The Fallacy of Fat: Dairy Exposed

say-no-to-milkAs we saw in the last post, food labeling can be tricky business. There are all sorts of loop holes and shenanigans that lure the unsuspecting consumer (us!) into believing they are getting something nutritious when, in fact, they are not. So today I thought we’d take a look at milk. As many of you know, I am not a fan. In fact, I would support complete dairy boycott as I firmly believe that milk and it’s byproducts are some of the very worst foods we can consume. The most prominent proteins in milk are casein (82%) and when (18%). By the standards set forth to test for chemical carcinogens (chemicals that can cause cancer) casein is considered one the most potent ever identified. But I’m not even going in to that (or the implications for diabetes, heart disease, or the gross inhumanity of cattle) I’m just here to talk about the fat.

In the United States we have wide access to 4 kinds of milk, which are probably familiar to everyone. There is “whole” milk, 2% milk, 1% milk and skim milk (putatively “fat free”). The Washington Post ran an article on October 3, 2014 that states:

Whole milk isn’t made wholly of fat, or largely of fat, or even substantially of fat. In fact, it doesn’t contain much fat all.

Whole milk is actually only about 3.5 percent fat.

Well, that’s not so bad, right?


What does that actually mean, 3.5% fat? 3.5% of what? Therein lies the magic (illusion?). Whole milk is 3.5% fat BY WEIGHT. And what makes up most of the weight of milk? Anyone? Yes, it’s water! And water has how many calories? None! Can you see where this is going?

As readers will already have heard, an “ideal” diet is 10% of calories from fat, 5–10% of calories from protein, and 80–85% of calories from complex, unrefined carbohydrates (whole foods and that does NOT include Doritos, Snickers, etc.). And this is how pretty much everyone thinks about food, macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrate), and calories; as a percentage of total calories. No one thinks about fat, protein, or carbohydrate as a percentage of the weight, unless they’re into marketing and trying to fool you. And they do it because it works.

Let’s look at whole milk again with a more rational lens:

Serving Size                             1 cup (8 ounces)

Calories                                    148

Total fat                                   8 grams

Saturated fat (the bad kind)   4.6 grams

Total Calories from fat            72 (8 grams x 9 calories/gram)

% of calories from fat             49%

Yes, it’s sadly true, almost half of the calories from a glass of milk are from fat. Here’s a table of how the different milks compare. Notice that when you take out most of the fat, almost half the calories disappear.

MilkBut even “fat free” skim milk still has 2% of it’s calories from fat, obviously much improved from it’s 1%, 2%, and whole milk siblings, but it is not free of fat. And don’t forget, there’s still that casein to contend with!

But, don’t worry, there’s always a dissenting opinion. You could certainly turn to Karen Giles-Smith, a registered dietitian and health and wellness coach. Her article tells you that milk fat is good for your body. By the way, Ms. Giles-Smith was previously employed by the Dairy Council of Michigan for nutrition communications and she does quote Greg Miller, president of the Dairy Research Institute and executive vice president of the National Dairy Council. I’m sure there was no bias in this work.


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