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What is Skim Milk? How is it Made From Regular Milk?

A collage of skim milk.

Skim milk is the fat-free version of whole milk. It’s made by removing the milk fat from whole milk.  The vitamins and nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, and protein are added back into the nonfat milk after skimming.

Drinking skim milk is a healthy alternative to whole milk if you’re trying to limit your intake of fat and calories. Since it’s also supplemented with the same vitamins and minerals as whole milk, it promotes healthy teeth and bones.

According to WebMD, drinking organic skim milk is the best option. This is because it’s produced from grass-fed cows, which makes milk richer in omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients.

Learn more about skim milk, and how it’s made from whole milk.

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What Is Skim Milk, and How Is It Made From Regular Milk?

Process of skimming milk.

Skim milk is the fat-free version of regular milk. It’s fortified with vitamins and minerals because they’re removed when skimming the fat out of whole milk.

Skim milk is thinner than full-fat milk. I used to think skim milk was watered down, but that’s not the case. It has a thinner consistency because the high-fat cream is removed.

How Is Skim Milk Made From Regular Milk?

In the past, milk producers made skim milk by letting the whole milk sit until the cream floated to the top of the milk. At that point, they skimmed the cream off the top of the milk. Many people made skim milk this way at home.

Today, making skim milk from regular milk is more complicated. It’s made using equipment that creates centrifugal separation, so the fat molecules separate from the milk.

After separating the fat, the milk is pasteurized to reduce bacterial growth. After pasteurization, the milk is homogenized to break up and prevent fat from separating.

How Is Skim Milk Pasteurized?

If you remember the name Louis Pasteur from school, you know that he developed the process using heat to eliminate pathogens in food.

The dairy industry uses this heating process to pasteurize milk. The most common pasteurization method in the United States is called High Temperature Short Time (HTST). This method uses hot water to increase the temperature of the milk to 161°F for at least 15 seconds.

If you see the label ultra-pasteurized on a milk product, it means that the processing plant heated the milk to 280°F for two seconds.

Pasteurizing gives your milk a longer shelf than it would naturally have.

How Is Skim Milk Homogenized?

When you look in the dairy aisle, you see milk that’s pure white and smooth. This is because of homogenization. Before homogenizing milk came about in the late 19th century, people had to shake the milk to mix the fat that floated to the top back into the milk.

Today, the dairy industry uses a process that breaks down the milk fat using high pressure. Homogenization doesn’t affect the taste of the milk, but it’s more for the appearance.

You can buy non-homogenized milk, but the cream will float to the top. Most grocery stores only offer homogenized milk, but you can still find non-homogenized milk in specialty stores or directly from the milk farmer.

Skim milk already has the milk fat removed, but a very small amount always remains in the milk. For this reason, the dairy industry also homogenizes skim milk.

What Vitamins Can I Get From Drinking Skim Milk?

Closeup of milk being poured in a glass.

Skim milk is a nutrient-rich product because it’s fortified with the vitamins and minerals it loses during skimming.

If you’re looking to cut calories, skim milk only has 83 calories and 12 grams of carbs per cup. It also contains 12.5 grams of natural sugar and 0.2 fat. One cup of skim milk is a rich source of protein, with 8.3 grams.

It’s also packed with vitamins. One cup of skim milk gives you 49.4% vitamin B12, 32.8% vitamin B2, and more than 15% of vitamin B5 and vitamin A. Skim milk also provides 13.9% of your daily vitamin D requirement.

What Minerals Do I Get When I Drink Skim Milk?

Skim milk is an excellent source of minerals. If you drink one cup, you’re getting 22.2% of your daily calcium.

One cup also provides 19.1% phosphorous, almost 10% potassium, and 13.4% selenium. Other minerals in skim milk are magnesium, zinc, sodium, and copper.

All of these minerals have incredible health benefits. They contribute to your bone health, dental health, muscle strength, reduce blood pressure, and boost your immune system. 

Does Skim Milk Taste the Same as Regular Whole Milk?

Woman drinking a glass of milk.

Skim milk doesn’t have the rich, creamy taste and texture of whole milk. The more fat that’s removed from the milk, the more watery it tastes.

For example, selecting 1% milk or 2% milk would give you more milk fat and a richer texture. But, neither of these would be as creamy as whole milk.

It’s more a choice of personal preference of which milk you drink. If you want to cut your calorie and fat intake, choose skim milk. If a rich, creamy flavor is more important to you, select regular milk.

Can I Use Skim Milk Instead of Regular Milk for Baking?

If your recipe calls for milk, it usually means whole milk. But, you can still substitute skim milk or low-fat milk in the recipe. You won’t notice much of a difference in cakes and cookies.

When making pudding, custard, or other sauces, the type of milk you use is more important. Sometimes, pudding and custard won’t solidify when using skim milk, or they’ll be thin and bland.  Also, any sauces you make will have a thinner texture.

Can I Make Skim Milk by Adding Water to Regular Milk?

No, it doesn’t work that way. Skim milk doesn’t have any added water. It’s made by skimming the fat out of the whole milk. This leaves you with thinner textured milk.

If you add water to whole milk, you still have all the fat and watery milk. It will have fewer calories because you diluted it, but it’s not skim milk.

Is It Better to Drink Whole Milk or Skim Milk?

A glass of milk against a bowl of cornflakes.

Whole milk and skim milk contain the same vitamins and minerals. One of the differences between the two is that whole milk has more omega-3 fatty acids than skim milk.

Whole milk is higher in calories and saturated fat, so if that’s a concern for you, skim milk is a better option. It’s always a good idea to ask your doctor which milk you should drink, especially if you have heart disease or diabetes.

How Much Skim Milk Should I Drink Daily?

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the amount of dairy, which includes skim milk, you should drink daily depends on your age, weight, gender, and height. If you’re a pregnant woman, the amount of dairy you drink is different.

Did you know that 90% of Americans don’t drink or eat enough dairy products? You can go on the USDA My Plate to get a personalized recommendation for the amount of milk and dairy you should eat each day.

In general, the daily dairy recommendation for women and men is 3 cups per day. Toddlers should have about 2 cups per day, children ages three to eight years should have 2 to 2.5 cups daily, and children and teens, nine to 18 years old should have 3 cups of dairy per day.

Drinking skim milk every day provides you with the nutrients you need for strong bones and other vital health benefits.

How Do I Get the Nutrients I Need if I Don’t Drink Skim Milk or Regular Milk?

Various plant based milk alternatives.

If you don’t like to drink milk, there are several other ways you can add calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and other nutrients to your diet.

Substitutions for skim milk and regular milk include soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk. These alternative kinds of milk contain calcium and soy milk is fortified with other nutrients similar to milk.