Skim Milk: Natural Weight-Loss Foods

If you want to get rid of that gut once and for all, try adding dairy products to your diet. A recent study has indicated that consuming a diet containing 1,000 to 1,400 milligrams per day of calcium from dairy foods changed the way the body burned fat; it actually increased fat metabolism. So not only can drinking skim milk help you burn fat better and lose weight, it may also help trim inches off your waistline.

Milk is nicknamed "nature's most perfect food." While it's not truly perfect, fat-free milk certainly comes close with its high protein and exceptional calcium counts and a bevy of B vitamins. All this for only 86 calories in an eight-ounce glass. In fact, merely switching from whole milk to fat-free milk can be one of the more significant choices you can make to reduce saturated fat and calories in your diet.


Though milk is often thought of as highly allergenic, only a tiny fraction of people are truly allergic to milk. Gastrointestinal distress after drinking milk is more likely the result of lactose intolerance, a much more common problem. A large percentage of the world's population, though far fewer in the United States, suffer from lactose intolerance, the inability to digest lactose, the natural sugar in milk. However, research indicates that gastrointestinal symptoms are often incorrectly attributed to this condition. Even those in the study who proved to be lactose-intolerant were able to enjoy at least a cup of milk a day without experiencing digestive distress.

Health Benefits

The advantage of fat-free milk over whole milk cannot be stressed enough. The fat in whole milk is mostly saturated animal fat, which is the kind that raises blood cholesterol. And when you compare the percentage of calories from fat per serving, whole milk checks in at 50 percent; fat-free milk at 4 percent. So you can really see the fat savings you'll reap if you make the switch. And if you do it gradually, switching first to 2 percent, then 1 percent, then fat-free, the transition is painless.

Switching to fat-free milk won't compromise the amount of nutrients in your glass. If anything, you'll get slightly more. Fat takes up a lot of space, leaving less room for nutrients, so when the fat content is decreased, there's more room for nutrients. Fat-free milk is an excellent source of calcium, which plays a critical role in preventing osteoporosis. And the calcium in milk may be better absorbed than the calcium found in supplements, because lactose, which is also found in milk, but not in supplements, appears to aid its absorption.

The Dietary Guidelines recommend everyone aged nine years and older consume the equivalent of three cups of milk per day. Part of the reason is that several studies show that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables plus three cups of milk or yogurt per day, increased people's weight loss and helped them manage their weight better. A study indicated that calcium-rich dairy products helped people lose more weight from the abdominal region (stomach area) than those taking calcium supplements or eating a low-calcium diet.

Keep in mind that dairy's calcium is also showing promise in protecting you from colon cancer while it helps normalize blood pressure and plays an important role in blood clotting, nerve conduction, and muscle contraction.

Milk in this country is fortified with vitamins A and D and is the major dietary source of both. It's also one of the major contributors of riboflavin, a B-vitamin involved in the breakdown of food. It's also a good source of vitamin B-12. Together, these B-vitamins play a role in cardiovascular health.


Selection and Storage

All milk should have a sell-by date stamped on the carton. Milk will stay fresh about seven days longer than the date on the carton. Milk in clear glass jugs is susceptible to considerable losses of riboflavin and vitamin A, much more so than milk in translucent plastic jugs or paper cartons. That's because light, even the fluorescent light in supermarkets, destroys these two light-sensitive nutrients. This same light also affects the taste of milk.

Whatever you do, don't buy raw milk or products made from raw milk, such as some cheeses. Raw milk has not been pasteurized and may carry bacteria that can make you sick. It's especially dangerous to give it to children, the elderly, or people with an impaired immune system.


Preparation and Serving Tips

Milk tastes best when it's served icy cold. There are, of course, some recipes that just won't work well with fat-free milk, but most do fine. A tip: When you heat milk, don't allow it to come to a boil. This forms a film on the surface that won't dissolve.

Try using a can of nonfat evaporated milk when you need milk with extra "body," such as in a cream soup or to add to coffee. You'll never notice that it's fat-free. To increase the amount of dairy calcium in your foods, keep a box of instant nonfat dry milk powder on hand. Most people don't like to drink powdered milk as milk, but it makes a great addition to blender drinks, soups and casseroles to give a low-calorie boost of calcium and protein to your favorite dishes. Just stir it in wherever possible.


So only cry over spilt milk when it's the nonfat kind. Drinking it as part of a healthy diet will bring all types of surprising health benefits.

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