Milk and milk alternatives Not too long ago, the only thing you could expect to drown your cereal in was whole cow’s milk. Now, cow’s milk comes in all sorts of varieties: whole milk, 2 percent, 1 percent, skim (fat-free), and even lactose-free milk. For people with dietary or allergy concerns, there are also alternatives to cow's milk. Almond, soy, rice, and coconut “milk” are popular plant-based milk alternatives.
They’re becoming even more available in stores across the United States. Goat’s milk is less common in stores in the United States, but is another good choice for some people. Each type of milk has its advantages and disadvantages, depending on a person’s diet, health, nutritional needs, or personal taste preferences. For example, people in key development years — children older than two years, teens, and pregnant women — need proteins, vitamin D, and calcium.
These are abundant in cow’s milk. On the other hand, people who need to watch their calories or saturated fat intake, such as for weight reasons or heart health problems, should look to other options. Whole cow’s milk contains more calories and saturated fat than any other milk, aside from goat’s milk. Look at the differences in these popular types of milks to determine which best suits your needs.
With all varieties, choose the unsweetened versions. Milk and milk alternatives can double their amount of sugar if they are sweetened with added sugars. Milk and milk alternatives: Nutrition comparison per 8 fluid ounces Cow’s milk Whole milk is cow's milk with none of the fat removed. One cup contains about: 150 calories 12 grams of carbohydrates in the form of lactose (milk sugar) 8 grams of fat 8 grams of protein None of the milk’s natural components are removed.
That means whole milk is high in natural proteins, fat, and calcium. Milk sold in the United States is usually fortified with vitamin A and vitamin D, as well. Other cow’s milk has the same amount of carbohydrates and protein, with some or all of the fat removed. While whole milk has 150 calories in one cup, 1 percent milk has 110 calories, and skim milk has just 80 calories. Fat-free milk has all of the nutritional benefits of whole milk — protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals — without the saturated fat and calories.
However, absorption of some vitamins may be reduced due to the lack of fat. Lactose-free milk is processed to break down lactose, a natural sugar found in milk products. Lactose-free milk is also a good source of protein, calcium, vitamins, and minerals. The total and saturated fat contents of lactose-free milk vary, as it comes in 2 percent, 1 percent, and fat-free varieties. Pros of cow’s milk Whole milk can provide essential proteins, extra calories from fats, as well as vitamins and minerals for infants and older adults.
Lactose-free versions are available for people who have a lactose intolerance. Cow’s milk, including grass-fed and low-heat pasteurized options, is widely available in grocery stores and convenience stores. Cons of cow’s milk The versions that aren’t fat-free are higher in saturated fats and calories. The protein in cow’s milk is a common allergen for babies, children, and adults. Some people have ethical concerns about modern dairy farming practices.
Almond milk Almond milk is made from ground almonds and filtered water. It may also contain starches and thickeners to improve its consistency and shelf life. People who are allergic to almonds or nuts should avoid almond milk. Almond milk is lower in calories than other milks, as long as it is unsweetened. It’s also free of saturated fat, and it’s naturally lactose-free. Per cup, unsweetened almond milk has: about 30 to 60 calories 1 gram of carbohydrates (sweetened varieties have more) 3 grams of fat 1 gram of protein Even though almonds are a good source of protein, almond milk is not.
Almond milk is also not a good source of calcium. However, many brands of almond milk are supplemented with calcium and vitamin D. Pros of almond milk It’s low in calories and contains no saturated fat. It’s a good source of vitamin A and can be fortified to be a good source of calcium and vitamin D. It’s vegan and naturally lactose-free. Cons of almond milk It’s not a good source of protein.
It may contain carrageenan, which may cause digestive issues in some people. There are some environmental concerns about the amount of water used to cultivate almonds. Soy milk is made from soybeans and filtered water. Like other plant-based milk alternatives, it may contain thickeners to improve consistency and shelf life. One cup of unsweetened soy milk has: about 80 to 100 calories 4 grams of carbohydrate (sweetened varieties have more) 4 grams of fat 7 grams of protein Because it comes from plants, soy milk is naturally free of cholesterol and low in saturated fat.
It also contains no lactose. Soybeans and soy milk are a good source of protein, calcium (when fortified), and potassium. Probiotic or fermented soy milk is also available. It’s an even better choice, especially for people with high blood pressure. However, too much soy may be a problem for people with thyroid disease or other conditions. And a 2008 Harvard study showed that higher intakes of soy-based foods caused fertility problems and lower sperm counts.
Soy is also a common allergen. People who are allergic to soy should not drink soy milk. Pros of soy milk It’s a good source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, potassium, and isoflavones, plus it can be fortified with calcium and vitamin D. It contains as much protein as cow's milk, yet is lower in calories than whole milk and about equal to the calories in 1 percent or 2 percent milk. It contains very little saturated fat.
Cons of soy milk Soy is a common allergen for both adults and children. Too much soy may be a problem for people with thyroid conditions. Most of the soy produced in the United States comes from genetically modified plants, which is a concern to some. Read more: Is soy good for you? » Rice milk is made from milled rice and water. As with other alternative milks, it frequently contains additives to improve consistency and shelf stability.
It’s the least likely of all of milk products to cause allergies. That makes it a good choice for people with lactose intolerance or allergies to milk, soy, or nuts. Rice milk contains the most carbohydrate per cup, providing about: 120 calories 22 grams of carbohydrate 2 grams of fat little protein (less than 1 gram) While rice milk can be fortified with calcium and vitamin D, it’s not a natural source of either, just like soy and almond milks.
Rice has also been shown to have higher levels of inorganic arsenic. The Food and Drug Administration recommends not relying solely on rice and rice products, especially for infants, children, and pregnant women. The American Academy of Pediatrics takes a similar stance, suggesting to be sure to focus on variety of foods and to avoid depending on just rice or rice products. Pros of rice milk It’s the least allergenic of milk alternatives.
It can be fortified to be a good source of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D. Rice milk is naturally sweeter than other milk alternatives. Cons of rice milk It’s high in carbohydrates, so it’s the least desirable choice for people with diabetes. It’s not a good source of protein. Eating too much of a rice product may pose a health risk for infants and children due to inorganic arsenic levels.
Coconut milk Coconut milk is made from filtered water and coconut cream, which is made from grated mature coconut flesh. In spite of its name, coconut is not actually a nut, so people with nut allergies should be able to eat it safely. Coconut milk is more accurately referred to as “coconut milk beverage” because it’s a more diluted product than the type of coconut milk used in cooking, which usually is sold in cans.
As with other plant-based milk alternatives, coconut milk often contains added thickeners and other ingredients. Coconut milk contains more fat than the other milk alternatives, and nearly all of it is saturated. Each cup of unsweetened coconut milk beverage contains: about 50 calories 2 grams of carbohydrates 5 grams of fat 0 grams of protein Coconut milk beverage does not naturally contain calcium, vitamin A, or vitamin D.
However, it can be fortified with these nutrients. Coconut products have become more popular in recent years, partly because they contain medium-chain triglycerides, a type of fat. Some research suggests this type of saturated fat may actually help with weight loss. However, saturated fats in general are associated with increased risk of heart problems, so further research is needed. Pros of coconut milk It rarely causes allergies.
It can be fortified to be a good source of calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D. The fat in it may actually promote weight loss. Cons of coconut milk It’s high in saturated fat. It’s not a good source of protein. It may contain carrageenan, which may cause digestive issues in some people.See Also: Cow Produce Milk
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Cow’s milk has played a monumental role in the American diet for many generations. Prior to the industrial revolution, milk was primarily consumed in rural communities, but as demand grew, large-scale production methods were developed, and the introduction of pasteurization, the milk separator, and improved breeds of dairy cows accelerated America’s milk obsession. But cow’s milk has fallen out of favor.
Since 1970, per-capita milk consumption overall has dropped by 37 percent, while that of whole milk has fallen by as much as 78 percent. Sales of milk have soured as more people reject saturated fats and turn toward a lactose-free diet, ushering in the era of non-dairy milk. Although soy milk and rice milk have existed for decades, the emergence of almond milk has reinvigorated the non-dairy milk industry, so much so that sales of almond milk have grown 250 percent over the past five years.
Almond milk in an ancient product, well-known around the Mediterranean world and beyond in medieval times and common to both Christian and Muslim cuisines — the former in large part because it was suitable for consumption during Lent and other periods of religious abstinence when animal products were forbidden, the latter primarily because it wouldn't spoil quickly as cow's milk would in the days before refrigeration.
Today, almond milk is hotter, trendier, and more expensive than cow’s milk; but is it really any healthier? Cow’s Milk Cow’s milk has been featured prominently on USDA dietary guidelines for decades because it’s a plentiful source of protein as well as three primary nutrients: calcium, potassium, and vitamin D (which is added through fortification). A deficiency in potassium may lead to high blood pressure and a lack of calcium weakens bone strength.
But milk has some drawbacks. A cup of whole milk contains 149 calories, which is relatively high compared to other beverages. Whole milk is also a major source of saturated fat — the kind of fat that has been linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. There also exists a body of evidence associating dairy consumption with prostate cancer, but more research is needed in that area. Although the dairy industry has introduced low-fat milk varieties, many of milk’s beneficial nutrients are fat-soluble, meaning they require fat to be absorbed by the body.
Almond Milk The process of making almond milk is similar to that of brewing coffee. Almonds are soaked in water overnight and blended with water until smooth. The mixture is then strained through a cheese cloth or filter. Despite the fact that whole almonds are rich sources of fiber, protein, and calcium, almond milk is not. When almonds are transformed into liquid, unfortunately none of the beneficial fiber or nutrients are transferred to the final product.
Many popular brands of almond milk are fortified with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D to make them look nutritionally comparable to dairy milk. Almond milk is naturally lactose-free, is low in calories, and contains no saturated fat; but to improve its viscosity, some almond milk manufacturers add carrageenan, a seaweed derivative that may cause digestive problems. Almond milk is also environmentally unsustainable.
California, the global leader in almond production, dedicates nearly 10 percent of all its water resources to almond cultivation. So Which Milk is Healthier? The answer really depends on a person’s personal dietary requirements and ethical values. If you are one of the many people who is lactose intolerant, or are concerned with animal welfare issues related to dairy cows, than almond milk is preferable.
Cow’s milk, on the other hand, is naturally rich in protein and calcium, and has been consumed safely for centuries. Both of these beverages can be incorporated into a healthy diet, but cow milk’s high saturated fat content means it should be used in moderation. And if neither cow's or almond milk sound appealing to you, there are a few other vegan options to consider.