The Lowdown on Dairy Milk and Milk Alternatives
By Sara Butler
Cow’s milk has some serious competition on the supermarket shelf these days. You’ve probably noticed the other options available such as rice milk, almond milk, and soy milk. How do these alternatives stack up to old fashioned cow’s milk? Here’s a breakdown of the advantages and disadvantages of the milk you can choose from your dairy section.
You can find cow’s milk in whole, 2 percent, 1 percent and skim these days – even lactose-free dairy milk is out there! When you buy anything but whole milk the natural fats in the milk have been removed on some level. That means not only less fat but fewer calories too. The lactose-free milk you can find has had the lactose, a naturally occurring sugar in milk, broken down through processing. It still has the same protein, vitamins, minerals, and calcium as the other dairy milk.
The variety of cow’s milk out there means there’s something for everyone, and it’s very convenient to find, but anything but the fat-free version is high in calories and saturated fat and that may not be what some people are looking for.
Almond milk is made out of ground almonds. It has fewer calories than other milk if you buy the unsweetened version and it’s naturally lactose-free as well as cholesterol and fat-free. The one drawback to almond milk is that it’s not high in protein, even though almonds are. It’s also seriously lacking in the calcium department, but the kind you can buy in the store is supplemented with Vitamin D and calcium.
It’s very important to note that if you have a nut allergy, almond milk should be avoided!
Soy milk is created from soybeans and it’s a very popular milk alternative for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant. Soy milk is made from plants, so it’s cholesterol free and has no lactose, along with being low in saturated fat. Soybeans are a great source of protein, potassium, and calcium too. It also has a healthy dose of Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B12.
If you have any issues with your thyroid health you should avoid soy products, including soy milk.
Rice milk is pretty much what it sounds like, a product of rice and water. It’s a great product for people with nut or lactose allergies and is often fortified with calcium and Vitamin D in order to give your body what it needs. It’s also vegan-friendly.
The downside to rice milk is that it can be high in carbohydrates and low in protein, which isn’t a great balance. If you have diabetes or need more protein, rice milk may not be the choice for you.