduce how much fat they eat, they tend to replace it with sugar or carbohydrates, which may affect insulin and increase their risk of diabetes.

Even with the new research results, consumers should continue to follow the guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics in that milk and water are the healthiest choices, and water is the best option between meals. It is important to take into account the type of milk each child may or may not like. The bottom line is that regardless of whether kids are drinking whole milk, fat-free milk, chocolate or strawberry milk, the benefits of milk remain the same.

Milk provides nine essential nutrients to help kids and teens grow healthy and strong.

Nine essential nutrients found in milk:

  1. Calcium helps build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It helps reduce the risk of stress fractures and osteoporosis later in life. Calcium also plays a role in promoting normal blood pressure.
  2. Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium for healthy bones.
  3. Phosphorus works with calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones.
  4. Riboflavin works with our metabolism and helps convert food into energy.
  5. Niacin also works with our metabolism to convert food into energy.
  6. Protein helps build and maintain lean muscle.
  7. Potassium helps balance the fluids in our bodies and plays a role in normal blood pressure.
  8. Vitamin A is important for good vision, healthy skin and a healthy immune system.
  9. Vitamin B12 helps maintain healthy red blood cells and nerve cells.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) encourages all Americans to increase intakes of low-fat, fat-free milk or milk products to the recommended daily amounts. The DGA points out that milk is the number one food source for three of the four nutrients that are lacking in the American diet – calcium, vitamin D and potassium. The recommended daily amounts are two cups for children 2 to 3 years old, 2.5 cups for children 4 to 8 years old and three cups for those 9 years of age and older.

It is important to establish a habit of drinking milk as a child, as studies show that those who consume milk at an early age are more likely to consume milk as adults.

Michigan State University Extension offers nutrition education classes for youth in schools that provide education on the benefits of low-fat and fat-free dairy options also. More information can be found at

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