What milk is the best milk?

Milk used to be limited to cows milk. There was no clarification needed when a recipe called for milk, or if you ordered a latte. With the increase in different varieties of milk that are now readily available, we have choices when it comes to what type of “milk” we want to use. This variety is not only limited to milk, but also milk products such as yogurt, cheese and ice cream.

So this leads to the question, which milk is best?

Well there is no definitive answer to that question. Depending on dietary concerns, allergies, medical conditions etc, different types of milks can serve different purposes. I wanted to highlight some of the more common milk options and discuss their characteristics, benefits and downfalls.

milk comparison

Cows Milk

What is it: Cows milk has been around for centuries, and is obviously produced by cows. The primary carbohydrate component in cows milk is lactose and the primary protein component is casein. One cup of 1% cows milk provides about 100 calories and 8 grams of protein.

horizon organic whole milk

Suitable for special diets: yes- diabetic, heart healthy (low fat varieties)

Benefits: high in calcium, high in protein, cheaper than many milk alternatives, readily available

Downfalls: higher in saturated fat, non organic is produced from cows that may have been treated with antibiotics or growth hormones

Almond Milk

What is it: Almond milk is produced from blending almonds with water and then straining the pulp. Almonds are rich in many nutrients including fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, selenium, manganese, zinc, potassium, iron, phosphorus, copper and calcium.  There are many different varieties including unsweetened, vanilla and chocolate. One cup of unsweetened Almond milk contains 30 calories and 1 gram of protein.

almond milk

Suitable for special diets: yes- lactose free, vegan, vegetarian, diabetic, heart healthy

Benefits: low in calories, low in cholesterol/saturated fat, high in calcium, low in carbohydrate (good for diabetics)

Downfalls: low in protein, may contain added sugars in flavored varieties

Coconut Milk (carton, not canned)

What is it: Coconut milk is produced from the milk inside of a coconut mixed with water and often times fortified with vitamins and minerals. The canned coconut milk contains less water and thus has a creamier and thicker consistency. 1 cup of unsweetened coconut milk (in the carton) contains 45 calories and 0 grams of protein. Coconuts are rich in medium chain triglycerides, zinc, iron, phosphorus and manganese.

coconut milk

Suitable for special diets: yes- vegan, vegetarian, paleo, lactose free

Benefits: high in calcium

Downfalls: low in protein, higher in carbohydrate than some other alternatives, may contain added sugars in flavored varieties

Cashew Milk

What is it: Cashew milk is produced from blending cashews, combining with water and straining the pulp. Many cashew milks are also fortified with vitamins and minerals. One cup of original cashew milk contains 60 calories and <1 gram of protein. Cashew milk is considered to be creamier than milk.

cashew milk

Suitable for special diets: yes- vegan, vegetarian, paleo, lactose free, diabetic, heart healthy

Benefits: creamy flavor, high in calcium, low carbohydrate

Downfalls: low in protein, may contain added sugars in flavored varieties

Soy Milk

What is it: Soy milk is produced by soaking dried soybeans and blending them up with water. One cup of original flavor soy milk contains 110 calories and 8 grams of protein. Soy is a complete protein, thus can be substituted for animal protein.

soymilk

Suitable for special diets: yes- vegan, vegetarian, lactose free, diabetic, heart healthy

Benefits: high in protein (comparable to cows milk), high in calcium, low in cholesterol

Downfalls: contains phytoestrogens which have been questioned as to whether they disrupt hormones, may contain added sugars in flavored varieties

Conclusion

Personally, I use almond milk and organic whole milk. For smoothies, overnight oats, protein shakes etc, I will use almond milk as it is lower in calories and I get protein from the other foods in the meal. For cooking, in my coffee, and for my daughter to drink, I use organic whole milk. In many recipes, use of an alternative milk can alter the texture or flavor, thus I prefer to use cows milk (though this is not to say you cannot substitute another milk in a recipe- it may just take some experimenting!)

As you can see, there are benefits and downfalls with each type of milk, and there really is not one type that is “the best”. Consider your nutrition goals (weight loss, weight gain, heart healthy eating, managing diabetes, special diet etc), and make your decision based on what suits your needs.

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What is your favorite type of milk?

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  1. […] we talked about in our milk comparison, there are a variety of different non-dairy milk alternatives. Cashew milk is extremely creamy and […]

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