Milk – Why Are There So Many Choices?

MILK CHOICES

Cow’s Milk? Almond? Soy? Rice? What’s a girl to do with all of these choices!

This is a reader request from multiple readers, so let’s get down to business.

There seem to be more and more varieties of milk these days. What on earth is up with all of these choices? Let’s do a fast breakdown and then maybe your choice will be easier.

Cow’s Milk

Definitely, the most popular source of milk is cow’s milk. We start drinking whole milk (3.25% milk fat) at age 1. Whole milk is perfect for growing babies and toddlers because it’s nutrient dense and essential for their development.

Then there is 2% milk and 1% (low-fat) milk. This type of cow’s milk is lower in fat, therefore lower in overall calories (120 and 100 calories, respectively).

And then skim milk, or fat-free milk has 0 grams of fat and 80 calories

cows milk

Check out the above image from milklife.com. You can see that when you switch from whole milk to a milk with less fat, only the fat content (and therefore the overall calories) is changing. The protein, carbohydrate and calcium content all stay the same.

All 4 kinds of cow’s milk contain the same 9 essential nutrients:

  1. calcium – bone/teeth health, muscle contractions, blood clotting
  2. protein – builds and repairs muscle tissue
  3. vitamin D – absorbs that calcium to help mineralize bones
  4. potassium – fluid regulation, heart health, muscle contraction
  5. phosphorus – bone health, energy
  6. vitamin A – eye and skin health, immune health
  7. vitamin B12 – red blood cell health
  8. Riboflavin – (vitamin B2) converts food to energy – yes!
  9. Niacin – enzyme function and metabolism

As you can see, cow’s milk packs a serious punch in nutrition┬ástandards. There are even lactose-free versions of cows milk on the market for those who are intolerant or allergic. Note that since cows milk comes from an animal, it does have cholesterol in it. Any kind of developing body (toddlers, children, teenagers, pregnant women especially) can really benefit from this nutrient-dense drink.

Soy Milk

  • Plant based protein = Cholesterol FREE and low in saturated fat
  • Great source of protein
  • Vegan
  • Naturally lactose-free
  • Can be fortified to also have Vitamin D and calcium, just like cows milk
  • Downside: Soy allergy
  • Always buy the organic version to steer clear of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) that are commonly used in processing.

 

Almond Milk

  • plant-based protein = cholesterol FREE! and free of saturated fat
  • However, even though almonds are high in protein, almond milk is NOT
  • Vegan
  • Naturally lactose-free
  • Can be fortified to also have Vitamin D and calcium, just like cows milk
  • Downside: Almond or nut allergy
  • Almond milk is low-calorie – as long as you are using the unsweetened version

Rice Milk

  • Plant-based = cholesterol free and free of saturated fat
  • Allergy free! It’s a great option for those who have allergies to nuts, soy and lactose
  • Vegan
  • Can be fortified to also have Vitamin D and calcium, just like cows milk
  • Downside: Unsweetened versions are high in carbohydrates – not ideal for diabetics
  • FDA recommends you not to consume high amounts of rice products due to inorganic arsenic

Last, let me leave you with a comparison chart, so you can see the differences yourself. The following chart is based on 8 fluid ounces and UNSWEETENED versions of the plant-based milks:

Calories CHO PRO FAT
Whole Milk 150 12 g 8 g 8 g
2% Milk 120 12 g 8 g 5 g
1% Milk 100 12 g 8 g 2.5 g
Skim Milk 80 12 g 8 g 0 g
Soy Milk (unsweetened) 80 7 g 4 g 4 g
Almond Milk (unsweetened) 30 <1 1 g 2.5 g
Rice Milk (unsweetened) 45 8 g 1 g 1 g

So there you go. The low down on milk. Now that you are educated, try to make the best choice for you. Just remember, it is recommended to drink 2-3 8-ounce servings of milk (or something in the milk group) per day (choosemyplate.gov)

Cheers!