More on Milk

When I wrote my original On Milk post, it was getting so long that I decided to leave out the implications that drinking whole milk may have on fat and calorie intake and cholesterol management.  But I wasn’t surprised when that topic came up in the comments.  In fact, I was rather surprised that it wasn’t addressed more than once.

Fresh milk

If you think you know all there is to know about fat and cholesterol, think again.

Regarding cholesterol, there are various contradicting theories about what causes high cholesterol (and even what it is, exactly) and how dangerous it actually is.  I’m hardly qualified to speak on the topic.  However, if this is a concern of yours, I highly recommend that you get yourself down to your friendly Borders bookstore (or just click on the affiliate link that is on its way) and purchase a copy of Nina Planck’s Real Food: What To Eat and Why because she has a whole chapter dedicated to the topic, and it was quite eye-opening to me.  If you think you know all there is to know about fat and cholesterol, think again.  I will try to address the topic a bit when I post about eggs, so stay tuned.

As far as weight loss and dieting is concerned, I realize that switching to whole milk seems counter-intuitive.  Whole milk has more fat and calories than skim or 2% so it must be more fattening.  Right?  WELLLLLL…  Maybe, maybe not.

There have been some recent findings that suggest the contrary.

For instance, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that women who regularly drank whole milk and other full-fat dairy products gained 15%-30% less weight over a ten year period than those who consumed low-fat dairy products.  No one is sure exactly why, but it certainly makes me want to find out more.

I was going to start summarizing some of what I’ve found on this topic, but rather than reinvent the wheel, let me point you to some resources that may be eye-opening.

Kelly’s post called Does Fat Make You Fat? is a great place to start.

Also, at the end of her post on Healthy Milk, she addresses the issue of weight gain and whole milk in the Q&A section.

According to this article in White Coat Notes, low-fat dairy may be linked to infertility in women.

This article from addresses the common myths about fat and cholesterol.

Furthermore, and this is eye-opening, a recent study recorded by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association reveals the following:

For women, 5-year difference in waist circumference was inversely related to intake from red meat, vegetables, fruit, butter, and high-fat dairy products, whereas intake from potatoes, processed meat, poultry, and snack foods was positively associated. For men, red meat and fruit intakes were inversely associated with 5-year difference in waist circumference, whereas snack foods intake was positively associated. Sex differences occurred for vegetables, high-fat dairy products, and processed meat.

The results suggest that a diet low in fruits and red meat and high in snack foods was associated with larger waist circumference gains in both sexes. Furthermore, in women a diet low in vegetables, butter, and high-fat dairy products, and high in poultry, potatoes, and processed meat were likely determinants of subsequent gain at the waist.

The fact of the matter is, we are learning new things every day, and some findings are contradicting the old school of thought.  Unfortunately, we’ve been indoctrinated with the low-fat mentality for so long that it’s going to take time to re-educate the general population.  But in my opinion, it boils down to this.  If we would just stick to eating things as close to the way that God or Mother Nature or whoever you believe in created them, we wouldn’t have to worry about the latest research or the most recent study.

Of course, I’m not saying we should all go out and gorge ourselves on every fattening thing we can lay our hands on.  Unfortunately, the food itself is not the only thing that’s changed in the last 100 years.  Portion sizes have grown exponentially, we eat on the run, we snack in the car and in front of the TV and at our desk and virtually everywhere but the kitchen table with our families, and we lead much more sedentary lives than our forefathers.

So yeah, if you keep eating all kinds of junk and switch to whole milk, you may gain weight.  But in the context of a traditional, balanced, healthy diet, whole milk should not make you gain weight.  At least, that’s what they tell me.  I’ll let you know in a few months. 😉

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26 thoughts on “More on Milk

  1. I gave up low and non-fat dairy about a month ago due to my infertility struggles. It’s hard to find full-fat yogurt though. Some grocery stores only have low-fat varieties. I am seriously considering making my own yogurt in my crock-pot…

    I also switched Brynnie to whole milk and use cream in my tea. Old habits die hard but I’m trying!

  2. We drink whole milk, but we aren’t huge junk food eaters so that may balance things out. Now that we drink whole milk, I don’t drink as much as I used to. That also may be partly because I’m no longer pregnant or nursing, but I just don’t crave it the way I used to. We drank 2% or skim and I’d have several glasses a day. Now I have a small glass and I’m satisfied. I strongly believe if your diet is healthy, your body knows what to crave.

  3. Megan, I feel your pain. It is almost impossible to find full fat yogurt at the grocery. 99.9% of the yogurt they sell is junk. It makes me fuming mad. Did even before I got on this traditional foods kick.

    The yogurt from Seven Stars Farm is fabulous. It contains only Whole Milk, Organic Maple Syrup, L. Acidophilus, Bifidus and Living Yogurt Cultures.

    You can buy it by the case at their farm, but the hours are odd. You can also get it at some whole foods stores, not sure about THE Whole Foods, but the markup is horrendous.

    I’d love to get down to the farmers market this Saturday. Let me know if you want me to bring you some yogurt.

    That said, my made her own when we were growing up, and it was not that difficult. She had a yogurt maker, but I would be interested in knowing how to do it in the crockpot.

  4. Great post!! Ever since I lived in France (where skim-milk is practically non-existent) I’ve been drinking whole milk. And I’ve been able to maintain my weight with ease.

    Personally I believe because it keeps you full & satisfied. Seriously, give me skim milk with my cereal and I’ll want to devour the entire cereal box as that milk is just so unsatisfying!! It’s like water. I believe eating REAL foods is the best thing you can do for your body.

    Plus, its part of my overall healthy lifestyle. But I don’t eat any lite, low-fat, or diet foods. NO. I eat real foods. And that’s the key.

    And I don’t drink tons of milk a day (moderation!!). I get the majority of my calcium from yogurt (you guessed it, made from whole milk), cheese (real cheese, not the fake stuff) and from leafy green vegetables, etc.

    But I do know from my work with weight-loss clients, the thought for them to have anything full-fat can be scary at first. And even if the end up drinking 2% milk, it’s better than that skim stuff — which is practically just water.

  5. Dineen, thanks for the input! I am intrigued by the “French Paradox” and think the key is MODERATION and REAL food that satisfies cravings and hunger.

    I’ve started eating homemade granola with whole milk on it for breakfast every morning. I’m SO full I don’t want anything till 1:00.

  6. So interesting. Thanks for sharing, Jo-Lynne. RE: “women who regularly drank whole milk and other full-fat dairy products gained 15%-30% less weight over a ten year period than those who consumed low-fat dairy products” … I wonder whether there’s something to be said about the filling nature (and psychological impact) of whole versus reduced fat. So, if you’re consuming full fat you: a) are filled up faster; and b) are more mindful of portion control, compared to consumption of reduced fat. I can envision this having a longitudinal impact (re: 10 year study).

    I’ve struggled with dairy due to lactose issues but now I’m wondering about trying full fat milk in little quantities… 🙂


  7. I just put whole milk on my creal and in my coffee. I still am LOVING whole milk!!! My cholesterol is low so I’m going to keep on drinking it.

  8. Christine, I think the full factor DEFINITELY has a lot to do with it.

    I also have lactose issues, and I can drink raw milk with no problem. I don’t know the regulations in Massachusetts, but you might look into that. It also has more nutrients and allows your body to absorb vitamins better, supposedly.

  9. I think it’s funny that right above where I’m typing this comment it says “spill it” and we’re talking about milk. I guess as long as we don’t cry over it.


    Moving on to the actual comment: I really have to get this Real Food book of which you speak. When I was pregnant with and then nursing my firstborn, I researched nutrition in great detail. I decided to make some dietary changes for one month. I started reading labels and tried to eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. I’m not talking a raw food diet, but just less chemicals and preservatives. I didn’t completely cut out sugar, but I limited my intake. I told myself that after a month if I didn’t feel better, I’d go back to the way I’d eaten before. Dadgumit if I didn’t feel AND LOOK healthier in just one month. It made a huge difference in my energy level and even in my quality of sleep.

    Now I’m the mom of three and convenience sometimes takes precedence over good nutrition but your recent posts have really made me start thinking about making more changes. As a whole, we’re relatively healthy eaters but you’ve given me some practical, easy steps we can take to even do more. I’d bought into the “skim is better” myth. I can’t WAIT to buy whole milk again!!

  10. Whimzie, I like your sense of humor. 🙂

    I’m SO excited that these posts are inspiring people to make positive changes!!!! I, too, would say I have fed my family FAIRLY healthy over the years but there was so much room for improvement. My own stomach ailments, plus just reading these books and realizing how closely tied to modern diseases the Western diet is, inspired me to just go for it. It’s too soon to tell if I will feel better, I think, but one thing I’ve noticed is that my skin and nails are much improved — something I never even thought about when I started this journey.

  11. A few years ago in college I wrote 2 papers for a logic class, one pro-milk and one anti-milk. I should dig those out and see if I found any interesting things about whole milk specifically. All I remember is that my conclusion was pro-milk, of course. 🙂

  12. I’m back. What Carolyn said reminded me of my No Milk phase. When I was nursing my oldest, he had major issues whenever I drank milk. (I think I was drinking 2% at the time.) I went completely off dairy and read a lot of stuff written by anti-dairy writers who said that cow milk was for calves not people. They said that the whole “milk does a body good thing” was a massive marketing ploy by the dairy industry to get us to consume stuff that wasn’t good for us anyway. I did soy for awhile until I read that too much soy isn’t necessarily a good thing. Plus I ended up just missing dairy and when I stopped nursing started eating/drinking dairy again. Have you read any anti-milk stuff in your research? Do you wish I’d do my own research and quit riding your research coattails?

  13. Hello Jo-Lynne, I just found your blog (although I think I’d heard of it before from that great lady at “Please Pass the Salt”), and I must say it’s refreshing after some of the mean blogs I’ve been roaming around lately! Regarding milk – I so agree! My brother and his wife have a farm and a milk cow. I love Maggie’s milk! But it’s illegal for them to sell or even give away her raw milk; they’re not exactly sure if it’s legal for them to let their kids drink it! So sad. From what he says, I thought that the pasteurization process was what took the vit. D out of the milk, no? Anyway, I’m looking forward to a happy blog for a while!

  14. I am so glad you turned me on to whole milk. I’m kind of enjoying it, and I always thought I disliked milk. I’m also putting plenty of butter on my veggies now, and I enjoyed bacon with my eggs at breakfast yesterday. =) I sure am paying a lot more attention to the amount of fruit and veggies I’m eating and trying to buy a variety, not just the same old stuff I always get. I sure do hope the milk helps with weight loss.

  15. Whimzie, I’m happy for you to ride my research coattails. 😉 I have heard the arguments against milk, namely that cows milk is for cows and human milk is for humans, and that we haven’t always consumed cow’s milk. But I think Nina Planck puts out a pretty good argument for drinking milk, due to its health benefits and also that there are other cultures who discovered its benefits and its appeal. It’s old enough for her, so it’s old enough for me. 🙂 Plus, I just like the stuff!

  16. Hey Jo-Lynne,
    Thanks for the links to my blog! This post and the comments have been fun. It’s been a long time now, but when I first heard that butter and whole milk were GOOD for me, it was SO hard to wrap my brain around it. Now that I know it’s true and have lived this way for years, I’m just SAD that “they” (doctors mostly) don’t know this stuff and instead tell their patients to eat low-fat crap…frustrating.
    Thanks for getting the word out more and more! 🙂

  17. Nina Planck’s book completed the conversion of my eating habits which started with The Fat Fallacy by Dr. Will Clower. LOVED Real Food. I felt free and clear about eating after reading it.

    Thanks for this blog about milk. I was raised on raw milk and am a big proponent of getting people to understand the benefits of milk (raw milk in particular, but pastuerized whole milk is better than 2% or skim).

    Now that I know you’re here I’ll be stopping by again!

  18. I think what people forget is that skim or low fat milk has LOADS more lactose – it’s watery, yes, but maybe more appropriately labelled as SUGAR water!

    And I wholeheartedly support (from personal experience, research, etc.) that eating full fat, natural foods truly does bring a higher level off saiety.

    Oh for our own milk cow! Or even dairy goat. In my state it’s illegal to purchase raw milk, and farmers are afraid to share what they’ve got, if they’ve got any.

    My great-grandparents were amazing people. He was a dairyman, she a professional cook. They were 100% into REAL whole foods – even when their peers were following enmasse the fake (and cheaper – which was a big deal Depression Era) food bandwagon. Bless their sweet hearts for getting it that real foods were where it was at!

  19. Hi Jo-Lynne,
    Sure diet is important which may or may not include cows milk, the big point is how we might develop high cholesterol in the first place and the first question to ask is – so where does cholesterol come from?

    The answer lies in two sources, derived from the diet or derived from synthesis in the tissue, chiefly the liver. In the diet cholesterol comes solely from foods of animal origin (egg yolk, liver and fatty meats, cheese). Around 80% of total body cholesterol is manufactured in the liver, which means that only 15-20% of cholesterol comes from your diet. Cholesterol travels from the liver through the bloodstream to the various tissues in the body by means of a special class of protein molecules called lipoproteins. The cells take what they need, and any excess remains in the bloodstream until other lipoproteins pick it up for transport back to the liver.

    Cholesterol made by the liver for tissues is transported in the largest of lipoprotein particles (very low density lipoproteins, VLDL). In the plasma, these are transformed to smaller lipoproteins (intermediate density lipoproteins, IDLP, and low density lipoproteins, LDL) by the action of enzymes. Cholesterol delivered directly to tissues is in the LDL form. Once inside the tissue cells, cholesterol is utilised for the variety of functions previously outlined. The excess cholesterol is packed in the smallest of lipoprotein particles (high density lipoprotein, HDL) and transported back to the liver for processing.

    Hope this helps!

  20. Wonderful post! I have been really researching all this lately, and couldn’t agree more with your thoughts!

  21. I’ve been thinking about this post all day. Went to Trader Joes to stock up on my Irish Kerrygold butter. Love that stuff! Then called my Mema (grandmother) on the way home to see how she was doing…she has some skin cancers removed yesterday. She ends up telling me that she had a whole body scan and has no cancer (besides the little bit of skin cancer spot on her arms)and is healthy. At 84. We end up talking about how life was when she was little and what she used to eat. Of course her family farmed and grew/made almost all thier own food. I asked if she drank raw milk. Of course…and made thier own butter, cream and clabber. Clabber? So I had to look it up.

    I have it on good opinion that is makes the best biscuits you ever tasted. This is all very interesting to me. Wish I could travel back and have dinner with them!

  22. Leah, so interesting. Thanks for sharing. My mom and I were talking about my great grandmother who lived on lard and butter and whole milk and all that stuff. She lived to be 94 and her heart just wouldn’t stop beating. Really makes you go hmmmmm…

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