Milk, specifically cow's milk, is a staple in many households. It's an affordable source of nutrients like protein, calcium and vitamin D, and it's also a versatile ingredient in many meals.
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There are many types of milk — whole, reduced-fat (2 percent), low-fat (1 percent) and fat-free (skim) being the main ones. People with lactose intolerance can even enjoy lactose-free dairy milk.
Now, you can add ultra-filtered milk to that list. Here's what the fuss is all about and whether you should add ultra-filtered milk to your grocery list.
What Is Ultra-Filtered Milk?
Ultra-filtered milk goes by a different name than regular milk because it's considered a new type of dairy product.
It's made through a process called ultrafiltration, which is a process that separates milk components according to their molecular sizes, according to the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
"Ultra-filtered milk starts with regular cow's milk, but a filtration process alters the composition of the milk since the water and lactose are separated from other components of the milk," explains registered dietitian Elysia Cartlidge, RD.
"As a result, the filtration process may make the milk higher in protein and lower in lactose."
Ultra-filtered milk tastes just like traditional dairy milk (but sometimes it's a little thicker due to the filtration process), so you can add it to your cereal and coffee just like you would regular milk. It also makes for a high-protein addition to smoothies and shakes.
Regular vs. Ultra-Filtered Milk
Per 8 oz.
Regular 2% Milk
2% Ultra-Filtered Milk
25% Daily Value (DV)
It's Higher in Protein, Calcium and Vitamin D
One of the main perks of ultra-filtered milk is the nutrient profile.
"Ultra-filtered milk still provides protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals just like your regular dairy milk, however, some of the nutrient amounts differ," Cartlidge says.
"While regular milk and ultra-filtered milk are both nutrient-dense options, ultra-filtered milk does tend to have more calcium, vitamin D, protein and less total carbs than regular milk."
About 68 percent of the world's population has lactose malabsorption or lactose intolerance, according to the National Institutes of Health. This occurs when people are unable to fully digest the sugar, lactose, found in milk, resulting in side effects like diarrhea and gas.
Ultra-filtered milk is usually lactose-free while offering a similar taste and often better nutrition profile than regular milk, making it a great option for those with lactose intolerance.
It's Low in Sugar
Because the lactose is filtered out, ultra-filtered milk is lower in sugar than traditional milk. Remember: Lactose is a type of sugar, and sugar is a type of carb. This makes ultra-filtered milk a solid kitchen staple on a low-sugar or low-carb diet.
It's More Expensive
Ultra-filtered is considered a separate product from regular milk though it starts out as regular milk. The extra step called ultrafiltration adds costs to the manufacturer. These costs are then passed down to the consumer, making ultra-filtered milk more expensive than regular milk.
It's also less common than regular milk, so the shortage of options and lack of widespread availability can contribute to higher prices.
It Lacks Lactose (Which May Have Health Benefits)
For those who can fully digest lactose, this sugar may have some health benefits. While regular milk contains lactose, most varieties of ultra-filtered milk are lactose-free. Lactose is a preferred carb for infants and children as it provides a source of energy and supports gut health, according to November 2019 research in Nutrients.
Lactose isn't an essential nutrient, but it may come with health perks for kids. Switching to ultra-filtered milk eliminates this nutrient, but you can still get lactose from other dairy products.
Should You Buy Ultra-Filtered Milk?
"Although anyone can benefit from additional protein and calcium and moderating their carbohydrate intake, ultra-filtered milk may be more appropriate for certain populations," Cartlidge says.
She recommends ultra-filtered milk for the following groups:
- Those at higher risk of osteoporosis who are seeking increased calcium intake.
- People with lactose intolerance who are looking for a similar taste and nutrient profile to regular milk.
- Athletes and active people seeking a protein-rich option for post-workout recovery.
- People with diabetes who are monitoring their carb intake to better control their blood sugar levels.
- Those seeking a low-carb and low-sugar option as part of a meal plan to aid weight loss, manage chronic health conditions or meet other health and lifestyle goals.
- Chocolate milk lovers who want a lower sugar option compared to traditional chocolate milk.
- Picky eaters who may struggle to get enough protein and calcium through their diet.
Basically, if the higher price tag is OK for your budget, ultra-filtered milk is the way to go. Plus, it might even last you longer — because it's sometimes thicker than traditional milk, you'll use less in your morning coffee.
Ultra-Filtered Milk to Buy
For now, Fairlife is the only widely available brand that makes ultra-filtered milk.
- Fairlife 2% Ultra-Filtered Milk ($5.29, Amazon.com)
- Fairlife Whole Ultra-Filtered Milk With DHA ($5.29, Amazon.com)
- Fairlife YUP! Low-Fat Ultra-Filtered Chocolate Milk ($34.29 per pack of 12, Amazon.com)
- Fairlife YUP! Low-Fat Ultra-Filtered Strawberry Milk ($44.99 per pack of 12, Amazon.com)
- Fairlife YUP! Low-Fat Ultra-Filtered Vanilla Milk ($58.99 per pack of 12, Amazon.com)
- U.S. Dairy Export Council: “Ultrafiltered(UF)Milk Ingredients”
- USDA FoodData Central: "ULTRA-FILTERED NONFAT MILK"
- USDA FoodData Central: "NONFAT MILK"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Definition & Facts for Lactose Intolerance”
- Nutrients: “The Importance of Lactose in the Human Diet: Outcomes of a Mexican Consensus Meeting”