How to Choose the Best Milk
Comparing the nutrition in cow’s milk and plant milks
In recent years, soy milk, nut milk, and other plant milks have gone mainstream. You can now find an abundance of these products in just about any grocery store in America. But are they really better for you than cow’s milk? And if so, which type of non-dairy milk is best? The answer depends on your particular dietary needs and goals.
Cow’s Milk is a Healthy Option for Most People
Plant-based milks are often presented as a “healthier” option than cow’s milk. While this is true for individuals who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk, for most people a small amount of dairy is perfectly healthy. Milk contains 18 out of 22 essential nutrients, and is an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, and protein. Milk supports healthy bones and teeth, and studies have even shown that the whey protein in milk can improve blood sugar balance to help prevent diabetes.
Whole milk has 150 calories and 4.5 grams of saturated fat per one cup serving, which is not ideal for individuals who are dieting. Reduced fat milk contains the same nutrients, though some of the fat-soluble vitamins may not be absorbed as well. To avoid concerns about hormones, choose a brand from grass-fed cows that have not been given hormones.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Non-Dairy Milk
If your dietary needs or preferences dictate a non-dairy option, you will certainly have plenty of products to choose from. Here are some of the most important factors to consider:
Added sugar: Many non-dairy milks include added sugars to enhance their flavor. Sugar is just empty calories and it can contribute to inflammation in the body. Artificial sweeteners are also problematic due to their association with cancers. Your best option is to look for an unsweetened product.
Vitamin B12: If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you need to be careful to choose a milk that is fortified with B12, which most people get from meat or dairy.
Additives: Plant milks sometimes contain additives to make them thicker or creamier. One common additive is carrageenan. Carrageenan has been associated with inflammation and stomach problems. It’s best to choose a product with as few additives as possible.
Quick Guide to Non-Dairy Milks
Soy Milk: Soy milk contains plenty of protein with half the carbs and fats compared to milk. However, phytoestrogens found in soy may potentially affect your endocrine system.
Almond Milk: Fortified almond milk provides calcium, Vitamin D, and Vitamin A. It is low in calories with no saturated fat, but it is also low in protein. Phytic acid in the almonds may interfere with mineral absorption. Some brands contain carrageenan.
Rice Milk: This plant milk has a naturally sweet flavor and can be fortified with calcium and other vitamins, but it is high in carbs. Arsenic in rice can be a concern if you have a lot of rice products in your diet.
Oat Milk: The biggest benefit of oat milk is that it is high in soluble fiber. It is also high in calories and carbs. Oat milk contains about half the protein and fat as cow’s milk.
Pea Milk: Pea milk is an excellent source of protein that contains 7 of the 9 essential amino acids plus healthy omega-3 fats. It has more protein, less sugar, and more calcium than soy milk and about half as many calories as whole milk. It’s also healthy for the planet because peas are nitrogen-fixers that help return nutrients to the soil, require no fertilizer, and don’t need the large amounts of water many nut crops do.
Looking for Other Ways to Boost Your Nutrition?
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are about your dietary choices, you may not be getting all the nutrition you need. Fortunately, Renew Youth can help. We offer a quality multi-vitamin as well as prescription injectable nutrient formulas. Contact us at 800-859-7511 to learn more.