Is Low Fat the Healthier Option?

Author: Angela Fleming   Date Posted:27 March 2017 

Consuming low fat dairy options may seem like a no brainer for those wanting to shed those few extra pounds, or inhibit them from appearing. Low fat dairy products do not necessarily mean they are a healthier option, they often contain hidden sugars alongside artificial flavourings and preservatives. Avoiding the full fat option can deprive you of beneficial nutrients important for overall health and wellbeing. So how can a full fat option be better for me?

The Nutrients

It’s a well-known fact milk is rich in calcium and protein, it also contains variety of beneficial vitamins and minerals too, such as;

  • Vitamin A, B’s & K
  • Magnesium
  • Choline & Betaine
  • Phosphorus
  • Iodine
  • Potassium
  • Omega 3 & 6
  • Zinc

*Milk is not as rich in these nutrients as it is in calcium. Milk should not be used to rectify potential deficiencies of the above.

Full Fat Facts

When comparing full fat milk to skim, the overall nutritional profile of full fat is superior. One serving of full fat milk; 250mL, is significantly higher in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. According to Nutrition Data (2017) full fat milk (250mL) contains 183mg of omega 3 and 293mg of omega 6. Our skinny counterpart (250mL) contains a mere 4.9mg of omega 3 and 12.3mg of omega 6. Quite the difference! Essential fatty acids are responsible for the production of cell membranes and prostaglandins and healthy nerve function.

Full fat milk is significantly higher in vitamin A also. Vitamin A is necessary for the healthy functioning of the eyes, immune system, the growth and repair of epithelial cells, and the formation of bones and teeth. Vitamin A is a fat soluble vitamin, it is best absorbed alongside a fat, which is pretty handy when you are consuming full fat milk. In comparison to skim milk, the full fat version contains 249 IU per 250mL, whereas skim milk contains 17.2 IU.

Skim milk is completely void of choline, whilst full fat milk contains 34.9mg per 250mL serving. Choline is a component of cell membranes and myelin (the sheath that covers nerves), it is involved in fat metabolism and the formation of neurotransmitters; ideal for nerve and brain function.

The days of adding iodine to cow’s milk are over, however this does not mean milk doesn’t naturally contain iodine. Iodine is essential for healthy thyroid function. Iodine is a component of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxin (T4) which determine the metabolic rate of the body. One 250mL glass of full fat milk contains 57.2mcg of iodine, compared to 37.4mcg found in 250mL skim milk.

B complex vitamins are necessary for the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. B vitamins are involved in the production of energy, hormones and blood cells, and the health maintenance of digestion, immunity, connective tissue, hair, nails, and nerves. Overall full fat milk contains more of the B group vitamins than skim milk.

Although full fat milk has a higher calorie content than skim milk, it is lower in natural sugars. Natural sugars are a form of carbohydrates, which are required to fuel our brains. When the dose of natural sugars exceed the amount of energy burnt it can potentially be stored as fat.

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Calorie Content

Calories are units of energy which are measured by the amount of heat necessary to raise the temperature of 1g of water from 0⁰ to 100⁰ C. Fat is caloric dense compared to carbohydrates and proteins. Fat contains 9 calories compared to the 4 found in carbohydrates and proteins. This means fat increases satiety levels keeping you full for longer.

In comparison, full fat milk (250mL) contains 159 calories compared to 88 calories found in 250mL of skim milk. That is a difference of 71 calories; not a lot when the average recommended adult intake is 2000 calories per day! This particularly useful when desiring to curb hunger pangs.

Low Fat Products

Low fat products, particularly yoghurt and dairy desserts are often higher in hidden sugars and have a high glycaemic index. Food products like this can induce a sudden spike when excess sugar enters the blood stream. This can ultimately end in a sudden drop of energy, snowballing to an overwhelming feeling of lethargy. Hunger may still also exist prompting the urge for more food to satisfy ones needs.

Is Fat Fattening?

This answer is dependable on many factors. Fat can be fattening indeed, so can carbohydrates and proteins. It depends on the form of fat you are consuming; does it contain colossal amounts of sugar? How much fat are you consuming and are you using enough energy to inhibit it from hugging your hips? A balanced diet of carbohydrates particularly in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and fats will ultimately avoid weight gain and keep your arteries healthy. 

So, overall full fat milk products are nutrient dense and lower in natural sugars in comparison to skim varieties, and keep us satisfied for longer. Including full fat products into the diet may be a healthier option than its low fat companion after all.  

Written by Angela Fleming
Angela Fleming

Angela (BHSc Naturopathy) is a qualified naturopath who strongly believes in living a healthy and happy lifestyle. Angela believes being active, taking time out for yourself on a regular basis and consuming a balanced healthy diet (with the odd sneaky treat included now and then) is the fundamental key to keeping our minds and bodies in good health.

Angela loves to pass on her knowledge of healthy and happy living to her two young children, who love to experiment in the kitchen with her and train alongside her in Karate.


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