Remember when skim milk became “fat-free” milk, and 2% milk became “reduced-fat”? Maybe not😉, but as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I thought it was quite the big deal at the time. Who knew what was to come?!
Have you seen the dairy section of the market recently? I am all for options, but sometimes they can be quite overwhelming! There was always the whole milk, low fat, or nonfat milk dilemma. Now we have quite the choice of cow varieties and non-dairy varieties of milk on the shelves. Let’s dig in to understand what these milk are all about and what might be best for you🥛.
There are two main types of milk, cow’s milk and dairy-free milk alternatives, otherwise known as plant-based milk. Two types might sound simple, but there are many, many🙃varieties in our plant-based alternatives.
Let’s start with cow’s🐄 milk, as it has been around the longest. There are four main options of cow’s milk, which differ in the amount of fat they contain, and therefore calories. Plus, there is lactose-free milk, which still comes from the cow, but the milk sugar has been removed. These are excellent options for people who are lactose intolerant. They have basically the same nutritional breakdowns.
One of the huge benefits of cow’s milk is the amount of calcium in a serving. (Check back here for your calcium needs and facts!)
Let’s compare what 1 cup of each type of cow’s milk contains:
A few other terms to clarify around cow’s milk:
🥥🌱Let’s move on to our dairy-free milk alternatives (plant-based milk). As I mentioned, there are quite a few, with new ones still heading to the market quite frequently. Milk alternatives can be a great option for someone who is lactose intolerant, does not like the taste of cow’s milk, or if you are avoiding animal products. It is a personal choice, but let’s dig into the nutritional breakdowns of the vast array of milk alternatives.
Let’s compare what 1 cup of each type of plant-based milk contains (*note — with all the different brands on the market, the nutritional analysis will vary):
Which milk is healthier: cow’s milk or plant-based milk?
No one milk is better than the other. And really, it comes down to what is best for you. We all have different likes (and dislikes) and dietary needs. Here are some other nutritional facts to keep in mind when making your choice.
Plant-based milk products provide options to those who don’t drink or cannot tolerate cow’s milk. There are many types, and many brands, with various nutrients and ingredients. It is super important to read labels! Fortification of non-dairy milk alternatives is not federally regulated, so some brands may fortify more while others fortify less. There may also be additional ingredients, including stabilizers and emulsifiers (ie. gellan gum, locust bean gum, and sunflower lecithin). That’s why it’s important to read and compare nutrition labels and ingredient lists to make a well-informed choice, that works best for you.
Keep in mind, it is NOT just what you put in your cereal or use in your smoothie, but your overall diet each day. Whichever type of milk you choose, always keep in mind your total nutrition for the day☀️
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The rebellious Rd.
As a longtime promoter of healthy cooking and eating, Amy's focus is on plant-based eating, with a rebellious twist - that she and no one, needs to be perfect.