Milk has been given a bad name in the past, but is now shown to have a protective effect.
Milk has been given a bad name in the past, but is now shown to have a protective effect. Stockbyte

Milk by any other name

THESE DAYS many people have become a bit suspicious of milk, linking it with health issues such as cholesterol and excess mucus production.

However, nutritionists and organisations such as Osteoporosis Australia maintain milk is "complete food" containing many nutrients we need.

"Most people know cow's milk is high in calcium, which is important for building and maintaining strong bones," Dairy Australia nutritionist Glenys Zucco said.

"However, calcium is just one of many nutrients found in milk. It also provides more than 10 essential nutrients including vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, carbohydrate and high quality protein."

The long-held belief that full-fat milk is unhealthy is also false, she said.

"For decades, dietary advice has recommended the consumption of reduced-fat milk and dairy products based on the belief saturated fat in dairy foods increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," she said.

"However, the original science this advice was made on focused on single nutrients instead of looking at the whole food."

Research recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition reviewed numerous studies which looked at the association between high-fat dairy intake and obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The authors found high-fat dairy consumption was not linked to obesity, with 11 of the 16 studies showing higher dairy fat intake was associated with lower body fat levels and less fat gain over time.

"High-fat dairy food consumption was not typically linked to cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes risk, with a number of studies showing a protective effect."

If you're still a cow's milk drinker, here's a guide to what that confusing array of labels mean.


What is permeate?

Permeate is the collective term for the milk-sugar (lactose), vitamins and minerals components of milk and is a valuable part of fresh milk.

The addition of milk permeate to milk is one way of standardising the protein and fat content to a constant value throughout the year.

"Most countries have standards that allow the fat and protein of milk to be standardised," Dairy Australia nutritionist Glenys Zucco said.



Regular milk

On average, contains 3.8% milk fat and no less than 3.2% milk fat. It's pasteurised and homogenised.

Also known as full cream or whole milk.

Reduced fat

Has about 2% milk fat and it may have extra protein and calcium added.

Low fat

Has less than 1.5% milk fat and the same nutritional benefits with a boosted calcium content.


Has no more than 0.15% milk fat. Milk solids are added to optimise the taste.

Modified milk

May be protein enriched, high in calcium, iron fortified or low in lactose, to cater for a range of dietary requirements.

Ultrafiltration (UF) milk

This style of milk is also enriched with protein and calcium.

Lactose teduced or lactose free milk

Has some or all of the lactose (sugar found naturally in milk) removed, making it more easily digested for those that have lactose intolerance.

Buttermilk or cultured milk

Has a tangy flavour similar to natural yogurt and is excellent for baking.

A special starter culture is added to the pasteurised milk to develop the flavour and acidity.

Fortified milk

May be whole or lower fat milk which has nutrients added such as calcium, vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids.

Longlife milk ultra heat treatment (UHT)

A heat treatment ensures all micro organisms and heat resistant enzymes are inactivated.

Longlife milk can be stored unopened out of the refrigerator for extended periods, but must be refrigerated once opened.

Available as regular, reduced-fat, low-fat, modified and skim milk.

Evaporated or unsweetened condensed milk

To create evaporated or condensed milk, the total milk solids are increased to 28% by the gentle evaporation of water.

Skim evaporated milk has total milk solids of about 20%.

After concentration, the milk is canned and sterilised to destroy bacteria and enzymes to ensure a long shelf life.

It also causes a slight caramelisation of the milk sugar (lactose) giving the evaporated milk its typical colour and flavour.

Sweetened condensed milk

Proven popular in homes especially where refrigeration is limited.

Sugar is added, to act as a natural preservative.


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