The pros and cons of various types of milk
The dairy section of your grocery store is stocked with all kinds of milks to choose from. There’s not only cow’s milk that comes as whole, skim, enriched with vitamin D, organic, pasteurized, unpasteurized, lactose-free, or flavored, but there’s goat’s milk and milk made from soybeans, rice, coconuts, hazelnuts, hemp seeds, almonds, oats, and cashews. Milk is a wonderful source of calcium, protein, and other valuable nutrients, making it a staple in most family’s refrigerators.
Whatever type of milk you choose to drink is likely based on your taste preferences, health needs, and age. The following information can help narrow down your selection.
These days, fewer people are choosing cow’s milk for their families. Many people aren’t able to digest the lactose found in it and others argue that cow’s milk contains too much protein, increases mucous production, leads to inflammation, contains hormones and antibiotics, and actually pulls calcium out of the bones. Do your research and decide for yourself.
For those who still drink cow’s milk and are looking for a creamy taste with fewer calories, skim or low-fat is the best option. Whole milk is recommended for young kids due to its high fat content and lactose-free milks are available for those who can’t digest milk sugar. Whichever kind you choose, be sure it’s pasteurized to avoid harmful bacteria.
When enriched with calcium, vitamins, and minerals, almond milk can be a healthy, low-calorie, low-carb option. With a creamy texture and nutty flavor, almond milk is lactose-free but is relatively low in protein. Look for the kind without added sugar.
Like cow’s milk, soy milk comes with some controversy. It’s full of healthy nutrients and high-quality protein, is lactose-free, and a popular choice for vegans and vegetarians, but it’s made of soy. Many people are wary of soy products since they contain compounds that mimic the female hormone estrogen. Some studies reveal a connection between soy and male infertility and a change in thyroid function. When choosing soy milk, as with other milk options, watch out for added sugars.
Folks scared off from dairy and soy may turn to coconut milk. Coconut milk’s rich, creamy texture and varied health benefits are appealing, but beware of its high saturated fat content and lack of calcium and protein. In small amounts, coconut milk is a treat, but it’s not recommended to be a staple in your refrigerator.
Another non-dairy alternative to meet your hankering for milk is rice milk. Made from whole-grain rice germ, rice milk is a great hypoallergenic option, contains balanced nutrition, is high in antioxidants, and is low in fat and cholesterol. However, rice milk is also low in protein and low in calcium unless it’s enriched. Since it’s derived from rice, rice milk is high in starch and carbohydrates. Because of this, rice milk is not a safe option for those living with diabetes.
It’s not as healthy as eating a few cashews, but cashew milk is growing in popularity among vegans and people who are lactose intolerant. Cashew milk is low in calories and free of saturated fat and cholesterol but can be high in added sugars and salt. Unlike the actual nut, cashew milk is low in protein, but if you like the creamy, nutty flavor and can make up for the lack of protein another way, then cashew milk may be your new favorite choice.
Made from soaking and grinding hemp seed, hemp milk is another possible dairy-free alternative. It’s high in calcium, vitamins, and minerals, and low in saturated fat. Unfortunately, it’s relatively low in protein. Vanilla and chocolate hemp milk are often sweetened with added sugars that drive up its calorie count, so be careful if you go the hemp route.