Does Nonfat Milk Have Lactose

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “does nonfat milk have lactose?” and will share with you the benefits of non-fat and lactose-free milk. 

Does Nonfat Milk Have Lactose?

Yes, non-fat or skim milk does contain lactose. In fact, non-fat milk contains more lactose as compared to whole milk! 

Nutrition labels on plain milk generally state that it contains approximately 5 grams of total sugar per 100g. This sugar is lactose and is naturally present in milk, hence also called milk sugar.  When nonfat or skim milk is produced, its fat content is removed. 

This was originally done by letting whole milk sit until the fat automatically floated onto the surface and could be removed or ‘skimmed’ to leave behind a much lower-fat liquid.  Presently,  centrifugal separation, a spinning process, removes some of the fat globules or cream to lower the fat content. Milk fat has a lower density than the skim phase; therefore, fat globules tend to rise naturally under the influence of gravity. By centrifugation, this density difference between cream and skim phase is exploited to accelerate separation of the liquids by the rapid rotation, creating a force. This force pushes the skim phase down and the cream to rise. In Italy, gravity separation is still used today as a critical processing step in the manufacturing of certain aged cheeses, especially Parmigiano Reggiano and Grana Padano. Raw whole milk is stored in shallow separation basins at 10 to 16°C for 6 to 12 h to gravity separate milk (1).

So in short, producing skim or non-fat milk doesn’t remove sugars or proteins from the milk; it only alters its fat content. By removing fat, protein and sugar concentrations increase.

How Much Lactose Does Non-Fat Milk Contain?

As we mentioned, non-fat milk contains more sugar than whole milk. Here’s a comparison (4):

  • One cup of whole milk: 13.02 grams of lactose
  • One cup of partly-skimmed milk (2 percent milk fat): 12.92 grams of lactose
  • One cup of partly-skimmed milk (1 percent milk fat): 13.41 grams of lactose
  • One cup skim (non-fat) milk: 13.18 grams of lactose

Is Non-Fat Milk More Processed?

No. Non-fat milk and dairy products are not more processed as compared to full-fat dairy products. It’s just that full-fat dairy has more saturated fats.

So consuming full-fat dairy products is acceptable on rare occasions, but to maintain a healthy lifestyle and lower the risk of chronic diseases, it is recommended that you consume mainly reduced-fat products with no added sugars.

What Are The Benefits of Nonfat Milk?

Reduced-fat milk (partially skimmed) and skim milk (non-fat) are fortified to contain greater amounts of vitamins as compared to whole milk. They also have fewer calories and saturated fats, which have been shown to raise the amount of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the body and increase the risk for heart disease.

Skim milk is also a good source of potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. It is also a good source of protein, and single glass provides you with a wholesome amount without any additional fat.

Skim milk is also among the best sources of calcium, s single cup containing about 300 milligrams of the mineral. This is even greater than the calcium content in one cup of whole milk (276 milligrams)!

So, if you ‘re looking to boost your protein and calcium intake but want to avoid additional calories and fats in your diet, non-fat milk is the best option. However, recent studies show that low consumption of milk fat leads to a deficiency of lipophilic antioxidants in the human diet. This disrupts the pro-oxidant/antioxidant homeostasis, leads to chronic inflammations and promotes the development and progression of cancer (2).

Is Non-Fat Dairy Healthy?

According to the 2015–2020 edition of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, it is specifically recommended that consuming low-fat and/or fat-free dairy is a part of a healthy eating regime that reduces the risks of various chronic ailments, such as metabolic syndrome, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.

However, recent studies show that there are health benefits of consuming milk fat. Milk fat has unique properties due to its specific fatty acid profile that fully meets the nutritional needs of humans, as well as the stereospecific structure of triglycerides which resembles that of human breast milk fat. The unique components of milk fat (CLA, vaccenic acid, phospholipids, including ether lipids, 13-methyl tetradecanoic acid) and vitamins A, D3 and K2 have antioxidant, antiinflammatory and immunostimulating properties and exert anticarcinogenic effects (2). 

What Is The Benefit Of Lactose-Free Milk?

Lactose-free milk is most beneficial for people suffering from a condition known as lactose intolerance. These individuals have difficulty digesting milk and dairy products. Lactose intolerance is a pathophysiological situation that occurs due to insufficiency of the “lactase” enzyme present in the jejunum (3). The latter breaks down the milk sugar lactose into simple sugars for easy digestion and absorption into the bloodstream.

 When lactose is not digested by the body, it passes as a whole into the lower gut, where it is digested by bacteria. This results in uncomfortable gastric symptoms, such as cramping, flatulence, and diarrhea. The amount of lactose that causes the symptoms varies from person to person, depending on the amount of lactose consumed, the degree of lactase deficiency and the form of the product/food product in which lactose is ingested. About 75% of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant (3).  

Lactose-free dairy products are with added bacterial lactase treated products, which contain very low amounts of lactose (3). On the whole, lactose-free milk contains the same nutritional profile as whole milk, so the amount of calcium, protein, vitamins, and other minerals remains the same. However, there is no gastric disturbance when sensitive individuals consume it. 

What is the Best Lactose-Free Milk?

The main lactose-free milk is soy milk. However, there are many other alternatives as well.

Rice milk is much sweeter as compared to other lactose-free milks, and has a watery and thin consistency. If you’re into nuts, cashew milk, and hazelnut milk are options with a good amount of unsaturated fats.

More options include coconut-based milk and oat milk.


In this brief article, we answered the question, “does nonfat milk have lactose?”, and discussed with you the benefits of non-fat and lactose-free milk. 

If you have any other questions or comments please let us know.


  1. Ma, Y., and D. M. Barbano. Gravity separation of raw bovine milk: fat globule size distribution and fat content of milk fractions. J Dairy Sci, 2000, 83, 1719-1727.
  2. Cichosz, Grażyna, Hanna Czeczot, and Marika Bielecka. The anticarcinogenic potential of milk fat. Ann Agr Environ Med, 2020, 27, 512-518.
  3. Suri, Sheenam, et al. Considerations for development of lactose-free food. J Nutr Intermed Metab, 2019, 15, 27-34.
  4. Hertzler, Steve, et al. Nutrient considerations in lactose intolerance. Nutrition in the Prevention and Treatment of Disease, 2017, 875-892.