3.5% Milk and Unicorns

“Honey, will you pick up some milk on the way home? Oh, and remember, I like the 3.5-percent milk.”

Have you ever heard a conversation like that? You’re thinking this guy’s got to do a better job proof-reading his articles. Surely he meant to say one-percent or two-percent milk. Nope. Read it again and know that there are no typos in this article. Have you ever heard someone say this? Your thinking, of course not, there’s no such thing as 3.5% milk—that’s like a unicorn.

Photo 107--Milk

So what’s going on. Is this lady asking for the 3.5-percent milk crazy or something? We all know that there’s skim milk, one-percent milk, two-percent milk, and whole milk. What the hell is she talking about?

All food is comprised of either protein, fat, or carbohydrate; some combination of two of these nutrients known as macronutrients; or some combination of all three of these macronutrients. Milk; from cows (most commonly sold in the United States), goats, sheep, other animals, and people; contains all three: protein, fat, and carbohydrate.

The common ways cow’s milk are sold are as skim milk (a.k.a. non-fat milk), one-percent milk, two-percent milk, and whole milk. At first glance, or one-millionth glance for many (maybe you), this is what they hear/see in these labels:

Skim Milk: 0% fat
1% Milk: 1% fat
2% Milk, 2% fat
Whole Milk: 100% fat

Whole milk seems to be wholly full of fat. Whole milk is often thought to be this super creamy, super thick, all-fat (the opposite of non-fat), drink. Truly, whole milk does not contain that much fat. There’s much less fat in whole milk than there is in avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and olive oil—all of which are more than 3.5 percent fat. And whole milk has less than twice the fat, and only about 30 more total calories, than two-percent milk.

In actuality, whole milk could be called 3.5-percent milk. Whole milk is made up of 3.5 percent fat. The other 96.5 percent is a combination of protein and carbohydrate. Two percent milk is two percent fat and 98 percent a combination of protein and carbohydrate. One percent milk is one percent fat and 99 percent a combination of protein and carbohydrate. Skim milk contains no fat and is comprised entirely of protein and carbohydrate. For those keeping score at home, a woman’s breast milk is about 55 percent fat and 45 percent a combination of protein and carbohydrate. This is how it really is:

Skim Milk: 0% fat
1% Milk: 1% fat
2% Milk, 2% fat
Whole Milk: 3.5% fat

Viewed in this light, whole milk is much more similar to the other forms of milk than it is a fat-laden outlier in the group. It’s not “all fat” as one may be led to believe by the “whole” label. Whole simply means whole. The whole thing. The entire thing. The unadulterated thing. The real thing. Whole milk is just that, milk as it comes out of the cow, or other animal, without anything removed. It could easily be called entire milk, unadulterated milk, or real milk. Or milk.

As such, as a whole, natural, real food, whole milk, or milk, is a nutrient-rich food. I’m not going to tout the benefits of dietary fat. (A freshman-level biology class is all you need to understand the essential roles dietary fat plays in our bodies.) I’m not going to debunk the myths about dietary fat being a cause of excess bodyfat or disease. (It doesn’t make sense to defend a nutrient.) I’m going to go straight to the effective, workable approach to eating:

1. Eat mostly pre-agricultural (hunter-gatherer) foods, like vegetables, meat (beef, poultry, fish, and all kinds of meat; both muscle meat and organ meat) and eggs, fruit, nuts, and seeds.
2. Eat some pre-industrial (agricultural) foods like legumes, grains, and milk if you enjoy them and thrive on them.
3. Minimize your intake of industrial “foods” (a.k.a. processed foods, food products).

With the wool being pulled over your eyes about 3.5-percent milk all this time, you may have thought I was going to advise you to be more diligent, even vigilant, about reading nutrition labels or about being more informed about nutrition in general. I would never do that. Vigilance is simply a spin on the word stress, something most people experience way too much of.

The straightforward truth on nutrition is that all you need to do is eat whole, natural, real food. Or you could simply call it real food. Or you could simply call it food. And instead of vigilance about nutrition, I propose enjoyment of food. Here’s to us all having a great dinner tonight with our families and friends.



2 thoughts on “3.5% Milk and Unicorns

  1. So true and well said. I didn’t know this about milk and it makes sense. I feel the more whole your food is the less you need of it to fill you up. Just like relationships, the more whole and complete your relationships the less you need of them. I would rather have 3 really solid, great friends and one husband that I count on when I really need them, than 50 superficial friends and 3 husbands that when I call on them I am left alone.


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