I’m a huge fan of milk, despite various websites/blogs/media outlets telling us that milk is bad and causes inflammation/gas/bloating. While it is true that there are some individuals who cannot digest milk (they simply haven’t got enough of the enzymes) the rest of us have adapted to be able to successful digest, absorb and utilize the components of milk, without too much of an issue. 

A recent study released by the CSIRO noted that “one in six adult Australians are choosing to avoid milk and dairy foods, the majority without a medical diagnosis, leading to public health concerns for women in particular”. This is an alarming fact, considering the nutritional benefits of consuming dairy products, for example, dairy products are a great source of vitamin B12-Which is vital for the normal functioning of our brain and nervous system, not to mention in the formation of new red blood cells. Another great nutrient those who avoid dairy often miss out on, is Vitamin D, which is useful in the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphate. A deficiency of Vitamin D can cause issues with bone density and potentially rickets. 

With all of this in mind, and knowing that the majority of health professional still recommend dairy products as part of a healthy diet, people are still confused about what milk to buy. In my local supermarket I often see people standing in front of the milk fridges looking utterly perplexed by the huge variety of milks on offer. So here iv’e put together your simply glossary of milks:

Whole Milk (3.5% fat) is the whole milk which contains 3.5% milk fat, which is why it tastes so delicious and has a rich, creamy texture. Generally whole milk is homogenized and pasteurized (see below). After babies stop drinking mother’s milk, they usually drink whole milk until they are at least two years old. The fatty acids in whole milk are important to the development of the brain and the nervous system.

Light/Low fat milk (1-2% fat) has some of the benefits of whole milk, however due to the fact there is less fat, there are less of the fat soluble vitamins such as vitamin D and vitamin A. Some brands will fortify their milk with both of these vitamins later in processing. Often skim milk powder is added to it, which makes it taste creamier and also boosts the calcium content. Also called HiLo milk. 

Skim Milk (less than 0.15% fat) or non fat milk, generally contains less than 0.15% fat. Again skim milk powder is often added to increase the protein and calcium content, as well as make it taste creamier. 

Buttermilk, despite its name, is typically made from nonfat or lowfat milk. It is a cultured sour milk made by adding certain organisms to sweet milk, and is popular in cooking. 

Homogenised: The process of emulsifying milk so the fat droplets are evenly dispersed throughout the milk (unhomogenized milk is SAFE to consume and has the fat/cream layer on the top)

Pasturised: The process of partial sterilization, using heat treatment or radiation to make milk safe for consumption, removing all the nasties. The basic process for whole milk involves heating the milk to a temperature of no less than 71.7ºC for a minimum of 15 seconds (max 25 seconds). This process is known as High Temperature Short Time (HTST).

Raw milk: The untreated variety of whole milk, still contains potentially harmful bacteria. Generally is not legally sold within supermarkets, however in some places is sold for “beauty purposes”. Due to the nature of the harmful bacteria it is widely known that we shouldn’t consume raw milk, regardless of what health guru’s say. 

A2 milk: Standard milk contains both the A1 and A2 proteins, however there are some varieties of cows who produce milk with only the A2 protein, and for some people this can reduce the amount of digestive upsets. The reason this is the case is that A1 and A2 milks have a different structure and so for some people, will digest and absorb A2 better than A1. However it is much more expensive than standard milk, so only buy it if you find there is a real difference in how you feel, otherwise it’s not better from a nutrient density point of view. 

In summary: I tend to keep it simple and go for a standard whole milk, because it tastes so much better than skim or low fat, and I enjoy it more. I guess if you were wanting to lose weight skim or low fat milk might be a good option, however I think there are much better ways to reduce energy intake (and there are some studies that show that whole fat milk is actually better for weight loss-due to the satiating nature of the fat and protein content of whole milk). 

I could go on and on and discuss the varieties of plant based milks, however they generally don’t compare with standard milk, however can be a great addition to your healthy diet, or for those who are medically diagnosed lactose intolerant. 

For more information check out these great links: