Milk Mania: Cow vs. Soy vs. Nut

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milk alternatives, cow milk, soy milk, nut milk, rice milk, pea milk, coconut milk, oat milk
When choosing an alternative to cow’s milk, be sure it’s fortified with nutrients and protein.

When it comes to milk, there are so many options available.

Of course, there’s the classic—cow’s milk. But there are so many other kinds of milk out there, from soy to nut to coconut and more.

If you have gastrointestinal issues after drinking cow’s milk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are lactose intolerant.

We chatted with Cedars-Sinai registered dietitian Keiy Murofushi to learn what you need to know about the different kinds of milk out there.

Is cow’s milk healthy? Should I be drinking it regularly?

Murofushi: Cow’s milk is healthy and can be a part of a balanced diet, providing protein; calcium; vitamins B12, A, and D; potassium; and many other nutrients.

The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends 3 servings of dairy products each day, due to its high nutrient density.

I’m lactose intolerant. What can I do?

Murofushi: The simplest option is a lactose-free milk, but there are also nut milks, soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and chickpea protein-based milk.

When choosing an alternative to cow’s milk, you want to make sure it is fortified with nutrients you may be missing from cow’s milk such as vitamin A and D.

Low-lactose dairy products like yogurts and cheeses are encouraged for those with intolerance, as the lactose is often broken down by the bacteria that ferment these products.


Read: Does That NEED to Go in the Refrigerator?


What about A2 milk?

Murofushi: If you have gastrointestinal issues after drinking cow’s milk, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are lactose intolerant.

It may be the A1 protein found in cow’s milk that’s causing the problem. One way to test this is by trying a new version of cow’s milk called A2 milk that removes the A1 protein and can be easier to digest for some people.

I don’t like cow’s milk. What can I drink?

Murofushi: For those who don’t like milk, try focusing on adding products that are nutrient-fortified into your diet.

Those who aren’t milk lovers can have yogurt, frozen yogurt, pudding, cheese, or ice cream. There are also many pastas, breads, cereals/cereal bars, juices, etc., that come fortified with calcium and vitamins A, D, and B12.

Should I take dietary supplements to replace milk?

Murofushi: I would say a supplement is the last resort and should not be done until the food options have been explored first. Try integrating new and exciting foods into your routine.

What are my dairy milk alternatives?

  • Soy milk has always been controversial, but there is no evidence to support that soy milk is bad for humans to consume. There may be instances when a physician requires their patient to avoid soy products, but this would be a direct instruction from a physician. It doesn’t mean everyone should avoid soy milk.
  • Nut milks (almond, cashew, macadamia) are a fairly safe alternative and have not had much controversy behind their consumption. Always check the labels and review: protein content, sugar content, and levels of potassium and fat.
  • Coconut milk is typically a very high saturated fat and low protein milk. Definitely keep an eye on fat and sugar content.
  • Oat milk was created for those who have multiple allergies and intolerance, as it is a gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, dairy-free product.

Read: How to Spot Hidden Sugar


Which non-dairy milk option is the best for protein?

Murofushi: Protein is often not added to many non-dairy milks, so always check the food label to see how much you’re getting.

If the label uses the terms “high,” “rich in,” or “excellent source of” protein, it means the milk contains at least 20% of daily recommended protein. If the label says “good source of,” “contains,” or “provides,” protein, the percentage of daily recommended protein is 10-19%.

Chickpea protein-based milk is a protein-rich non-dairy option.

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