It is super trendy these days to switch from a dairy milk to a milk alternative. In fact, I was just sifting through an article last night that said “dairy milk has nasty additives.” The article, of course, was recommending that people switch to coconut milk and almond milk. It is very disheartening to me that there is so much misinformation out there when it comes to nutrition. So as your supermarket registered dietitian, it is my job to do my best to provide you with the most current science-based research so that you can make the best decision for you and your family!
To start off, dairy milk doesn’t have any “nasty additives.” Dairy milk, especially if low fat or fat free, offers 8 grams of protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamin D, all of which are very important to get enough of each day. There is absolutely no reason to stop drinking milk and switch to a milk alternative for health benefits. There simply are none unless, of course, you are lactose intolerant. Some will argue that there are “8 grams of sugar in milk and that’s a lot.” The truth is if you are drinking plain white milk, the 8 grams of sugar is completely natural to the milk, it is from the natural sugar called lactose found in milk. There is no need to limit these natural sugars. If you are drinking chocolate or other flavored milks, then yes there are added sugars, and added sugars should be limited.
Even if someone is lactose intolerant, I don’t recommend this milk. Technically, coconut milk doesn’t have lactose in it, so it could be an alternative. What it does have is saturated fat. Saturated fat is the type of fat that has been proven to increase cholesterol levels in our blood. Yes, contrary to popular belief, the saturated fat in coconut products is not considered heart healthy according to the American Heart Association, Harvard School of Public Health, and Mayo Clinic among others. Also, there is very little protein in coconut milk. Any flavored coconut milk, even vanilla flavored has added sugars. It is usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
I usually don’t recommend this milk either. Although it doesn’t have the saturated fat like coconut milk, thus making it a better choice in that sense, it still doesn’t have any protein. If you are used to getting protein from your milk source, know that you are not getting it here so you need to increase your protein somewhere else. This is especially important for growing kids. Again, many times almond milk is flavored thus meaning there are added sugars. Yes, you can get unsweetened and that would be better and is usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D as well.
If someone is lactose intolerant, I will recommend this milk as the best alternative because it doesn’t have the saturated fat like coconut milk, and it does have the protein comparable to regular milk plus it is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Soy milk is obviously a soy product. Did you know there are many health benefits to consuming soy? Be sure to check out my April blog to learn about all those benefits!
Bottom line, if you aren’t allergic to dairy milk, there is nothing wrong with consuming it. It is very nutritious and highly recommended to consume each day with every meal. Those other milk alternatives aren’t always what they are marketed to be. Yes, they can still be a part of a healthy diet, just like anything else. If you really enjoy them, great, but now you have the facts to make the best informed decision.
No matter which milk you choose, cheers!
Peace and Wellness,