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Low Fat vs Full Cream milk

Since I can remember my mom always preached that low fat milk is better. Why? Because it contains less fat and fat leads to weight gain, she said. I believed her and never questioned the theory, then came Banting and everyone went on a hype about full fat products and full cream milk flew off the shelves. Have you ever wondered which one is best? My goal today is to unravel the question, which one should we rather buy?

Let’s look at the pros and cons of both:

Low fat milk


Low fat milk contains less energy and fat, while still having a high content of protein, calcium and Vitamin B12.  The South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines recommends that we should limit our fat intake, especially saturated fat if we have a risk for heart disease (like high blood pressure, increased blood cholesterol levels and the possibility of a stroke). Low fat milk contains less saturated fat which means a lowered risk for heart disease, BUT, recent research questions this relation between dairy saturated fat and heart disease.


Due to it being lower in fat, it might not be as filling.

Full cream milk


Full cream milk may keep you fuller for longer and recent studies also suggest that it might be preventative against severe childhood obesity. Something else to consider is that full cream milk in not as processed as low fat milk. Low fat milk goes through a lot pf processes to remove the fat, and thus full cream milk might be considered a more natural product.


Containing more fat, especially saturated fat increases the risk for heart disease, like high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and stroke. But new research states that this might not be the case.

So, uhm, which one then?

Well, the current research is confusing as it contradicts the current guidelines, but as a dietitian, I would recommend the type of milk according to your individual nutrition needs. If you’re not looking to lose weight and you don’t have a risk for heart disease you might prefer full cream milk. 

Something else to keep in mind is the amount of milk you use daily. If you use a dash of milk in your coffee and tea and only drink one or two cups per day, full cream milk will not make that much of a difference. Compared to drinking four or five cups coffee or tea with a large amount of milk and having milk with your cereal plus drinking a glass of milk per day. This puts the focus on your diet and lifestyle, what types of food you eat and the amount and types of fat you include in your diet. Taking this into account, I would recommend that you make a decision based on your nutrition needs and current diet and for the best advice, consult a registered dietitian to help you make an informed decision.

I would love to hear your opinion, leave a comment to let us know which one you prefer.

Beck, A.L., Heyman, M., Chao, C. and Wojcicki, J., 2017. Full fat milk consumption protects against severe childhood obesity in Latinos. Preventive Medicine Reports, 8, pp.1-5.

Drehmer, M., Pereira, M.A., Schmidt, M.I., Alvim, S., Lotufo, P.A., Luft, V.C. and Duncan, B.B., 2016. Total and full-fat, but not low-fat, dairy product intakes are inversely associated with metabolic syndrome in adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 146(1), pp.81-89.

Drouin-Chartier, J.P., Côté, J.A., Labonté, M.È., Brassard, D., Tessier-Grenier, M., Desroches, S., Couture, P. and Lamarche, B., 2016. Comprehensive review of the impact of dairy foods and dairy fat on cardiometabolic risk. Advances in Nutrition, 7(6), pp.1041-1051.

Lordan, R., Tsoupras, A., Mitra, B. and Zabetakis, I., 2018. Dairy fats and cardiovascular disease: do we really need to be concerned? Foods, 7(3), p.29.

Smuts, C.M. and Wolmarans, P.  2013.  The importance of the quality or type of fat in the diet: a food-based dietary guideline for South Africa. South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 26, pp.S87-S99.

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