A dariy aisle in The Common Market in Frederick, Md. (Katherine Frey/WASHINGTON POST)

When you step into the dairy aisle, it can be tricky deciding which milk you should choose — skim, low-fat or whole. Here is Ellie Krieger’s take from our recent online discussion.

Question: I’ve heard that skim milk is overly processed and has more sugar than milk with higher fat content. Also, because it is “skim,” it is not as filling as 2 percent or whole milk. What is the current recommendation as far as the “best” milk to drink?

Answer: I am so glad you asked this question. The word “processed” is interesting because nutritionists, including me, recommend avoiding processed foods in general, but what we really mean is highly processed foods should be avoided. After all, technically, chopping a food or cooking it is processing it.

With that in mind, I would say that skimming the fat off of milk does not make it overly processed. Skim milk has only about 1.5 grams more carbohydrate (sugar in the form of naturally occurring lactose) per cup than whole milk. And that is simply because there is more room for the protein-carb portion of the milk when the fat is removed. So skim milk is also higher in protein than whole milk (by about one gram).

Although our understanding of how fats affect us is changing, and whole milk is fine once in a while, the research still points to the health benefits of reducing animal fats, so stick with skim for the most part and get your fats from healthier sources such as avocado and olive oil.

Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author. She blogs and offers a biweekly newsletter at www.elliekrieger.com. She also writes weekly Nourish recipes in The Washington Post’s Food section.

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