What Kind of Milk Do You Drink?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • If your only choice of milk is cow's milk then it's time for a bit of milk education!  The term "milk" is now attached to a variety of choices including soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, coconut milk and of course cow's milk which comes in whole or full fat, 2% fat, 1% fat and skim or fat free versions.    Each of these options has some benefits, different calorie and saturated fat amounts per serving and cost or price point can vary significantly.  Recently, the companies that offer these different milk options are engaged in a bit of a war of words over which milk is best for you from a dietary or nutritional perspective.  Below is information to help you decide which choice is right for you or your family.  You may end up deciding that having a menu of milk is quite fun.

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    Cow's milk contains a nice boost of calcium and is usually vitamin D fortified.  Whole milk is only recommended for children up to age 2 because of its saturated fat content and recently the American Academy of Pediatrics made a recommendation to only offer whole milk to children up to age 1, because of the burgeoning obesity epidemic.  Most dieticians and nutritionists believe that 1% milk or non-fat milk should be the version that most American kids and adults drink, because 2% milk still has 130 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat per serving.  You can make super-milk that is quite creamy and still low in calories by mixing fat free powdered milk with fat free milk.  Lactaid milk allows people missing the enzyme that helps to facilitate digestion of milk, to still enjoy their number one milk choice.


    Soy milk comes in plain and flavored options and even has "winter season" specialty flavors like eggnog and pumpkin spice.  Most versions are 90 calories per serving and there are some lower fat or "light" options.  In this case the fat in the milk is "heart healthy" and sourced from omega 3 fatty acids, and most soy milk has a good dose of calcium and is vitamin D fortified.  Always check labels to make sure.  Soy milk comes in shelf stable varieties as well as refrigeration required options, so again read labels to make sure that you are storing it properly.  Plain soy milk has a very slight sweet/bitter aftertaste, and it is creamy enough to put in coffee.  Some people don't like to put it on cereal because it appears a bit dark beige which can put you off if you are accustomed to a pure white milk color.


    Almond milk is one of the newer milks to hit the market and tends to be one of the lowest calories per serving options.  It is typically fortified with vitamin D and calcium, but read labels to be sure.  It's made from crushed nuts, with added water, vitamins, stabilizers and some sugar.  Again the fat is healthy "nut derived" fat and the pleasant sweet/nutty flavor is appealing to most consumers who sample it.  For people who love flavored coffee, adding almond milk can provide a lovely taste to a plain cup of java.  Most people like the flavor of almond milk added to cereal.  There are both refrigerated and shelf stable versions.  It's a great non-dairy alternative.


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    Rice milk has been a "go to" option for people who have traditional milk allergies.  It typically has added calcium and vitamin D and is closer to the milk sugar content of cow's milk (12 grams/serving) with 10 grams per serving.  It's more watery than 1% milk and isn't very creamy, making it a less obvious choice to add to coffee.


    Coconut milk is also a more recent mainstream option and has about 80 calories per serving.  Some versions are calcium fortified but with far less per serving than other milks.  You can also find some choices vitamin D fortified.  It doesn't mix well with coffee and its thicker texture may not make it a favorite with cereal lovers. 


    So now milk can do a body good with a true variety of options.  Are you game to try a new kind of milk?


Published On: February 05, 2011