Comparing the Health Benefits of Milk and Its Alternatives

Discussing Dairy Milk

Milk is something that pretty much every kid in the US grows up drinking. Whether it’s at school or at home, milk is usually a prevalent part of childhood. This leads into adulthood too. Most commonly, adults drink milk in their coffee, or use it as a cooking and baking ingredient. Plenty of adults drink milk straight out of a glass too!

milkSince we grew up drinking milk, we know all about the health benefits. Calcium is a big one. It’s easy for us to remember hearing about how milk builds strong bones from all of those “Got Milk?” ads. We know that milk is a pretty good source of vitamin D and vitamin K as well. Milk also has a fair amount of protein in it, which is always important for your diet.

I imagine you’ve also heard about some downsides of milk, especially whole milk. Most of it comes from the fat in milk. Milk also has a high amount of naturally occurring sugar, and has the potential to be filled with hormones and other substances if you don’t buy organic. Buying skim milk will cut out the fat from your milk but won’t reduce out the natural sugar or hormones.

Here’s the deal: children do need calcium and other beneficial components of milk (like iodine) to help them grow in a healthy way. Chocolate milk and other sweetened forms of it won’t be a good option, unless there’s no other way to get your child to drink milk. Skim milk is indeed better than whole milk, from a fat-intake standpoint.

If you’re a healthy adult, you don’t really need to drink milk daily, or at all. If you’re eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet, you’ll be getting all the nutrients you need. It certainly won’t hurt to drink it from time to time, but it’s worth considering other options. In the section below, I’ll list out some common alternatives to milk and their pros and cons.

 Here’s a nice primer on milk alternatives

Comparing the Alternatives

milkSoy Milk

            Pros

  • High in protein
  • Rich in vitamin B

            Cons

  • Low in calcium
  • Possible issues for those with digestives problems

milkAlmond Milk

            Pros

  • Fewer calories thank dairy milk
  • Rich in vitamin D and E
  • Popular nutty taste

            Cons

  • Low in protein

milkCoconut Milk

            Pros

  • Contains fiber and iron
  • Sweet taste
  • Rich in vitamin D

            Cons

  • More saturated fat
  • Less calcium

milkRice Milk

            Pros

  • Good for those with soy and nut allergies
  • Low fat, low calories

            Cons

  • Not creamy enough for coffee
  • Not much in the way of nutrition

milkHemp Milk

            Pros

  • Easy to digest
  • Rich in proteins, Omega-3 and Omega-6
  • Packed with vitamins A, E, and B-12

            Cons

  • Low in calcium

For more info, click here to see 7 healthy milk alternatives

So, which is best for me?

You’ll need to do a little experimenting with the different milk alternatives if you’re interested in their various health benefits. Try a few different options and see what you like. Keep in mind, you’ll want a supply of calcium, proteins and vitamins from any milk alternative. Feel free to explore and see what works best for you.

Best wishes for a happy, healthy February,

Dr. Johnson