Fortified vs. Unfortified Milk: What’s The Difference?

In the United States, there is no law against fortification of milk as is the case in many countries, therefore it is more commonly sold than unfortified milk for its nutritional benefits. Both varieties can be used for culinary purposes though. The differences are miniscule but are noted nonetheless by the health conscious.  

Of all the vitamins, D3, palmitic acid, and A are easily absorbed since they are heat-resistant, which is why companies have chosen them to make milk healthier. These compounds are added before the process of pasteurization and homogenization, which are processes that kill bacteria in the milk and preserve it for extended usage. Since these processes involve heat, vitamin B is added at a later stage to make fortified milk. Vitamin B is not commonly added to fortified milk in the U.S.

Little Difference in Nutrition

In eight ounces or 240 ml of two percent milk, 123 calories are present in unfortified milk while 122 calories are present in fortified milk. Fortified milk provides 15 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A and D, whereas unfortified milk provides 8 percent of A and has no vitamin D.

Apart from these small differences in nutritional content, the two types of milk provide the same amount of zinc, calcium, phosphorus, protein and carbs. 

Fortified Milk Has More Vitamin D

In poor countries, they have acute deficiencies of vitamin D and calcium that lead to bone loss and rickets. Fortified milk helps the absorption of calcium with vitamin D, promoting bone health and preventing osteoporosis. In developed countries, this serves as a boon because they are manufactured with the strategy of correcting micronutrient deficiencies.

The lack of vitamin D also reduces immunity, hence people in developed countries have more blood vitamin D than developing countries, who do not use fortified milk, a study said. 

Fortified Milk Can Prevent Anemia

Children greatly benefit from drinking fortified milk and it prevents anemia among them that is common in developing nations. A review that analyzed eating habits of more than 5,000 children observed that milk and grains fortified with nutrients like iron, zinc and vitamin A had brought down susceptibility to anemia by 50 percent in children younger than 5.

A comparison between unfortified cow's milk and fortified milk with folic acid, showed that iron levels had increased in toddlers who consumed folic-acid-fortified milk in Pakistan . 


Researchers warn that people who are lactose intolerant should avoid fortified milk since it could lead to intestinal problems and diarrhea. Fortified milk does not always mean that it is healthy. For instance, hot chocolate can be fortified with vitamin D and A but can have added sugars. Also, fat-free fortified milk does not absorb these fat soluble vitamins, hence it may defeat the purpose of going healthy.  

Glass of milk Pouring a glass of milk into a glass. Couleur/Pixabay