The simple answer is yes; but it may not be any better than regular dairy milk if you are a young or middle-aged adult who manages to put away two to three servings of dairy products, like cheese, yogurt and milk, on a daily basis.
Very few people are doing this. Why am I so sure? It’s because sales of regular milk have been falling for the past several decades and data from national surveys shows that as a nation, we are coming up short on the vitamins and minerals supplied by good ol’ milk.
ULTRAFILTERED MILK BRANDS ARE RICH IN PROTEIN AND CALCIUM, LOW IN LACTOSE
This is where ultrafiltered milk can help. You may have noticed it in the dairy aisles of your grocery store (virtual or real) and been intrigued by a label that promises reduced sugar and increased protein. Prominent brands are Fairlife from Coca-Cola, Mootopia from H-E-B and the newer Ultra from Organic Valley, which is, of course, organic.
To remove half of the lactose (milk sugar) and boost the protein, ultrafiltered milk is passed through a membrane that concentrates it, removing water. So, you’re actually getting more milk and more calcium per cup, about 40% of the Daily Value.
The lactase enzyme is added to split the lactose that remains into the sugars glucose and galactose, which helps if you have a problem digesting lactose and increases the sweetness so you don’t notice the missing milk sugar.
ULTRAFILTERED MILK IS HIGHLY PROCESSED BUT SO IS REGULAR MILK
The additional processing steps have caused some people to call it “frankenmilk.” They may not have been thinking about the fact that the “regular” milk that reaches our table is already a processed product.
It must be processed to make it safe and delicious. (I can testify that processing makes it taste better since I often had to drink raw milk while I was growing up. I did not relish it!)
Regular milk goes through four steps before it is ready to hit the grocery shelves. The steps are:
- Standardization: Separation of cream
- Pasteurization: High heat treatment to kill microbes
- Homogenization: Blending of the milk to ensure that the fat globules don’t separate
- Fortification: Addition of vitamins A and D (fortification can occur at the end of standardization)
Does concentrating/filtering the milk make it a “super milk” and a better, healthier choice than regular dairy milk?
The answer to that question depends on your tastebuds and nutritional concerns. In terms of flavor, I find that ultrafiltered milk has a creamier taste than regular milk and enjoy using it to lighten coffee or black tea, but others detect the “cooked” flavor of shelf-stable milk.
WHO GETS THE MOST BENEFIT FROM ULTRAFILTERED MILK?
In terms of the nutrition perks, you’ll have to decide if they’re worth the extra cost of this milk – the price of which can be twice as much as regular milk. (Remember, you are paying for the extra milk needed to make ultrafiltered milk.)
Maybe you’re among the large number of Americans who have trouble getting in the recommended three servings of dairy every day? The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the percentage of adults and adolescents who did not drink fluid milk every day between the years of 1977-78 and 2007-08 went from 41% to 54%.
Of the Americans that did continue the daily milk habit, the number of that enjoyed milk three times a day decreased from 13% to 4%.
Although it won’t replace all the nutrients found in regular milk, ultrafiltered milk can help with the calcium shortfall. This can be particularly useful on both ends of the age spectrum.
BONE AND TOOTH BENEFITS FOR TEENS, KIDS AND TOTS
Young kids and teens are the ones who arguably could benefit most from ultrafiltered milk since they are building their bones and teeth. These growing humans can be poor dairy consumers. That’s where ultrafiltered milk can amp their intake as a cereal topper and smoothie-filler and through the flavored varieties that include shakes and smoothie-type drinks.
Fairlife has a large product line that includes individual serving bottles of milk and shakes aimed at kids. At 14 ounces, their Yup! bottle would easily provide two servings for a younger child while a teenage boy may pound down the whole bottle after school or sports practice.
Although they have less sugar (their sweetness is helped along by artificial sweeteners) than regular flavored milks, the chocolate, strawberry and vanilla versions of Yup! do have some added sugar to go with the extra protein and calcium.
Some of the ultrafiltered milks add a generous teaspoonful of the sweet stuff to increase their deliciousness. While a cup of H-E-B’s plain Mootopia ultrafiltered milk has just 6 grams of sugar, the chocolate and vanilla flavors have 11 g of sugar. This is still 1 gram less than you’d find in a cup of regular milk. Organic Valley’s Ultra chocolate milk has 12 g of sugar.
Compared to Yup!, Fairlife’s 8-ounce Smart drinks are more manageable for a single serving. They contain the same amount of sugar as you’d find in a regular glass of milk, 12 grams. The ingredient list, however, includes oat fiber, added vitamin C, gellan gum, pectin, artificial sweeteners, and fructooligosaccharides. Whew! And that last ingredient can be difficult on digestion.
Looking at this long ingredient list, Smart Snacks are a long way from milk, but they claim to be a snack and not a plain dairy drink.
CALCIUM AND PROTEIN FOR OLDER ADULTS AND VEGETARIANS
In addition to growing bodies, aging bodies could use the extra calcium and protein in ultrafiltered milk. Women older than 50 and men older than 70 have increased daily calcium needs. For these age groups, the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) increases to 1,200 mg/day. This call for more calcium occurs when appetites may be growing smaller with age. (Stomach capacity, however, doesn’t always decrease as you grow older.)
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics supports increased protein for older adults – as much as 1.6 g/kg per day. For a 110-pound woman, this adds up to 80 grams of protein per day, and for a 150-pound man, it is about 109 grams per day. Drinking ultrafiltered milk can help older adults get enough protein, especially if they don’t eat much meat, fish or chicken.
If you are a vegetarian who enjoys dairy foods, ultrafiltered milk is a good source of protein and vitamin B12. Aside from drinking it straight up, it can be used to add protein and creamy texture to soups, savory and sweet puddings, sauces, and frozen desserts. (See recipe for frozen yogurt below.)
DIETS THAT CUT SUGAR, CARBOHYDRATES
If you are on a diet that reduces carbs, you may want to try ultrafiltered milk since it has half the sugar of regular milk. WhoIe ultrafiltered milk is a nutrient-filled drink for the keto diet. If you have diabetes, ultrafiltered milk can shave a few grams of sugar from a meal or snack. People with diabetes often require a bed-time snack, and a glass of milk works well because it can also help with sleep.
Lowering sugar is popular among almost everyone. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that no more than 10% of your daily calories come from added sugars. (That’s about 12 teaspoons of sugar for a 2,000 calorie per day diet.)
You can visit numerous sites across the web and get a “sugar detox” plan to minimize the dreaded simple carb in your life. Even The New York Times was urging you to experience a “sugar-free” start to the new year back in January.
The Dietary Guidelines emphasize reducing added sugars like those in sodas and dessert but not those found naturally in fruit and milk. So, there is some debate about whether processing milk to take away that naturally occurring lactose sugar is healthy.
IS ULTRAFILTERED MILK HEALTHY?
Some dietitians say that Americans don’t need more protein. But R.D. Michelle Dudash, who wrote the book "Clean Eating for Busy Families," said that “for diabetics and anyone who is really watching their carbohydrate intake closely, the 6 grams of difference between regular milk and Fairlife can be significant.”
Dudash specifically mentioned Fairlife, but what she said holds true for all unflavored ultrafiltered milks. In fact, some analysts see Coca-Cola’s acquisition of Fairlife as a strategy to help the soda manufacturer shift its product line to the lower sugar offerings consumers are seeking.
This table compares the nutrition in 2% regular dairy milk to 2% ultrafiltered dairy milk. It may vary by a gram or so from the actual branded product. Organic kinds of milk tend to have lower amounts of vitamins A and D due to lower fortification.
|Nutrient||Regular 2% milk||Ultrafiltered 2% milk|
|Protein||8 g||13 g|
|Fat||5 g||4.5-5 g|
|Carbohydrates||12-13 g||6 g|
|Sugars||11-12 g||6 g|
|Added sugars||0 g||0 g|
|Calcium||30% DV||35-40% DV|
|Potassium||390 mg||330-400 mg|
|Vitamin A||6-10%||15-20% DV|
|Vitamin D||15-25%||15-25% DV|
PLAIN MILK IS HEALTHY, TOO – BUT PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO DRINK IT
Plain old milk is a nutritional bargain that does not necessarily need to be improved. So far, my focus has been on the increased protein and calcium in the fluid ultrafiltered milk, but regular milk serves up potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, vitamin A, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamin B-12, and vitamin D.
In a review of studies on dairy nutrition, including data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), nutrition expert Connie Weaver pointed out that “few people who avoid dairy products achieve recommended intakes of several shortfall nutrients, such as calcium, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, and vitamin D."
Weaver, who is a nutrition professor at Purdue, has researched the amount of calcium needed for bone growth in children. She has also been a member of the U.S. Dietary Guidelines committee.
“The best and most economical source of the limiting nutrients is dairy,” she said in the review.
Clearly, the idea of drinking plain fluid milk just does not appeal to 21st century Americans -- if you can believe the decades-long decline in milk sales. The 2013 report from the ERS stated that “succeeding generations of Americans born after the 1930s have consumed fluid milk less often than their preceding generations.”
Part of the shrinking milk-drinking numbers may be attributed to the increase in plant-based milk options.
It is possible, however, that ultrafiltered milk in its plain and flavored versions will prop up dairy sales, despite the fact that it does require extra processing steps. It is worth noting that plant-based kinds of milk, also require quite a few processing steps from almond, coconut, oats, or soy to a quaffable beverage.
With the extra protein and calcium, ultrafiltered milk checks the boxes for what is known as a functional food. Functional foods are those that offer health benefits above and beyond the norm. They add extra nutrition and often, they add marketing appeal, too.
MANY BRANDS OF ULTRAFILTERED MILK
Although I have discussed some of the better-known players in the ultrafiltered milk market, there are other brands on the shelves. From Seattle-based Darigold comes FIT ultrafiltered milk with 14 grams of protein per cup; Joyya is a Canadian offering.
The Slate brand has the slickest packaging when it comes to the ultrafiltered market. Sold in 11-ounce aluminum cans, it is available only in the millennial and Gen-X friendly flavors of chocolate, dark chocolate and espresso chocolate. A 12-pack costs $35.99.
ICE CREAM, YOGURT, AND CHEESE CRAFTED FROM ULTRAFILTERED MILK
Milk may be the tip of the iceberg in terms of the market for ultrafiltered milk. The Chilly Cow brand of ice creams is made from ultrafiltered milk and so is Yoplait's YQ yogurt. The fruit flavors of YQ have 15 grams of protein and 11 grams of sugar per 5.3-ounce container.
In mid-April, the FDA reopened the comment period on a proposed rule that would allow cheese to be made from ultrafiltered milk. The comment period had closed on March 30, but was reopened on April 14 and will close on Aug. 13. If the proposed rule becomes law, this may help with the current oversupply of fluid milk since it will permit the milk to be concentrated and reduce the volume.
The proposed rule would amend the definitions of "milk" and "nonfat milk", i.e. the standards of identity, used in making of cheese and cheese products.
THE BOTTOM LINE ON ULTRAFILTERED MILK
Ultrafiltered milk is good for you, especially if you don’t consume three servings of dairy every day. It may be especially nutritious and appropriate for:
- Growing children and teens
- Older adults
- People on low carb/low sugar eating plans, like keto
Although it is becoming widely available under a variety of labels, some of the best-known brands are Fairlife, Mootopia, and Ultra. It can be substituted cup for cup in recipes that call for milk.
Expect to see ice cream, yogurt and cheese products made from ultrafiltered milk in the grocery store.
ULTRAFILTERED MILK WORKS JUST LIKE REGULAR MILK IN RECIPES
I am not a millennial or Gen-Xer, but I do love me some ultrafiltered milk, especially when it comes to making delicious things to eat like dairy-based desserts. Simply sub it for regular milk in your favorite dairy-based recipes – pancakes, muffins, strata, pudding, ice cream – and enjoy a little extra protein and calcium in the resulting dish.
For this blog, I decided to pair it with another highly processed and functional ingredient that has earned my devotion: powdered peanut butter.
This peanutty product has much of the fat removed, but that’s not why I like to use it for recipes. Powdered peanut butter is easier to add during cooking than the regular peanut butter, which is sticky and requires a lot of scraping and mixing to get it to incorporate properly.
You will need to watch for clumps formed by the powdered peanut butter and break them up, but it is more blendable than regular peanut butter. I used the PB2 brand, but other options are available. (PB2’s slogan is “peanut butter without the love handles.”)
My family gave me the thumbs up on this peanut butter frozen yogurt, which uses a cooked custard base to make it richly satisfying and safe to eat. (Heating the egg yolks lowers the boom on bacteria.) I hope you like it, too.
It achieves perfect quick dessert status with a splash of chocolate syrup and a kiss of whipped cream.
Peanut Butter Frozen Yogurt
- 1 cup 2% ultrafiltered milk
- 1/2 cup whole ultrafiltered milk
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 Tablespoons Truvia baking sweetener
- 6 Tablespoons of powdered peanut butter
- 2 egg yolks
- 2 cups of plain whole milk Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- Whisk together the milks, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, Truvia, and 4 Tablespoons of powdered peanut butter in a glass measuring cup. Microwave for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until the mixture is hot and steaming, but don't let it boil.
- With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar until they are light yellow and thickened, about 2 to 4 minutes.
- Beat 1/2 cup of the peanut butter-hot milk mixture into the egg yolks and sugar. Turn into a saucepan and stir in the remaining milk mixture. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring, until temperature reaches 180 F and the custard is slightly thicker and coats a spoon. Do not allow to boil.
- Pour into a glass or plastic bowl.
- Stir in the Greek yogurt, the remaining 2 Tablespoons of powdered peanut butter and almond extract.
- Cool to room temperature. (To speed up this process, put the bowl holding the custardy yogurt base into a larger bowl filled with water and ice.)
- Once the yogurt base has reached room temperature, refrigerate for about 2 hours in order to bring the temperature down to about 40 F.
- Place the yogurt base in the frozen bowl of an ice cream machine and churn until it reaches desired consistency, about 20 minutes for soft to medium set.
- Once it has set, scoop the frozen yogurt into a container and place in the freezer.
- Before serving, let it sit for a short time at room temperature to soften for easy scooping and best taste.
Copyright © 2020 Jani H. Leuschel