When I was growing up, we had two milks to choose from: white and chocolate. These days, several varieties line the shelves. Aside from whole, 2% and skim, we now have options based on our allergies and dietary needs or preferences. So what’s with all the milks? And which one is right for you?
Here’s the low down on the morning favorite:
Milk from cows’ mammary glands is packed with calcium, potassium, phosphorus and protein and is fortified with vitamin D. But it’s not the best option for allergy sufferers, vegans or those who are lactose intolerant. I drink a certified organic version of this milk.
A popular milk alternative, soy milk is made by soaking soybeans and grinding them with water to create a milky liquid. It comes in original or flavors like vanilla or chocolate. Soy milk is rich in protein, nil on saturated fat and great in coffee and smoothies. It’s also a favorite for some allergy sufferers, vegetarians and vegans.
This dairy-free beverage made from ground rice is about the consistency of dairy skim milk. It’s a great alternative for vegans or those who suffer from nut allergies or have lactose intolerance. Unfortunately, it lacks in protein, having only 1 gram per cup compared to the 8 grams in cow’s milk. Although it has no saturated fat, carb-counters beware: rice milk—like the grain—is a carbohydrate, with twice the amount of carbohydrates per cup as cow’s milk. My 3-year old drinks this variety.
This nut milk is made by soaking ground-up almonds, so it’s best to avoid if there are nut allergies in the home. But it’s another good option for people with allergies to dairy, soy or rice. The rich, nutty taste makes it good for smoothies, coffee and baked goods. It’s also naturally high in calcium and low in calories and saturated fat. Many raw foodists soak nuts and make a raw, healthy version at home.
A staple in other parts of the world, it’s most often used in the US to make cheese. The upside to goatÕs milk is its high content of calcium—even more so than cow’s milk. The downside for some is its slight odor and higher content of saturated fat.
This non-dairy alternative is made from ground-up hulled grains. It has a mild, nutty flavor. Like rice milk, it’s high in carbohydrates, low in protein and has no saturated fat. It has a grainy consistency, but this quality makes it a good choice for baking and flavoring coffee.
I was introduced to this milk on a photo shoot. A fellow model was sipping away on a carton and enjoying every drop. The flesh and juice from coconuts are combined to make this rich, creamy milk. It is a staple in Indian and Thai cuisine due to its strong, sweet flavor. Because of its creamy consistency, it’s perfect for oatmeal and smoothies. Though it’s generous in potassium and fiber, it’s lower in calcium and protein than cow’s milk. And with over 500 calories per cup, consider it dessert.
Whichever milk you prefer, it’s important to know your milk label. Look for organic varieties if possible, ensuring they were made without using growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides or chemical fertilizers.
BST is a natural growth hormone found in cows. Its counterpart is rBST, a synthetic hormone given to cows to enhance their milk production. Milk products that are labeled “rBST-free,” “organic” or “hormone-free” are void of this artificial hormone.
Lactose-free milk is made with lactase, the enzyme many bodies need to digest milk.
Always avoid nut milks if there are nut allergies in the home.
No matter your needs or preferences, there is certainly a milk variety that meets them. Get creative, and give other options a try. You might enjoy discovering what’s with all the milks!