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Dairy VS Plant-based Milk Varieties (Nutritional Approach)

Joyce Wong January 15, 2020 0 comments

Today, there are countless food and beverage alternatives catering to every lifestyle — dairy-free, vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, lactose-free and more. While it’s great to have choices to fit individual needs, not all options are nutritionally equal.

Take milk, for example. Choosing between cow’s milk or plant-based option like soy, almond, coconut, pea, etc., can be overwhelming. Nutrition content can vary considerably in terms of protein, calcium, vitamin D and carbohydrates.

Here, the health benefits of FIVE different types of milk and what you should know before buying them.

Low Fat Cow's Milk

  • Calories: 100
  • Carbs (g): 13
  • Sugar (g): 13
  • Protein (g): 8
  • Fat/ saturated fat (g): 2.5/1.5
  • Vit D (MCG) DV: 25%
  • Calcium (MG) DV: 30%
  • Potassium (MG): 370

One cup of low-fat milk has 100 calories and 8 grams of protein, as well as 30% of the daily recommended value of calcium, 25% of vitamin D and 8% of potassium. While it contains 13 grams of sugar, it’s in the form of lactose, which is a natural part of cow’s milk. The fat content varies depending on the type chosen (skim vs. low-fat vs. whole milk).

Note: Those with lactose allergies or sensitivities can also find lactose-free milk with a similar nutrition content.

Almond Milk

  • Calories: 30
  • Carbs (g): 1
  • Sugar (g): 0
  • Protein (g): 1
  • Fat/ saturated fat (g): 2.5/0
  • Vit D (MCG) DV: 25%
  • Calcium (MG) DV: 45%
  • Potassium (MG): 160

Unsweetened, original almond milk is the lowest-calorie option on the market with just 30 calories per cup. While it lacks protein (only 1 gram per cup), most brands are fortified with calcium, potassium and vitamins A, D and E.

Note: Almond milk is vegan and lactose-free, but may not be suitable for those with nut allergies.

Oat Milk

  • Calories: 130
  • Carbs (g): 24
  • Sugar (g): 5
  • Protein (g): 4
  • Fat/ saturated fat (g): 2.5/0
  • Vit D (MCG) DV: 25%
  • Calcium (MG) DV: 35%
  • Potassium (MG): 95

This frothy, creamy option is made by soaking steel-cut oats or whole groats in water and then straining them. It contains some protein (4 grams per cup) and is higher in carbohydrates and fibre than many milks. It’s also low in fat and contains B-vitamins, as well as trace amounts of other nutrients like magnesium and phosphorus. Plus, commercial oat milks are enriched with calcium, vitamins A and D and potassium.

Note: Oat milk is vegan and can be gluten-free, as long as it was made with oats that were not processed on the same equipment as gluten-containing grains. Like many other plant-based alternatives, it acts as a great option for those who are allergic or sensitive to soy or dairy.

Rice Milk

  • Calories: 120
  • Carbs (g): 23
  • Sugar (g): 10
  • Protein (g): 1
  • Fat/ saturated fat (g): 2.5/0
  • Vit D (MCG) DV: 0%
  • Calcium (MG) DV: 25%
  • Potassium (MG): 95

This option ranks low on the calorie-to-protein ratio since one cup contains 90–120 calories, with virtually no protein. Since it’s made from milled rice and water, it contains the least amount of nutrients. However, it is low in fat and doesn’t contain any saturated fat. Look for unsweetened varieties and ones enriched with calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins.

Note: Rice milk is lactose- and cholesterol-free and may be a good option for those with allergies to dairy, soy or nuts.

Soy Milk

  • Calories: 80
  • Carbs (g): 4
  • Sugar (g): 1
  • Protein (g): 7
  • Fat/ saturated fat (g): 4/0.5
  • Vit D (MCG) DV: 35%
  • Calcium (MG) DV: 45%
  • Potassium (MG): 287

One cup of unsweetened, original soy milk has 110 calories, 8 grams of protein and considerable levels of calcium and vitamin D. Soy milk also has small amounts of iron and offers nearly 50% of the daily recommended value of B12, which is generally lacking for vegans and in many plant-based diets.

Note: Soy milk is cholesterol-free and low in saturated fat. It is one of few nondairy milks with a comparable protein content to cow’s milk.

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