Learn all about dairy products - FamilyEducation

All About Dairy Products

Learn the differences among many dairy products, and how they benefit your health.

Food for Thought

Contrary to its name, buttermilk is actually a low-fat dairy product. In fact, buttermilk is simply skim or low-fat pasteurized milk with some added lactic acid. The consistency is thicker than regular milk and the sodium is also higher at 257 milligrams per 8 ounces (about double the amount of regular low-fat milk).


Pasteurized milk is briefly heated to kill harmful bacteria and then rapidly chilled. Homogenized milk has been processed to reduce the size of milk fat globules so the cream does not separate and the milk stays consistently smooth and uniform.

Milk products supply you with calcium (responsible for healthy bones), along with providing protein, several B-vitamins, and vitamins D and A. The problem is that whole milk also contains a lot of saturated fat, which can increase your risk for heart disease, weight gain, and other serious illnesses. What can you do? Simple: when you're at home and have control over the type of dairy that goes into your cereals, recipes, and sandwiches, use the low-fat versions that are available in most supermarkets today.

Don't throw in the towel if you don't like some of the reduced-fat items; different brands have different tastes. Just try another brand or version the next time you shop. Another thing to keep in mind is that some of the “fat-free” dairy is literally “taste-free.” (Some brands even resemble plastic.) You don't have to suffer with the fat-free if you can't stand the taste; low-fat is fine, with a mere 3–5 extra grams of fat.

Here's your low-fat dairy shopping list. Browse through the section and pick out the items that sound appealing:

  • Nonfat dry milk
  • Skim milk (no fat)
  • Evaporated skim milk
  • 1% low-fat milk
  • Buttermilk
  • Nonfat yogurts (plain and flavored)
  • Low-fat yogurts (plain and flavored)
  • Nonfat varieties of all cheese
  • Low-fat varieties of all cheese
  • Part-skim varieties of all cheese
  • Reduced-fat cream cheese
  • Dry-curd cottage cheese
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Reduced-fat sour cream
  • Low-fat/nonfat ice creams
  • Low-fat/nonfat frozen yogurts