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Cow’s milk, goat’s milk, almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, rice milk, oat milk … oh boy, no wonder we are confused! Which really comes out on top in terms of nutrition?

The popularity of plant based milks has soared in last few years. The long life milk aisle of the supermarket now boasts an array of plant based milk alternatives to choose from. But what about regular old dairy? Which is the most nutritious? Let’s consider the pros and cons of both

Dairy Milk

Pros

  • Regular cow’s milk is an excellent source of good quality protein, which is essential to the body for growth and repair.
  • Cow’s milk also provides many vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, vitamin B12, and zinc.
  • Dairy is the more affordable choice per litre which is an important consideration too!

 

Cons

  • Dairy is not suitable for everyone, like those who have an allergy to cow’s milk or an intolerance to lactose the sugar in milk.
  • Full fat cow’s milk is also relatively high in saturated fats which can add up if you have quite a bit.

 

 

image: First Fruit Table for The Pretty Blog

Plant Based Milks

 Pros
Plant based milks provide an alternative for people who have an allergy or intolerance to dairy. For those who suffer from lactose intolerance switching to a soy or almond milk can provide relief from distressing gut symptoms.

  • Plant based milk alternatives are also important for those who follow a vegan diet, so that meals containing milk can still be enjoyed.
  • Many people simply just do not enjoy the taste of cow’s milk also, so can much prefer a plant based milk.

 

Cons

  • Plant based milks are lower in protein. A 250ml glass of cow’s milk provides around 10g of protein. In comparison the same amount of soy milk provides around 8g, while a glass of almond milk provides around 1.5g.
  • They can also lack other essential nutrients such as calcium. Many manufacturers now fortify their plant based milks with these nutrients to emulate the nutrition provided by dairy.
  • Be wary of sweetened plant based milks, such as sweetened almond milk for example, which contains added sugars.

 

 


Image: First Fruit Table for The Pretty Blog

At the end of the day…

There is no one size fit all answer. Dairy is a great choice for many, but for some plant based milks are the best choice.

If you do not have an allergy or intolerance and enjoy the taste, then good old dairy is the most nutritious choice. A good serve of protein, plus many essential vitamin and minerals. Go for reduced fat milk to keep intake of saturated fats low.

On the other hand, if of course you do have an allergy or intolerance to dairy, prefer plant based for ethical reasons, or you simply enjoy the taste then this is fine too! Just make sure that you buy a fortified milk, which has those key nutrients such as calcium added. You will be able to tell by looking at the nutrition information panel, for example if calcium is listed you know the milk is fortified. Also keep in mind the lower protein content. If you like to add almond milk to your post workout smoothie in the morning for example, you may wish to add some yoghurt or a handful of nuts and seeds to boost the protein.

Don’t feel like you have to commit to only one! There is nothing wrong with enjoying an almond latte for the taste, but then adding cow’s milk to your muesli at home. Variety is good!

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author

Amy Knight

Amy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, having studied Nutrition and Dietetics at Monash University in Melbourne. A food lover since an early age, Amy has always loved making a mess in the kitchen and creating recipes that are delicious and make you feel good! Amy is a big believer that food is not simply fuel, it is also a big part of how we show love, spend time with loved ones and enjoy life! She loves helping people find a balanced relationship with food, and hopes to show that healthy food can be simple, easy and affordable, and most importantly enjoyable!

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