Fat-free skim milk is the quintessential staple of any health-conscious home in America. You’re supposed to drink skim because whole milk has too much fat, too many calories, and cholesterol that can give you heart disease. Right?
In case you’ve been led to believe these lies, I’ve got a few things I’d like you to know about the darling of the dairy industry, skim milk.
People haven’t always bought into the idea that fat is unhealthy. It all started with a flawed theory by a really bad scientist who said that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. Which is pretty weird, considering no one had heart attacks around the turn of the century when everyone was still eating pounds of butter and cream every week.
Somehow, by the time World War II rolled around, we were all convinced that fat was the enemy, anyway. Butter was replaced with cheap margarine made from toxic industrial oils, and creamy, full-fat milk was dumped in favor of skim.
Dairy manufacturers were thrilled with this new trend, however, because what was once an industrial waste product had quickly become a highly-desirable “health food.” When cream was skimmed from milk, the remaining fat-free milk used to be considered a nearly useless byproduct of obtaining the cream. But, market that wasteful skim milk as being a healthful choice for consumers, and suddenly, you’ve got a serious money-maker on your hands! Now, the agribusiness giants running the dairy industry are able to profit off of both products, and don’t intend on stopping anytime soon.
Before processing, skim milk has a very unappetizing blueish color, a chalky taste, and watery texture that doesn’t resemble natural milk at all. So, to whiten, thicken, and make it taste a little more normal, powdered milk solids are often mixed into the milk.
What’s so bad about powdered milk? Well, in the manufacturing process, liquid milk is forced through tiny holes at very high pressure, which causes the cholesterol in the milk to oxidize, and toxic nitrates to form. Oxidized cholesterol contributes to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, while unoxidized cholesterol from unprocessed foods is actually an antioxidant to help fight inflammation in the body. The proteins found in powdered milk are so denatured that they are unrecognizable by the body and contribute to inflammation.
Shockingly, dairy manufacturers are not required by the FDA to label the powdered milk as a separate ingredient, because it’s still technically just “milk,” the single ingredient found on the list. So, there’s no way to be sure that it is or isn’t in your fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
The skim milk you’ll find in most grocery stores is a mass-produced product from animals in concentrated animal feeding operations, or factory farms, where the cows are kept in confinement and fed a diet that is completely inappropriate for their species. Because cows are designed to eat grass, when they are fed a diet consisting primarily of corn, as they are in factory farms, they get sick.
And because they get sick, they’re often given antibiotics to keep them alive so they can continue to produce. But because they’re still fighting off infections, things like blood and pus from open sores frequently make their way into the finished product — the milk we see on store shelves. The FDA allows up to 750 million pus cells per liter of milk, to be sold legally.
Also legal, are the injections of recombinant bovine growth hormones, or rBGH, a known carcinogen banned in virtually every industrialized nation in the world, except the United States. The “recombinant” part of the growth hormone means that it was genetically modified from the cow’s natural growth hormones to stimulate increased milk production.
Real milk really does do a body good. It has many valuable nutrients in it. In addition to vital minerals like calcium, milk provides vitamins D, A, E, and K.
Well, skim milk actually has no vitamin K because it’s concentrated in the butterfat of the milk. And as for the others? They are fat-soluble vitamins. So even if you were to get a little bit of them in from drinking your fat-free milk, you won’t actually be able to absorb and assimilate them into your body. Unless, maybe, you paired your glass of skim with a nice heaping spread of butter over toast or something!
But, if you’re not getting milk from a farm that raises cows on green pastures instead of in concentrated animal-feeding factories, your milk won’t have very much of those essential fat-soluble vitamins. Cows get their vitamin E, A, and K from the nutrients they eat in grass, and vitamin D from cruising around in the sunlight all day. Also, because confinement dairy cows are bred for unnaturally-high levels of milk production, the vitamin content of the milk is severely diluted, as the cow only transfers a set amount of vitamins to her milk supply.
As for the rest of the nutrition in skim milk from factory farms? Well, it does provide a bit of denatured (and therefore, potentially quite harmful) protein, thanks to high-heat pasteurization. But no beneficial enzymes and probiotic microflora — those are all killed off in the pasteurization process — which aid in digestion.
And then of course, some chemically-synthesized vitamin D is usually added since confinement cows are severely lacking in it. Except the kind that humans and animals are able to assimilate from exposure to the sun, vitamin D3, isn’t at all the same as the manufactured D they dump into skim milk — synthetic vitamin D2. A study referenced by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that synthetic vitamin D2 “should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods,” because of how basically worthless it is to your body.
Farmers knew well before skim milk was marketed as a waistline-slimming health food what it really is good for — fattening you up! Skim milk has traditionally been fed to pigs to help them bulk up for slaughter. They of course would save the good part, the cream, for human consumption.
Today, our school children who have been guinea pigs of the misguided nutritional advice to drink fat-free milk instead of whole milk, certainly aren’t any thinner for it. Researchers at the Harvard medical school found that, contrary to their hypothesis, “skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not,” in a study in which thousands of children’s milk drinking habits were surveyed.
Adults aren’t faring much better with swapping whole milk for skim. Studies have showed time and time again that a reduced-fat diet, similarly to a reduced-calorie diet, does not result in long-term weight loss and health, but instead leads only to “transient” weight loss — that would be weight that comes piling right back on after it’s temporarily shed. This is because healthy fats actually curb your appetite and trigger the production of hormones which tell the brain when you’re full. If you’re not eating fat, you stay constantly hungry, and wind up binging on unhealthy food. Fat-free milk essentially signals to your body that something is missing, which leads to overeating and weight gain.
Fat-free milk is supposed to be “heart healthy” because it lacks the saturated fat and cholesterol that whole milk contains.
It really boggles my mind how prevalent the completely de-bunked theory still is that heart disease is caused by the intake of saturated fat. One guy makes up a totally bogus “scientific” study that points to countries with a high-fat diet having high rates of heart disease, while leaving out all the countries of people eating tons of fat and having almost zero heart disease. And somehow, seventy years later, we’re still singing his praises and demonizing saturated fat and cholesterol?
Think about it. Were our ancestors eating fat-free sour cream, cholesterol-free “buttery spreads” or skim milk? Of course not. Dairy had always been consumed in its whole, full-fat formbefore the industrialization of foods began. And no one had heart disease. The field of medical cardiology didn’t even exist until the advent of industrial seed oils packed with toxic polyunsaturated fat.
When you look at basic history, or even modern trends of disease in the last century, as intake of foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol have decreased, heart disease has been steadily skyrocketing. So, why is this myth that saturated fat and cholesterol are causing it, still being perpetuated? It doesn’t make any logical sense.
Could it be because 25% of the adult population is taking expensive statin medications that make players in the medical and pharmaceutical industries a whole lot of money? Or that the processed food industry doesn’t want you to know just how much more they profit off of foods produced with cheap, shelf-stable industrial oils, as opposed to real, saturated fat?
Heart disease is in no way caused by dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. It just isn’t. Even heart surgeons are starting to speak out on the fact that “the science that saturated fat alone causes heart disease is non-existent.” Do we really need more proof?
There’s no reason to ever buy fat-free milk or fat-free dairy products, or even low-fat ones, if for no other reason than there’s no need to avoid the dietary fat found in milk — saturated fat, which is essential to health. Most skim milk is a highly processed food that is usually born of a factory, not a farm, and is not a healthy choice at all.
The best choice is fresh, clean milk from happy cows grazing on the grass of a real farm. Just the way it came from the cow — whole, unprocessed, and with all its nutrients intact. Including the fat.
You can find real, whole milk from a farm near you in most states, on the RealMilk.com directory.
Have you since changed your mind? Tell us about it in the comments below.
“The Skinny on Fats” Dr. Mary Enig, Ph.D
Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon