Does skim milk contain more sugar?

One of the most common reasons dietitians find people ditch skim milk for full cream milk is that they have heard that skim milk contains more sugar.  While it’s true, the extra sugar is minimal. I’ll explain…. 

When you remove the fat, it means that the other components of the milk will be higher in content.  There will be slightly more carbohydrate, protein, sugar and calcium. It is also important to remember the ‘sugar’ in milk is not ‘added’ sugar. It is a natural, low glycaemic index sugar, called lactose.  Sugar is not added to plain skim milk. Below is a comparison of Dairy Farmers full cream milk and skim milk products per 100ml.

Component per 100mLFull-fat milkSkim milk
Energy, kJ266147
Protein, g3.43.5
Fat -total , g3.40.1
Fat – Saturated, g2.30.1
Carbohydrate, g4.84.9
Sugars, g4.84.9
Sodium, mg4445
Calcium, mg128132

As you can see, there is 4.8g of sugar in 100ml of full cream milk compared to 4.9g in 100ml of skim.  Hardly worth the worry! However, there are more calories in full cream milk due tot the fat: 1 cup has 665kJ compared to 368kJ in skim milk. Although some fat assists the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients such as A, D, E and K and can make us feel more satisfied, drinking large amounts of full cream milk may add to your waist line.

The consensus?  If you are happy with your weight and your cholesterol is fine, full cream milk is no problem. If your cholesterol is high or you are trying to lose weight, it might be worth the swap to reduced fat products. All milk is rich in nutrients such as calcium, protein, potassium, riboflavin, B12, vitamin D and A to name a few!  Choose the milk that suits your goals, preferences and overall food pattern.