Q. Is powdered milk just as good as the real stuff?

A. The least-processed versions of any foods or beverages tend to be the healthiest (think baked potato vs. potato chips). So it goes with milk.

Consider the process. To create powdered milk, whole milk is separated into cream and skim milk. The skim milk is allowed to evaporate and condense and is then dried to form a powder. This makes powdered milk a convenient and durable source of protein and calcium, especially beneficial in areas of the world with limited access to refrigeration.

But here's the catch: The high-temperature process used to make powdered milk alters the cholesterol into a form known as oxysterols. This harmful, oxidized form of cholesterol tends to initiate the growth of plaque in the arteries, a contributor to heart disease (Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002, vol. 11, no. 1).

So whenever possible, choose low-fat or nonfat milk in the fluid (not powdered) form.

This Q&A was written by Victoria Dolby Toews, MPH, author of the The Soy Sensation (McGraw-Hill, 2002) and The Green Tea Book (Avery, 1998).