Got (Which) Milk?

It seems as if every time I go to the grocery store, there is a new variety of milk on the shelf.  What will they make milk out of next?  Avocados?  I can picture it now… “Can I have a cup of coffee with a splash of avocado milk?”  I digress… My point is, with the extensive variety of milks to choose from and the mixed messages from the media about which one is best, buying milk is not as simple as it once was when the only option available was cow’s milk.  When choosing a type of milk, it really boils down to which type aligns with your nutritional needs, appeals to your taste buds, and how you intend to use it.  If you missed the live Taste Test Tuesday video the Eat Well Dietitian’s filmed on Price Cutter’s Facebook page, this post may provide answers to some of the questions you have!  Refer to the table below to see how your milk stacks up.

Milk Type Protein Calcium Sugar Lactose Free Calories Fat
Cow’s Milk – Skim 8 g 280 mg 12 g No 80 0 g
Cow’s Milk – 2% 8 g 280 mg 12 g No 120 4.5 g
Cow’s Milk – Whole 8 g 280 mg 12 g No 150 8 g
Fairlife Milk – Skim 13 g 370 mg 6 g Yes 80 0 g
Silk Soy Milk – Original 8 g 300 mg 6 g Yes 110 4.5 g
Silk Almond Milk – Original 1 g 451 mg 7 g Yes 60 2.5 g
Silk Coconut Milk – Original 0 g 450 mg 7 g Yes 80 5 g

Cow’s Milk

Dairy milk provides a natural source of calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein – all nutrients that are vital for optimal body functioning.  Calcium and vitamin D work together to build and maintain bone mass and teeth.  Potassium may help in maintaining a healthy blood pressure.  Finally protein breaks down into compounds, called amino acids, which are the building blocks for bones, muscles, skin, blood, hormones, and vitamins to name a few.  The sugar present in cow’s milk is naturally occurring due to the lactose content.  If you do not have a lactose intolerance and enjoy the taste of dairy milk, it’s a great choice!

Fairlife Milk

Fairlife is a brand that uses a patented cold-filtration process to create an ultra-filtered milk that is higher in protein and calcium, lower in sugar, and free of lactose.  This milk product, along with other brands, such as Lactaid, are ideal for those who have a lactose intolerance yet still enjoy the taste of real cow’s milk.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is, of course, made of soy beans, which are a plant-based source of protein.  In comparison to cow’s milk, the protein content is very similar; and soy milk is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D, making it a solid alternative for strict vegetarians and vegans.  You’ll find soy milk in a variety of flavors – original, vanilla, chocolate, unsweetened vanilla – which can impact the amount of sugar provided in a single serving.  Be sure to check the label!  The lower the sugar, the better!

Almond Milk

Almond milk has become extremely popular over the years, especially for people who desire to use a dairy-free alternative.  Referring back to the table above, notice how almond milk is not a significant source of protein, therefore this milk alone would not be ideal for your post work-out recovery snack.  It is, however, often fortified with calcium.  Similar to soy milk, almond milk, and other nut milks such as cashew milk and Milkadamia (made from macadamia nuts!), come in a variety of flavors, which can amp up the sugar amount!  Go with the unsweetened variety whenever possible.  Just remember that while providing a tasty, nutty flavor, milks made from nuts will usually be lower in protein.

Coconut Milk

Last but not least, we have coconut milk!  Coconuts are naturally sweet while also containing a good amount of fat.  The higher fat content makes coconut milk thicker, so a little goes a long way!  Try a teaspoon or so in your morning coffee for a kick of sweetness and a creamy texture.  This milk is also a staple in many Indian dishes… curry anyone?!  On the contrary, coconut milk will not provide you with any protein.  That being said, it is mainly used for thickening and sweetening purposes.

Milk of all kinds can be used as a base in smoothies, poured over whole-grain cereals, or, in my case, used to make delicious lattes!  When staring at all of the varieties on the shelf at your local grocery store, just keep in mind the purpose milk serves in your diet and refer the table and tips provided in this post.

Content created by Brittney Olson, Dietetic Intern