On your last visit to your local supermarket’s refrigerator aisle, you might have noticed a wide selection of milk and milk alternatives. With so many options to choose from, shopping for dairy products can easily become overwhelming. Which milk is right for you?
Choosing the right milk is essential in maintaining a healthy, balanced diet. Milk is an excellent source of many important vitamins and minerals, providing your body with nourishment that supports bone, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal well-being.
With cow’s milks and alternative milks each offering their own unique benefits, it’s important to consider which milk option is best suited to your needs and lifestyle. Here’s everything you need to know to select the best milk for your family.
Cow’s Milk vs. Soy Milk
If you’ve ever considered trying a milk alternative, chances are you’ve put soy milk on your shopping list. Soy milk, derived from soybeans, is a popular non-dairy milk choice, offering the rich, creamy taste consumers miss from their favourite dairy products.
Like cow’s milk, soy milk is packed with protein, supporting energy and muscle health. Soy is even used in protein shakes! Soy is also a good source of other nutrients, including potassium, vitamin B12, and riboflavin.
For weight-conscious consumers, soy is a good choice, as it contains less saturated fat than dairy options. It’s also high in fibre, aiding healthy digestion and lowering cholesterol.
On the flipside, dairy milk provides higher quantities of several important vitamins and minerals. Dairy protein is more bioavailable than soy protein, making it easier for the body to digest and distribute.
Dairy also has higher levels of riboflavin, vitamin A, and phosphorous. Cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium, with calcium occurring naturally instead of only appearing in calcium-fortified products. Unlike soy, dairy doesn’t contain oxalates that inhibit calcium absorption.
Cow’s Milk vs. Almond Milk
Another popular milk alternative is almond milk, providing a tasty and nourishing option for vegan and dairy-free milk drinkers.
Similar to many other milk alternatives, almond milk can be fortified to include a range of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that support good health and digestion. Fortified store-bought almond milk products can include protein, calcium, and carbohydrates, along with vitamins A and D.
Almond milk is usually lower in fat content than dairy milk, making it a great diet-friendly option. Almond milk has a naturally sweet taste and is completely plant-based and lactose-free.
However, there are downsides to almond milk. Most almond milk is much lower in nutrient content than its dairy counterparts. While cow’s milk is high in calcium and protein, these nutrients don’t occur naturally in almond milk and remain low even in fortified products.
While the lactose found in cow’s milk can cause some consumers to experience digestive issues (unless it's A2 milk, which can be more easily digested by people with lactose sensitivity), almond milk is thickened and preserved using an additive compound called carrageenan, which can have a similar effect.
There are also some concerns about the environmental effects of producing almond milk. Unlike dairy milk, which is produced by dairy cows and can be produced organically, almond milk often relies on heavy pesticides and high water consumption to facilitate farming practices.
Cow’s Milk vs. Oat Milk
The third most popular milk alternative is oat milk, a plant-based option commonly chosen by vegetarian and vegan consumers.
Like other alternative milk, oat milk contains many important nutrients, including protein, calcium, and a wide array of vitamins and minerals. Oat milk is an excellent source of vitamin A, which supports good cardiovascular, respiratory, and renal health. Oat milk is also high in fibre, promoting good digestion and healthy cholesterol.
Most oat milks are low in fat and do not contain saturated fat, meaning that they can help with weight management. Oat milk is light and sweet and can even be made at home! All you need to make DIY oat milk is rolled oats, a blender, and a strainer.
As always, there are both pros and cons to drinking oat milk. Even fortified oat milks are lower in protein and potassium than cow’s milk, and their magnesium content can vary depending on production processes.
In dairy milk, many nutrients occur naturally, while in oat milk, important vitamins and minerals are often added to fortify products later on. DIY oat milks rarely contain the high levels of nutrients they need in order to compete with cow’s milk.
Some milk drinkers also find oat milk too much of a transition away from their dairy favourites. Oat milk is far less creamy than cow’s milk, which can affect taste, even when using milk as a recipe ingredient.
The Bottom Line
The range of milk alternatives is great news for people with a range of dietary requirements or choices.
But when it comes to nutritional value it's very hard to beat cow's milk.
Whatever your tastes and nutritional needs, there’s a milk to suit you on the market. Here at Jersey Girl Organics, we hope it’s organic dairy milk from our Jersey herd!