Whether you stick to one tried and true type of milk or you like to mix it up as you go, there’s so much to consider when you choose a milk product. Do you prefer dairy or plant-based? Are you looking for something that has most protein, the milk that’s highest in Vitamin D, or the one that offers the best source of calcium? Or are you trying to avoid as much of the “bad stuff” as possible, like saturated fat and added sugar?
If it’s the fat content you’re most interested in, luckily that one’s pretty easy. If you’re looking for the milk with the lowest amount of fat, we’re happy to tell you that the answer is exactly what you think it is: skim milk – also known as nonfat milk or fat-free milk – has the lowest fat out of any milk on the market. Because, well, it’s fat free.
The skinny on skim milk
Contrary to what many may believe, skim milk is not simply whole milk that’s been watered down. Skim milk is made by first taking the cow’s whole milk, which contains all of its natural fat, and separating the milk fat from the rest of the liquid. This is typically done by a centrifugal spinning process, which allows the fat globules to separate and settle. Then, the cream (aka, the fat) at the top of the milk is literally skimmed off – hence where this type of milk gets its name. Due to its low fat content and the way it’s processed, skim milk is also the lowest-calorie milk of all of the dairy milk choices.
Because many of the nutrients found in the natural milk fat are diminished in this process, skim milk is often fortified with certain vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin A and Vitamin D, to both compensate for any fat soluble nutrients that were lost and also to provide additional nutrients that tend to be lacking in the American diet.
This means that ultimately, the overall nutritional value is comparable to other types of dairy milk, like 1%, 2%, and whole milk, which contain more natural fat. So while skim milk may lose some of the nutrients that come with whole fat, like omega-3 fatty acids, it still offers those benefits like calcium, protein, Vitamin D and other essential nutrients – often at a higher concentration, with fewer calories and less fat.
Does skim milk actually have 0% fat? Yes and no. Technically, anything that’s labeled skim milk, nonfat milk, or fat-free milk can be labeled that way as long as the fat content is less than or equal to 0.5%. But often, skim milk contains such little fat – usually closer to 0.1% milk fat content – that it’s considered 0 grams of fat.
You may notice that nonfat milk can also come in other forms: products like nonfat dry milk, concentrated skim milk, reconstituted skim milk, regular skim milk, and organic skim milk are all available today, and all free of fat content.
Are any other milks fat free?
Even though many plant-based foods are naturally lower in fat than cow’s milk, no other type of milk actually contains 0 grams of fat because no other products have had their natural fat physically removed. Other milks that are very low in fat are almond milk, cashew milk, rice milk, and flax milk, all of which usually contain 3 grams or less of fat per serving.
It’s also worth noting that while skim milk is the only milk with no fat, there are plenty of milks on the market that contain no saturated fat. Nut milks, seed milks, and grain milks – from almond, cashew, and oat milk to hemp, flax, and rice milk – all contain 0 grams of saturated fat.
Technically, skim milk can contain anywhere from 0% to 0.5% milk fat – often there is some trace amount of natural fat left over after the separation and skimming process. However, the fat content is insignificant enough that the milk contains 0 grams of fat per serving and is considered nonfat or fat free.
Outside of skim milk, several other types of milks make for good low-fat options. Almond milk and cashew milk typically contain 1 to 2 grams of fat per serving, and rice milk, flax milk, and 1% milk all have around 2.5 grams of fat per serving. Of those, almond, cashew, rice, and flax milk all contain 0 grams of saturated fat.
While skim milk does tend to lose some of its natural vitamin and mineral content during processing, it’s ultimately nutritionally comparable to other cow’s milk like 1% milk, 2% milk, and whole milk because most milk is fortified with additional nutrients.