Although milk can be less inviting to people who are concerned with their weight because of its high fat content, some types of milk contain no fat at all.
Whole milk — Containing 3 1/2 percent milk fat, this type of milk is often simply labeled “milk” or “vitamin D milk” if that particular vitamin has been added. Of all types of milk, whole milk is among the highest in fat and calories. One cup has 150 calories and approximately 8 grams of fat.
Reduced-fat milk — Often referred to as two percent, this type of milk has had some milk fat removed from it. Two percent reflects the amount of fat in the milk by weight. It does not refer to the percentage of calories from fat. One cup of 2 percent milk has 130 calories and 5 grams of fat.
Low-fat milk — Also known as 1 percent milk, this type of milk contains about 100 calories and 2.6 grams of fat in 1 cup.
Nonfat or skim milk — Skim milk, which contains less than 0.5 percent milk fat, is now more often labeled nonfat milk. It contains the same amount of nutrients, such as calcium, as its higher fat counterparts, but it has no fat and just 90 calories.
Buttermilk — Buttermilk was once the residue left from churning butter, but today’s version is made from adding a lactic acid culture to milk. The result is far less rich than the original “natural” buttermilk, but it still retains the thick texture and acidic tang of old. Some manufacturers add flecks of butter for an authentic look or stabilizers to prevent separation. Because of its name, buttermilk may sound high in fat. Yet, in most instances it is not.
Buttermilk derives its fat content from the milk used to make it, and in the United States low-fat or nonfat milk is used most often. Calories and fat in buttermilk depend on what type of milk was used to make it. Check the label for fat content.
Acidophilus milk — Normally killed during pasteurization, the healthy bacteria culture Lactobacillus acidophilus is reintroduced into whole, low-fat, or nonfat milk to create sweet acidophilus milk. In a milk, both acidophilus and bifidobacteria cultures are added.
Acidophilus occurs naturally in the body and is found mainly in the small intestine. Many factors can alter the level of this intestinal bacterium, including diet, alcohol consumption, illness, and medications. Alterations in levels can sometimes lead to poor digestion, diarrhea, and bloating.
Drinking acidophilus milk products may reduce intestinal infection and diarrhea and improve milk digestion and tolerance. Studies are under way to evaluate whether these bacteria can help regulate blood cholesterol levels and prevent cancer.
Calories and fat in acidophilus milk depend on what type of milk was cultured with the acidophilus bacterium. If whole milk was used, for example, acidophilus-treated milk contains the same amount of fat and calories as whole milk.
Lactose-reduced and lactose-free milk — These products are tailored to people who have trouble digesting lactose, a sugar found in milk. An enzyme called lactase is added during the processing of this milk.
The result is that lactose in the milk is reduced by at least 70 percent (lactose-reduced) or up to 99.9 percent (lactose-free). Calories and fat in lactose-reduced and lactose-free milk depend on what type of milk was cultured.
Ultrapasteurized milk (UHT) — This milk has been popular in Europe for many years, but it has only recently appeared in U.S. supermarkets. The “ultra-heat treatment” (UHT) sterilizes milk by quickly heating it, sometimes as high as 300 degrees Fahrenheit, and then quickly cooling it before packaging it in vacuum-packed, aseptic containers.
UHT milk can be stored for 2 to 3 months without refrigeration, until opened. Once opened, UHT milk should be refrigerated and quickly consumed. It can spoil, but unlike other milk, it does not curdle as a warning sign of spoilage.
The ultra-heat process makes the milk taste slightly scalded, but it is thought that the treatment does not substantially affect the nutrient value. The amount of fat and calories in UHT milk depends on the type of milk from which it was made.
It is easy to overcook milk when heating it. When milk is heated to a temperature that is too high, its proteins clump together and curds appear in the milk. When heating milk, always use low heat and stir frequently. Using a double boiler when heating milk also helps prevent overheating.
Anyone who has ever had homemade hot cocoa knows that heated milk can develop a “skin” (a thickened surface). An easy way to prevent this is to mix a little cornstarch into the milk before heating it.
Nonfat milk has the least amount of fat and calories but still provides all of milk’s nutrients. Many people prefer its lighter texture and taste to the heaviness of whole milk. Even the staunchest fan of whole milk can easily be converted to using this healthier alternative.
Make the change gradually. Start by mixing equal parts of whole milk with 2 percent milk. Then, in stepwise progression, use just 2 percent, next a combination of 2 percent and 1 percent, then just 1 percent, then a combination of 1 percent and skim milk, and eventually only skim milk. If you dislike skim milk, 1 percent or 2 percent milk is a reasonable option, especially if it keeps you drinking milk.
Buttermilk can be substituted for cream in many recipes: a half cup of buttermilk has 1 gram of fat, but the same serving of light cream has 31 grams.
Whenever possible, lower the amount of fat in a recipe by substituting a lowerfat milk. A cream soup made with low-fat milk is just as rich tasting, especially if you thicken the soup with a bit of flour.
A cup of cocoa made with skim milk provides more nutrients and fewer calories than the average chocolate dessert, and it is just as effective for satisfying a sweet tooth.