Why whole (full fat) milk is better for your health, weight, and happiness

"What are you... two?"

This was my boyfriend's response when I informed him that I only drink whole milk where possible. 

His surprise can be forgiven though, in a world where the words "Fat Free" take up three times as much packaging surface space as the word "Yoghurt", most of us have grown up barely feeling the need to consider what makes for a healthy choice when it comes to dairy products. 

The sad truth is, that Fat-Free-Health is one of the biggest, most dangerous, and most devastating lies that has been allowed to extend itself in to modern social consciousness. Skimmed milk and semi-skimmed milk now consistently out-sell whole (or full-fat) milk, and there seems to be very little information made publicly available as to why that is not cool. 

People are quite surprised that I consume real butter over vegetable spreads, full fat cheese (sometimes in large quantities) every single day, cream, and whole milk, in my quest to eat healthily. All that fat. Right?

I wanted to write a post to explain why stepping away from the semi-skimmed, and pouring a glass of your toddler's delicious full-fat milk, could be one of the most positive decisions that you make for your health, and for your waist line.

Skimming milk means increasing the sugar content per glass when compared to whole milk.

It's simple, if half of your milk is fat, and you take that away, you're only left with a sort of sugary water, and only half as much product. You therefore have to top it up with more sugary water in order to give somebody a full glass of milk.

When you remember that it is sugar that the body stores as fat, and not the actual fat that you consume (which is converted in to energy), then you might start to realise why you still can't do up your favourite pair of jeans. Of course, sugar isn't only bad for you in terms of your weight, it's also linked to almost all known life threatening diseases, and chronic conditions that could effect you now, or in later life. Swap to whole milk and you slash your sugar intake.

Milk is a wonderful source of Vitamins A, D, E, and K, all of them totally essential to healthy body function in various ways. These vitamins are present in all milk, skimmed or whole, however, they are all fat-soluble vitamins. This means, if they're not linked up to some glorious fatty molecules, your body can not absorb them. Making skimmed milk nutritionally void.

Most of us know that milk is also a fantastic source of calcium (for strong bones and healthy teeth, among other bonuses) but did you know that calcium uptake is significantly improved in the presence of Vitamin D? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that you're not getting your money's worth in calcium from a glass of skimmed milk. In fact - skimmed milk may be making you calcium deficient.

In production, skimmed milk powder is often added to skimmed or semi-skimmed milk. As I said earlier, when fat is removed from milk, you're left with far less liquid to bottle. You need to bulk that up, and of course, it's cheaper to do so with powdered milk and water than more fresh, processed milk.

That in itself is a bit demoralising, when you consider that the poorer quality is not reflected in the price; but it's worth noting that the powdering process causes the cholesterol in milk to oxidise. Oxidised cholesterol is bad news for your arteries, and can cause the growth of plaque in your blood vessels, leading to increased blood pressure, and a higher risk of heart disease. The cholesterol that appears naturally in your food is not dangerous.

Low fat foods are less satisfying than full fat. That's the simple truth of the matter. Almost all human bodies are equipped with "indicator" hormones, that flick in to action when we've eaten (or drunk) enough fat. We know that we're done, and, if we're sensible, we'll listen to our bodies and stop. No human on the planet however, possesses a similar hormone for sugar, and as such, your body will never alert you to the fact that you've had enough sugar, other than through nausea perhaps. You simply won't feel "full" after drinking a glass of skimmed milk, bloated perhaps, in the same way you would be after drinking a glass of water, but not satisfied.

Whole milk requires a significant amount less processing. It's a natural product (the clue's in the name - "whole") and leaves a far lighter imprint on our environment than the manufacturing of low fat (fattening) dairy products.

There's a reason that when you wean a baby from formula or human breast milk, on to cow's milk, that you're told to stick with whole milk and not a skimmed variety - it's good for humans. Your nutritional needs don't change an awful lot between toddlerhood and adulthood. The reason that skimmed milk gives your baby diarrhoea but perhaps doesn't effect you in the same way? Your body is used to being abused - your baby's isn't.

Let's just end with a final author's note shall we? Whole milk tastes a whole lot better.

*Always try to buy organic dairy products. You may notice a slightly higher price tag, but buying products made from the milk of grass-fed cattle is far better than milk from cows who've been pumped full of hormones and fed an unusual, chemical-laced diet, in order to make what is, theoretically, an artificial milk.

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