What’s Better, Milk or Milk Substitutes

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Our next This and That topic, and today’s question…What’s better, milk or milk substitutes?

This is a good question, as our drinking options are increasing, along with competing scientific and nutritional advice. So here’s a bit of a summary…

Some people love their milk, have no problem drinking it, and have been advised that milk is an excellent source of calcium and protein. Some people have allergic responses to milk, including chronic respiratory and digestive problems. Some people want to find healthy alternatives to milk for better weight management or to reduce their dependence on animal products. So what’s out there?

Milk Substitutes

If you do like your milk, grass-fed and organic is best, to reduce the levels of pesticides and antibiotics you’ll be consuming, as well as getting the best health benefits derived from healthier cows. Goat’s milk is another choice. It tends to be less allergenic and easier to digest.

What else is available?  Well, there’s coconut milk. Rich and creamy, it’s the most like milk. It’s high in good fats and something called lauric acid, which has antibacterial and antifungal properties and may help speed up metabolism. The coconut milk sold in milk cartons is different from the thick, concentrated version in the can. The flavor adds a nice tropical twist to your dish, if you like that.

Soy milk is very popular and very controversial. It is versatile, high in protein, low in fat, has a lot of potassium, may help prevent some cancers, can be a good source of calcium and protein, may help lower cholesterol and may promote sleep because of its magnesium content. However, it is one of the most genetically modified crops grown in the US, and most heavily sprayed with pesticides, some of which absorb into the plant and then, us when we consume it. It has something called phytic acid which inhibits the body’s absorption of some essential minerals, which could be a problem if consumed daily. Soybeans give some people gas. This can still be a good choice in moderation. Always best to go organic, choose a non-GMO brand (not genetically modified) and read the ingredients list. Some soy milks have a lot of sugar added.

Rice milk is the most allergy-friendly of the non-dairy milks, but also the lowest in protein and highest in sugar.

Almond milk has a unique, versatile flavor as well as being high in vitamins and calcium, but is lower in protein than milk. It may or may not improve digestion because of an additive called carrageenan, which may be inflammatory to some people. Look for brands without that ingredient.

Cashew milk is also out there. Check the calcium content if you look forward to drinking your daily dose of calcium. Different brands have different amounts as well as different oils added to the drink.

So, there’s nothing clear cut about these choices…they all are delicious, healthy in different ways and all carry some pro’s and con’s. In general? Enjoy any or all of these in moderation, with attentiveness to possible allergens and being mindful of the impact of pesticides and hormones you might be unwittingly putting into your body, along with their healthy qualities.

Stay tuned! More to come!