How does soy, almond, rice, and coconut milk stack up against regular cow's milk? Like many things in our society today there are tons of choices. This is also true for milk and milk alternatives. Let’s take a look at “milk” beverages and see what some of the benefits or pitfalls are of each option.
|Type||Calories||Total Fat||Saturated Fat||Protein||Sugar||% Calcium||% Vitamin D|
1. Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk is packed with nutrients, specifically nine essential nutrients including calcium, vitamin D, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin and niacin. If you are looking at the chart and are thinking wait, it have 12 grams of sugar. I say don’t worry about the12 grams of sugar. The sugar is all naturally occurring lactose, it is not added. Added sugar is the sugar we need to limit in our diet. You might have heard in recent news articles about the health benefits of whole milk. The verdict is still not clear, so I still recommend low fat (1%) or non fat milk. Whole milk might have a place in your diet if you don’t consume a lot of saturated fat in your overall diet. But for the majority of us, it is difficult to stay within the recommended amount and that is why the low fat or non fat is still recommended. All in all cow's milk is a good option to choose.
2. Soy Milk
Soy milk is great for people who have milk intolerance or an allergy. As noted above in the table soy milk has around 8 grams of protein with almost zero grams of saturated fat. What you want to watch out for is the sugar found in the sweetened and original varieties. This sugar is added and can come from cane sugar. We always want to watch our total sugar consumption. So stick to the unsweetened kind.
3. Almond Milk
Almond milk is another great option for those with either a dairy allergy/ intolerance or someone with a soy allergy. Almond milk is rich in vitamin D, E, and A. However, just like soy milk you should purchase the unsweetened or light varieties. The sugar added to almond milk is not naturally occurring and therefore it should be limited. If you are hoping to find protein in this product, you won’t find it. I might expect to see a higher amount of protein since almonds are a great non animal protein source. But you won’t find it here.
4. Rice Milk
Original rice milk has more calories than the other milk alternatives. The sugar in this product is naturally occurring. But this product doesn’t pack as much of a nutritional punch as the other options mentioned. Rice milk can be a good option for those with multiple food allergies.
5. Coconut Milk
Isn’t coconut supposed to be good for you? This is a common question I get. The hottest new trend is clearly coconut. Coconut milk, coconut water, coconut cream etc. As you can see from the table coconut milk has the highest amount of saturated fats compared to the other milk alternatives. Many are convinced that the saturated fats found in coconuts is beneficial for you. Again the verdict isn’t out yet, so I say stick to the dietary recommendations. Keep your saturated fat consumption between 5 to 6 percent of total calories. Also keep in mind that per serving, there is no protein and the drink has the least amount of calcium compared to the other “milk” options.
So there are the facts. Obviously, your taste preference will help to drive what you choose. If you don’t have any allergies, then all of them can be included in a healthy diet. Some options are clearly better than others. When determining what milk beverage to choose keep an eye on protein, added sugar and saturated fat.