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Skim Milk vs. 2 Percent: Do the Differences Matter?

Updated on May 3, 2011

Got milk?

Let's talk about milk. Cow's milk to be exact.

Milk is a major household staple in many homes across the globe, and for good reason. It's a great source of calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and protein, with 2% milk being the most commonly consumed.

Many people understand that whole milk contains a significantly greater amount of fat than the reduced-fat or fat-free options, making it a less healthy option for most children and adults. (Some pediatricians recommend whole milk for children ages 1-2.)

What is less commonly understood, are the differences between the reduced-fat and fat-free options.

Enter the 2% vs. skim debate.

Calories, as well calcium and saturated fat, are the most commonly debated differences between the two.

Using Kroger store brand milk, we'll compare 8 fl. oz. 2% milk with skim milk.

The Calcium Difference

One of the primary reasons milk is considered to be a healthy beverage option is thanks to it's high content of calcium. Calcium plays many important roles in the human body; promoting healthy bone growth being chief among them.

A common argument is that skim milk is better for you because it has more calcium. Let's consider that:

"The calcium is not contained in the fat portion of milk, so removing the fat will not affect the calcium content. In fact, when you replace the fat portion that has been removed with an equal part of skimmed milk, you are actually increasing the calcium content." - National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Health

Based on the statement above, it is accurate to say that milk with higher fat content results in lower levels of calcium. The question is, how much of a difference is it?


2 % = 298 mg calcium

Skim = 301 mg calcium

Difference: Not enough difference to make an argument. While 2% has less calcium than skim due to its higher fat content, the difference is nutritionally inconsequential.

The Fat Difference

Cow's milk (and any milk from an animal) contains saturated fat. This kind of fat, when consumed in excess, can be harmful to our bodies. Consuming too much saturated fat contributes to unhealthy cholesterol levels and promotes heart disease and weight gain, among other things.

It is recommended that most children, teens, and adults keep their saturated fat intake to 12-17 grams depending on their activity level.

Back to comparing 2% and skim.

Saturated Fat Comparison:

2% = 2.9 grams

Skim = 0.3 grams

Difference: Quite significant. Drinking two 8 oz. glasses of 2% milk each day accounts for approximately 30% of your recommended saturated fat intake, whereas skim would be less than 1%.

**As previously stated, some pediatricians actually recommend a higher percentage of fat intake up to age 2, saying whole milk is a great way for toddlers to get that additional fat. Recommendations vary. Consult with your pediatrician for more information.

The Calorie Difference

Calories, as units of energy, are not bad. In fact, consuming them is necessary for our bodies to function properly. People may get into trouble with calories when they consume more than their body needs. Weight gain is the inevitable result of eating and drinking too many calories.

So what's the caloric difference between 2% and skim milk? Let's find out:


2% = approx. 120

Skim = approx. 80

Difference: Significant. Drinking two 8 oz. glasses of skim milk costs you 80 more calories than skim milk.

Do the Differences Matter?

While the difference in calcium levels is minimal, the saturated fat and caloric differences between 2% milk and skim milk do matter.

Nutritionists agree, that skim milk is the way to go. It provides calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, potassium, and protein, without the saturated fat and higher calories of 2% and other options for cow milk.

So, take care of your body, and enjoy a nice tall glass of skim milk.


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      Ritz 3 years ago


      Today's mu 4th day.

      Just wanted to know can i take 2% milk instead of skim milk.

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      Anonymous 3 years ago

      Sugar doesn't cause obesity. Maintaining a diet that yeilds a lot of energy and not burning off that energy, and doing so for a long time, causes obesity.

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      Sherrill 4 years ago

      I agree with Hanna, I was drinking Skim for years until I compared it side by side with 2%. No the sugar is not healthy in the skim but neither is the higher fat content in the 2%. Only issue with the sugar is bleached processed sugar has been linked to obesity more often then the fat content in the 2%. It's all about preference but I'll stick with the 2% I went back to.

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      Hannah 4 years ago

      But look at the grams of sugar on the label! Sugar causes obesity, too, among MANY other health issues. Sugar is added to milk when fat is removed to compensate for flavor loss. No, thank you. I will take the fat in my milk in addition to a healthy diet of fresh food without sugar!