The Real Food Guide

Is Skim Milk Good For You?



There you are, perusing the chilly refrigerated section of your favorite supermarket. Although you buy milk on almost every shopping trip, your mind goes through a familiar dance when faced with a wall of choices. Skim or whole? Is there a difference between 1% and 2% milk, and if so, are such small increments that important? You care about your health and maybe you’re even trying to lose weight, so you pull a carton of skim off the shelf and put it in your basket. But did that deliberation lead you to the right choice? Is skim milk good for you at all?

Despite the lower calorie count and purported benefits listed on the carton, the answer is no. In fact, skim milk started off as a by-product of cream production used to fatten pigs! Surprised? Dairy manufacturers once threw away fat-free milk after the cream was skimmed off. Thanks to a flawed, controversial study by Ancel Keys linking fat consumption to heart disease, they could start selling skim milk to health-conscious consumers. Is skim milk good for you, or just a company’s bottom line? Some CEOs and marketers got a raise, but you got stuck with milk that hardly lives up to its famous “does a body good” tagline.

Real milk has rightfully been associated with strong, healthy bodies. In addition to being the most famous source of bone-building calcium, milk serves up vitamins D, A, E, and K. At least that’s what whole milk provides. You won’t find any vitamin K in fat-free milk because it’s concentrated in butterfat. Not only does skim milk skimp on vitamin K, the vitamins it retains are all fat-soluble, meaning you won’t be able to absorb them anyways unless you pair your skim milk with a thick spread of butter or a block of cheese! Artificially synthesized vitamin D is often added to skim milk, but this vitamin D2 is not like the vitamin D3 humans absorb from sunlight. In fact, according to a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the synthetic vitamin D2 is so poorly absorbed in the human body that it “should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods.”

Blue MilkUnfortunately, the problem with skim milk isn’t limited to the good nutrients it lacks. It also contains an ingredient that contributes to inflammation and plaque buildup in your arteries: powdered milk solids. What starts out as regular liquid milk oxidizes when processed into powder, forming toxic nitrates. Why would anyone add such a dangerous ingredient to a supposed health product? Because without it, skim milk actually has a chalky taste and watery texture totally unlike regular milk. It also has a light blue color, which tends to turn off consumers, even if it reminds them of the milk Luke Skywalker’s aunt served him in Star Wars.

If skim milk isn’t good for you, is it at least good for your waistline? Again, this is a swing and a miss for skim. The trend toward fat-free foods has actually coincided with the trend toward childhood obesity, as evidenced by a Harvard School of Public Health study which found that “skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.” The same is true in adults, owing to the fact that healthy fats are key in sending the message of fullness from your gut to your brain. Is skim milk good for you in any way? No. In simple terms, you’ll eat less, enjoy more, feel fuller, and be healthier after a glass of whole milk than skim.

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Photo credits: Symetrique by fdecomite and Got Blue Milk by


Vivian is the founder of the Real Food Guide and a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN) who believes that each individual needs to go on their own Real Food Journey to find what works. While she herself eats a diet of real food (aka a paleo diet), some people may find that they can flourish on a vegetarian diet instead. However, universal to optimal health and well-being is good quality, nutrient-dense, Real Food.

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May 16 |

8 thoughts on “Is Skim Milk Good For You?

  1. rakhshinda says:

    hi Vivian Cheng how are you
    my question is following
    i drink organic skim milk is this good for me or should i have to start organic whole milk ?

    • Hi Rakhshinda,
      If you read the above article, it outlines why skim milk *isn’t* good for you. And if you do drink milk, you’ll want to choose the fullest-fat milk you can find, otherwise you won’t be able to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D, E and K.

  2. Great article Vivian. My oldest son refused to drink milk all together. We also found out he had a dairy allergy. But after 6 years he is no longer allergic, according to the allergy tests. Now he loves full fat milk. His body knew all along;) I tell my clients all the time, you need the fat to absorb all those nutrients. Skim milk is just another high sugar beverage.

  3. Homesick says:

    I get the blue milk thing.. I’ve seen it that colour in mass produced milk. But not in organic milk. Have you tried organic skimmed milk? It tastes great and doesn’t have that blue hue to it at all. I get that a bit of fat is required to absorb the vitamins but why go all out o whole milk… why not 1 or 2%. My family only have milk, water and 100% juice in the house to drink. No sodas or dodgy sugar filled juice boxes. So how does the skim make them fat? If all we eat is organic with carbs limited to organic brown rice, pasta and quinoa (and this is limited to twice a week), only coconut and organic olive oil how can skim be bad?

    • The ‘blue’ milk thing was more a Star Wars reference for the pop culture enthusiasts. The color itself is not an issue so much that the milk is so thin that it appears blue. I’ve seen both ‘regular’ and organic milk with this same watery hue.

      If you can tolerate milk, then I recommend drinking whole milk as that is the least-processed form of milk (raw if you can get from a quality source) – the animal fat is not bad for you, especially if it comes from a quality source. What makes skim milk fattening? It’s the high sugar content compared to fat and protein. They’ve processed what was a whole food meant to feed a young animal into a skimmed version of what it was.

      I can’t comment on your specific diet per se or what, if anything (?) as it’s unclear from your comment, is making your family fat. I don’t know what your lifestyle and health status is. Skim milk is ‘bad’ because it’s a highly processed and stripped form of ‘milk’, as the article says. I’d also say for the record that while 100% juice is much better than sugar-filled juice boxes, juice itself is not the healthiest beverage. Thirsty? Drink water. Want something sweet? Opt for a whole fruit (in complete form with its enzymes, fiber and all its nutrients and co-factors) over processed, squeezed out juice.

  4. […] the article here from The Real Food […]

  5. […] I mention organic skim milk? Yeah, and that was just one of the […]

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