Running out for milk? Here's a primer on cow's-milk options, all of which contain essentially the same amount of vitamins A and D and calcium:
Whole milk: No fat removed. Has a rich taste. Contains 3.5 percent to 4 percent milk fat and about 150 calories a cup. This is the recommended choice for most children between the ages of 1 and 2, who need the fat and calories for brain development. But the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends low-fat milk, no more than 2 percent, for 1-year-olds who are already overweight, have overweight parents, or have a family history of heart problems. Very young children are increasingly getting fats from sources other than milk. For those over 2, low- or fat-free milk is recommended. Reduced-fat milk contains at most 2 percent milk fat and about 120 calories a cup. Low-fat milk contains 1 percent milk fat and about 100 calories a cup. Fat-free milk, or skim milk, contains no more than 0.2% milk fat and has about 90 calories a cup.
Organic milk: Produced by dairy farmers that use only organic fertilizers and organic pesticides and whose cows are not given supplemental hormones or antibiotics. Organic classification by federal standards is not a judgment about the quality or safety of any product, but rather an indication that it was produced without using chemicals. The nutrient content of organic milk is the same as standard milk. Being chemical-free often mean's it's more expensive.
Pasteurized milk: Pasteurization, or subjecting milk to a short burst of heat followed by rapid cooling, has been standard protocol since the 1920s in this country to destroy harmful microorganisms and prolong shelf life. The most common method of pasteurization today is high-temperature short time, known as HTST, in which milk is heated to at least 161 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds. But dairies are increasingly moving toward ultra-pasteurization, UP, during which milk is heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit for two seconds, and Ultra-high temperature, UHT, in which milk is pasteurized at a much higher temperature to make it sterile so it doesn't even require refrigeration. Such high-temperature, shorter-time methods are ideal for specialty products such as cream or organic milk that don't move off the shelves as quickly as regular milk. Hence, the longer "use by" dates on some products of Horizon, for example, which is the largest organic milk brand in the United States.
Homogenized: Most milk you buy from the store is homogenized, meaning the fat molecules have been broken up, reduced in size to droplets too small to rise to the surface in a cream layer, and uniformly blended. By stopping the separation of the milk fat from the fluid milk, a smooth texture is created.
Cream line: Not homogenized. Fat naturally rises to the top so a cream line forms, hence the moniker. Many people prefer it for its richer, fuller flavor, and it comes in reduced-fat formulas.
Raw milk: Milk that has not been pasteurized or homogenized. Proponents of drinking raw milk claim that it is more nutritious than pasteurized milk, since nutrients aren't lost in the heating process. But raw milk can contain bacteria and microorganisms such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration firmly caution consumers that the harmful bacteria in raw milk may cause life-threatening illnesses.
Lactose-free milk: For individuals who are unable to break down lactose, the natural sugar in milk, the lactase enzyme is added to break down lactose into simpler, more digestable sugars.