Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, hemp milk, coconut milk, and even grain milk — so many options on the market these days. So what should you be eating on your cereal or pouring into your coffee? Here are my recommendations:
- Unless you’re allergic to dairy or severely lactose intolerant, fat-free or 1% cow’s milk is the best option, as long as you’re choosing organic milk (here’s why organic is so important). Skim milk is an excellent source of naturally-occurring calcium, protein, and is low in calories. While it shows 12 grams of “sugar” on the Nutrition Facts Label, this sugar is lactose, and is not the same as added sugar (which all other milk substitutes have, unless you buy unsweetened).
- If you can’t have dairy for some reason, soy milk is the next best option, because it’s calorie and protein content are the most similar to cow’s milk. Again, it’s important to buy organic soy milk, because regular soybeans in the U.S. are often genetically modified. And the brand & flavor of soy milk makes a difference — some have significantly more sugar and less protein than others. Look for a type that has about 90 calories, 3-4 grams fat, at least 7 grams protein, and less than 6 grams sugar (this goes for both plain and vanilla).
Here are some examples of milks and their nutrition content per cup, so you can compare. This varies by brand, so make sure to check the Nutrition Facts Label before you buy a product.
Type of Milk
|Calories||Fat(grams)||Protein(grams)||Added Sugar (gms)|
- All of these milk substitutes (except coconut) are fortified with calcium, but only animal milks have naturally-occurring calcium, which is better absorbed by your body than the fortified kind.
- The reason the fat content in the goat’s milk looks so high is because it’s most often sold as whole milk, not reduced or low-fat. The same is true for goat’s milk yogurt.
- Cow or goat’s milk is the best choice for kids, unless they have a dairy allergy. It is generally recommended that kids drink whole milk until they’re 2 years old, then switch to low-fat (though different kids may have different needs).
- Avoid raw milk. In theory, raw milk is nutritious, but because most of us don’t raise dairy animals ourselves and are thus not in control of cleanliness and production conditions, it is better to avoid it. Raw milk has not been pasteurized, so it may contain listeria, which is a harmful bacteria and can be deadly. It is especially unsafe for children, the elderly, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.