Plant milk: a healthier alternative to cow's milk?

With so many new milk products on the market, it can be confusing to know which one you should be drinking. Many people confidently switch to almond milk thinking it's a healthier choice than dairy. But is it really?

 
milk alternatives
 

There are pros and cons to all types of milks.

Cow's milk is the simplest, most natural form of milk. It is a balanced source of carbs, protein, and fat and naturally has many vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.

If you are allergic to milk (2-4% of kids are) or lactose intolerant, a plant-based milk may be a better option. If not, cow's milk is a great source of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.

Please don't be concerned with dairy affecting your hormones (read more here).

 

 

Many plant-based milks now add in nutrients, like calcium, vitamin D, and B12 at values that are comparable cow's milk.

Nut based milks are obviously not nut-allergy friendly and oat and coconut milks may not be suitable for FODMAP diets.

Some varieties of plant-based milks may also have added oils and gums which some people may not tolerate well. 

 

 

Choosing a milk that is best for you depends on your own dietary needs and lifestyle. While there are plenty of healthy alternatives to cow's milk, they may not necessarily be healthier.

If you are considering switching from cow's milk to a plant-based milk, I would suggest choosing a variety that has added calcium and vitamin D and is free of artificial sweeteners.

 

Personally, I love cow's milk. I love the taste, it's the most affordable, and it is naturally nutrient dense. But, I find I don't drink a ton of it and when I buy it it is often wasted. Instead, I keep soy milk in my pantry because it is shelf stable and I have it on hand when I need it for a smoothie or another recipe. If I were to drink a glass of a plant-based milk, I think the Bolthouse Farms unsweetened milk tastes the absolute best.

 

Below you'll find the nutrition content of a variety of milk options to help you make a more informed choice.

 
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Nutrition Content Per 1 Cup Serving:

Ripple
Calories: 70
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 0.5g
Protein: 8g
Vitamin D: 30%
Calcium: 45%
Sugar: 0g
Potassium: 450mg
Vitamin B12: n/a

Almond Breeze Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
Calories: 30
Fat: 3.5g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Protein: 1g
Vitamin D: 25%
Calcium: 45%
Sugar: 7g
Potassium: 170mg
Vitamin B12: 0mcg (some brands may have it added) 

Bolthouse Farms Plant Protein Milk (Unsweetened)
Calories: 90
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 0.5g
Protein: 10g
Vitamin D: 20% DV
Calcium: 35% DV
Total Sugar: 0g
Added Sugars: 0g
Potassium: 330mg
Vitamin B12: 2.7mcg
 

Cow's Milk (1%)
Calories: 100
Fat: 2.4g
Saturated Fat: 1.5g
Protein: 8g
Vitamin D: 20%
Calcium: 30%
Sugar: 15g (natural lactose)
Potassium: 366mg
Vitamin B12: 1.1mcg

Silk Soy Milk (Original)
Calories: 110
Fat: 4.5g
Saturated Fat: 0.5g
Protein: 8g
Vitamin D: 30%
Calcium: 45%
Sugar: 6g
Potassium: 380mg
Vitamin B12: 3mcg

Oat Milk (Oatly Brand)
Calories: 190
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 0.5g
Protein: 1g
Vitamin D: 30%
Calcium: 15%
Total Sugar: 4.1g
Added Sugar: 0g
Potassium: n/a
Vitamin B12: 0.38mcg

milk comparison