If you wander into the dairy aisle at the grocery store, you will get lost in the sea of milks now available! There are even shelf-stable milks offered in other areas of the store too. So how do you decide which is the best milk for you? Let’s break it down!
Cow’s Milk – your conventional milk offered in a variety of fat contents (whole, 2%, 1%, or skim)
- Excellent source of protein at 8 grams per cup
- Excellent source of bone-strengthening calcium, as well as vitamins D and K
- Choose skim and 1%, as they are lower in saturated fats but still have all the nutritional benefits of whole milk (think protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals)
- Whole milk is only recommended for those under the age of 2 and some elderly individuals that need the extra calories and fat for development and strength
Bottom line: if you’re going to skip cow’s milk, make sure you find a good source of calcium elsewhere in your diet including leafy green vegetables, tofu, beans, fortified plant-based milks, almonds, and possibly supplements. You also want to make sure your vitamin D and protein levels are being fulfilled elsewhere too.
Soy Milk – the original milk substitute made from soybeans
- Excellent source of protein at 8 grams per cup, comparable to cow’s milk
- Good source of vitamins A, B12, and D and potassium
- Naturally cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat
- Popular among vegans or lactose intolerant individuals
Bottom line: If you’re going to buy soy, purchase unflavored. Non-dairy consumers with gastritis or IBS should be wary, as soy can potentially cause bloating. Soy, however, can be incorporated into most individual’s diets successfully. Click HERE to read more on the benefits of soy-based nutrition.
Almond Milk – plant-based milk substitute made from ground almonds
- Fewer calories than soy and cow’s milk (especially the unsweetened versions), which makes almond milk popular among individuals trying to lose weight
- Naturally cholesterol-free and saturated fat-free but a good source of healthy fats
- Popular among vegans and lactose intolerant individuals
- Poor source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D (unless fortified)
- Choose unsweetened versions as they are lower in added sugars but still have all the same benefits as regular almond milk
Bottom line: It’s a good alternative as long as you’re supplementing your diet with other sources of protein. The nutty taste makes a great addition to coffee and cereal. Remember to choose an unsweetened version with fortified calcium and vitamin D.
Rice Milk – grain-based milk substitute made from milled rice and water
- Least allergenic milk … great choice for those sensitive to lactose and nuts
- Poor source of calcium and vitamin D (unless fortified)
- Low in protein and double the amount of carbohydrates when compared to cow’s milk
- Natural sweetened taste due to the breakdown of carbohydrates into sugars during processing
Bottom line: Unless you have a nut allergy or are lactose intolerant, rice milk is not the best alternative for cow’s milk. With its high carbohydrate content, it is also a poor choice for those with diabetes. Balance rice milk with other sources of protein or look for brands that enrich the milk with chickpea protein to get an extra boost.
Every milk has its pros and cons depending on your diet, nutritional needs, health, and personal taste preference. So what milk do you drink?
Looking to build a healthier lifestyle with the guidance and support of a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist? Reach out to me at [email protected] today. I’m looking forward to helping you reach your goals!