Got Milk?

The market for dairy-free milk alternatives continues to grow. However, many nutrition professionals are urging consumers to understand the nutritional importance of ordinary cow’s milk, and recognize the implications of eliminating dairy from your diet. Traditional dairy products are some of the best sources of complete protein, calcium and Vitamin D. These nutrients are naturally occurring in cow’s milk, rather than being fortified or enriched during the manufacturing process. The uptake of these nutrients is facilitated in the body, because those found in whole foods are absorbed better than vitamins and minerals found in processed foods.  Cow’s milk is a rich source of vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus, therefore, those who choose to eliminate this product from their diet are at a higher risk for nutritional deficiencies.

There are many reasons some people choose to follow a dairy-free diet. These reasons include: an intolerance to lactose, irritable bowel syndrome, veganism, or simply a preference to avoid dairy. As trendy health movements arise, new milk-alternatives continue to flood the shelves of supermarkets. Kim Larson and Angela Lemon, both Registered Dietitians and spokeswomen for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, were asked to rank some of the most common milks on the market. Before making a purchase, read below to see what they have to say, and understand the nutritional differences between cow’s milk and popular dairy-free milk alternatives.

  1. Cow’s Milk: With a unanimous vote, traditional cow’s milk remains the “gold standard” of all milk products. Each one cup serving of milk provides 8 g of protein and meets approximately 30% of the daily calcium recommendation. The fat and calorie content of milk varies depending on the type. Both Dietitians recommend purchasing low-fat versions such as, 1% or skim milk.
  2. Soy Milk: For those consumers who experience gastrointestinal discomfort after dairy product consumption or choose to avoid dairy for other reasons, soy milk was the recommended milk of choice from both professionals. Like cow’s milk, soybeans are the only non-animal source of complete protein. This means that soy milk also contains all the essential amino acids needed by the body. Unfortunately, many types of soy milk are fortified with vitamin D and calcium, therefore, these nutrients are not absorbed as well in the body as the form of these nutrients found naturally in cow’s milk.
  3. Almond Milk: This milk is currently one of the most popular milks on the market. However, both Dietitians state that a typical glass of almond milk only contains between 4-6 almonds. The rest of the milk is composed of mostly water and added vitamins and minerals. Sweetened versions contain high amounts of added sugar, and even unflavored varieties require sweeteners to be added to make the milk drinkable. While almonds are considered an “antioxidant powerhouse,” almond milk is not
  4. Rice Milk: A milk of choice for those who cannot consume nuts or dairy, rice milk lacks in its nutritional profile. One glass contains only 1 g of protein and over 20 g of carbohydrates. It is made of filtered water and rice, and unfortunately most unfortified versions only contain 2% of the daily recommended calcium.
  5. Coconut Milk: Most consumers don’t know that 90% of coconut oil is saturated fat. Therefore, it’s no surprise that one glass of coconut milk contains about 5 grams of saturated fat. A diet high in saturated fat can increase bad cholesterol and contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries. In addition, the second ingredient on the Silk® Original Coconut Milk nutrition facts label is cane sugar. This means the milk is high in sugar, increasing additional added sugar in your diet. Unflavored varieties also contain added sugars to make the milk tasteful.

Next time you are at the supermarket, think about your reasons for purchasing a dairy-free milk alternative. By understanding the nutritional profile of these milk drinks, you can make a well informed purchase to help maximize your health.


USA Today

Eating Well

Today’s Dietitian

Rice Dream


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