What Are the Advantages of Milk & the Differences in Whole Milk Vs. Skim Milk Vs. 2 Percent Milk?

Catchphrases about milk abound in popular culture, thanks to advertising, and while many point out that milk is good for you, they're sometimes vague about the facts. Milk is a good source of important nutrients, and as long as you aren't lactose intolerant, drinking it is an easy method for getting adequate amounts of calcium and other nutrients in your diet. Knowing the difference between varieties of milk is also important, particularly when you're monitoring levels of fat intake.

Jug and glass of milk Credit: Miles Higgins/iStock/Getty Images

Health Benefits

Most of the calcium in the human body is stored in teeth and bones, but maintaining both isn't the only role calcium plays. It's also important for the function of muscles and nerve transmission, among other things, notes the Office of Dietary Supplements. Milk is a good way to get the calcium you need. Phosphorus, found in milk, works in tandem with calcium to maintain bone health and strong teeth. The vitamin A in milk helps the immune system combat infection and is vital for good vision. The potassium in milk is vital to heart-health and muscle function.

Fat and Calories

The biggest difference between whole, 2 percent and skim milk is in the fat and calorie content. Milk is classified based on the amount of fat it contains. Whole milk has all of the original milk fat, which comes to 3.5 percent by weight, according to the Dairy Council of California. Whole milk contains 146 calories per cup and 7.9 grams of fat. Two percent milk is a reduced-fat product containing 122 calories and 4.8 grams of fat per cup. Skim milk is also known as nonfat milk and provides 86 calories and less than 1 gram of fat in each one cup serving.


Vitamin content of milk varies slightly between brands because some products are fortified with extra vitamins, such as vitamins A and D. An average 1 cup serving of whole milk provides 5 percent of your daily recommended intake of vitamin A, while 2 percent milk contains 9 percent of your needs and skim milk contains about 10 percent in each serving. Milk in any form is a good source of riboflavin, with each variety containing close to 26 percent of your daily needs. Vitamin B12 is also found in milk, with skim milk coming in the highest at 22 percent of your daily intake and whole milk the lowest at 18 percent.


There isn't much difference between varieties of milk when it comes to mineral content. Whole milk offers 28 percent of your daily calcium needs, while skim milk contains 31 percent. All varieties of milk are a good source of phosphorous, selenium and potassium, and contain measurable amounts of zinc and magnesium. Skim milk contains a quarter of your daily recommended intake of phosphorus, while 2 percent and whole milk come in at 23 percent and 22 percent respectively.

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