Many people use the terms nonfat milk, fat-free milk, and skim milk interchangeably. However, because all of these different terms for nonfat milk exist, you may be left wondering if there's really a difference between nonfat and skim milk.
Is There a Difference?
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the term nonfat milk means skim milk, nonfat dry milk, concentrated skim milk, or reconstituted skim milk. Therefore, nonfat milk and skim milk are the same thing. In fact, some brands of nonfat milk list both "fat-free" and "skim milk" on the nutrition label.
Percent Milk Fat
Nonfat skim milk isn't necessarily entirely free from dietary fat. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports that nonfat milk can be labeled as fat-free or skim if the milk contains less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving, which is 1 cup, and contains no added ingredients containing fat. Because 0.5 grams of fat is a negligible amount and less than 1 gram, nutrition labels of nonfat skim milk often list total fat as 0 grams.
Different Types of Nonfat Milk
Nonfat milk comes in many forms, such as nonfat dry milk, concentrated skim milk, reconstituted skim milk, regular skim milk, and organic skim milk. Nonfat dry milk is a powdered form of skim milk that lacks water and cream. Reconstituted skim milk is nonfat dry milk with water added to it, forming the consistency of regular skim milk. Concentrated, or condensed, nonfat milk has had a portion of water removed from it, forming a thicker consistency and more concentrate source of protein, natural sugar, vitamins, and minerals. Organic skim milk comes from cows not treated with synthetic growth hormones or antibiotics -- and given only organic feed.
Nonfat skim milk is an excellent source of protein, natural sugar, calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, phosphorous, potassium, B vitamins and iodine. A 1-cup portion of skim milk provides 90 calories, 8 grams of protein, 12 grams of natural sugar, 30 percent of your calcium daily value, and 25 percent of the daily value for vitamin D. Fairlife ultra-filtered fat-free milk contains just 80 calories and 13 grams of protein. Because of this, drinking nonfat skim milk helps build strong bones, teeth and muscles and can aid in healthy weight management.
An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com.