Here you are again, sitting at home on a Sunday morning, filling up your Instacart with all your groceries, when you're suddenly faced with the overwhelming question... Which milk do I buy this week?
You scroll through all your choices, and you've got everything from cow's milk, almond milk, cashew milk, hemp seed milk, soy milk, oat milk, coconut milk, and the list goes on and on. I mean, you name it; it's pretty much turned into a milk at this point. Am I right? So, you ask yourself, "which milk do I try this week?" and answer with,
"A girl I follow on Instagram with about 10,000 followers said oat milk is the healthiest, so I guess I will try that." And so, you try oat milk until next week when you face this dilemma again.
Well, I am here as a Registered Dietitian to put an end to the weekly milk debate and to debunk this milk craze. Let me help you pick a milk! But before I do that, there are a few things I need to note:
1. I can't cover all milks or this article will be a novel.
2. A certain milk might be more beneficial to you than another depending upon allergies and comorbidities.
3. Let's ditch the thought process of "healthiest" milk and rather think of it as which milk gives us the most bang for our buck.
With that said, I am going to talk about four different kinds of milk: Whole cow's milk, Soy milk, Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk, and Oat milk. Let's compare:
Whole Cow's Milk provides 150 calories per cup, 12 grams of carbs, 8 grams of total fat, 11 grams of sugar, 8 grams of protein, 10% daily value (DV) of vitamin D, 8% DV of potassium, 20% DV of calcium, and 10% DV of vitamin A.
Soy Milk: 90 calories per cup, 11 grams of carbs, 3 grams total fat, 9 grams of sugar, 6 grams of protein, 30% DV of vitamin D, 25% DV of calcium, 6% DV of potassium, 15% DV of vitamin A.
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk: 30 calories per cup, 1 gram of carbs, 2.5 grams of fat (but has healthy fats), 0 grams of sugar, 1 gram of protein, 25% DV vitamin D, 35% DV calcium, 4% DV potassium, 10% DV vitamin A.
Oat milk: 120 calories per cup, 16 grams of carbs, 5 grams of total fat (but has healthy fats), 8 grams of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 25% DV vitamin D, 25% DV calcium, 2% DV potassium, 10% DV vitamin A.
Now that we have compared the most readily available information on each of these products' nutrition labels, it's time to sift through all this information. As a Registered Dietitian, here is my recommendation:
Always choose cow's milk first. Unless you are lactose intolerant, have high cholesterol, a milk allergy, or milk sensitivity, this is always going to be the best option. This is because cow's milk provides us with the most well-balanced nutrient profile. It is the highest in protein and, although not on the label, contains magnesium, iodine, and B12.
Continuing my recommendation, I would choose soy milk as your next best option because it is the only milk with a similar nutrient profile to milk. In fact, when infants switch over to milk at the age of 1 year, if they cannot tolerate cow's milk, the recommendation is to use soy milk as a replacement.
Following soy milk, I would recommend oat milk and then, lastly, almond milk.
My reason for all of this is solely based on each milk's nutrient profile. You most certainly can enjoy all of these kinds of milk because they are all SUPER tasty. When choosing a milk based on the most bang for your buck, I always recommend cow's milk first.
However, I will say that one of the only benefits of soy, almond, and oat milk is that there is 0 mg of cholesterol, and it contains healthy fats. And while those are indeed a bonus unless you are struggling with high cholesterol, at risk for heart disease, or have heart disease, it's not enough of a reason to exile cow's milk altogether.
In conclusion, my best advice is to choose cow's milk as your first option and add the other milk into your diet in moderation.
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