Cow’s milk gives you a nice supply of protein and calcium for not too many calories and, if you go for 1% or fat-free, little or no saturated fat. It is recommended we get 2-3 servings of low fat or fat-free dairy a day to accommodate our body’s needs.The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults is 1,000 milligrams a day. It jumps to 1,200 mg for women over 50 and men over 70. That includes what you get from food and from supplements. Cow’s milk provides essential vitamins like vitamin D and B-12, as well as the nutrient potassium, which helps control blood pressure. So what is the problem then? Why is there a demand for alternatives? Lactose, a sugar found in cow’s milk, sometimes cannot be tolerated by the digestive tract, causing problems for those individuals.
What are the options available? There are increasingly many out there to choose from!
Let’s start with another animal whose milk has been used for some time around the world; the goat. People with mild forms of lactose intolerance may benefit from goat milk. It contains less lactose than cow’s milk so people who have difficulties digesting regular milk may view goat’s milk as a viable alternative. The fat molecules in goat milk are much smaller than’s cow’s milk making it much easier to digest. Don’t worry about calcium either as it provides 33% of our recommended daily allowance. Studies have demonstrated that not only does goat milk help reduce bad cholesterol levels but it can actually increase the good variety of cholesterol in your blood. Goat milk is also a great source of healthy medium-chain fatty acids that are linked to the prevention of heart disease and the treatment of many intestinal conditions as well as various other complaints. Unlike cow’s milk, goat milk contains no A1 casein., a highly inflammatory protein which is linked to a number of intestinal conditions.
What about the plant-based milks out there? Eating plants instead of animal foods can help curb climate change. Here’s what you should check before you choose a “milk”:
Check for protein:
Only soy milk or a non-dairy milk with added pea protein is likely to equal the 8 grams of protein in a cup of cow’s milk. Does protein matter? It depends. If your breakfast is just cereal with non-dairy milk, look for one of the milks that’s higher in protein. But if you’re having a 30-to-50-calorie cup of almond milk as a beverage, protein may not matter.
Look for nutrients:
- Check the vitamins and minerals. Some non-dairy milks are fortified to dupe cow’s milk’s calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12.
- Pick soy for potassium. Most soy milks match cow’s milk’s potassium—which can help keep a lid on blood pressure. Most other non-dairy milks fall far short.
- Don’t be wowed by calcium claims. More isn’t necessarily better. High levels of calcium from supplements (at least 1,000 mg a day) may raise the risk of kidney stones and hip fractures. Taking 2,000 mg or more may raise the risk of prostate cancer. And the calcium that’s added to non-dairy milks counts as a supplement.
Minimize added sugars.
Each cup of cow’s milk has 3 teaspoons (12 grams) of a naturally occurring sugar called lactose. In contrast, nearly all the sugars in non-dairy milks—like evaporated cane syrup, cane sugar, honey, or brown rice syrup—are added.That means you can dodge them by buying unsweetened varieties that have no more than 1-2 grams of naturally occurring sugar. If you don’t like the taste of unsweetened, try “Original,” which usually have just 1 to 1½ teaspoons of added sugars.
Skip coconut’s saturated fat.
Most coconut milks have between 3½ and 5 grams of saturated fat. Try an almond-coconut milk blend whose saturated fat is just 1 gram.