The benefits of alternative milks

Nowadays, cows have some competition when it comes to your daily dose of calcium. While cow’s milk has long been the mainstream milk, alternative milk types, like soy, almond, coconut and goat’s milk, have been steadily gaining popularity. So, how do you know which one is best for you?

Cow’s Milk: The skim variety comes in at a healthy 87 calories per cup, gives you 50 percent of your daily calcium and offers more protein per serving than other varieties, so its easy to see why it’s a fan favorite. However, cow’s milk can also be the enemy of those with lactose intolerance, including 2.5 percent of American kids.

Goat’s Milk: This milk comes in a little higher at 169 calories per cup and 10 grams of fat, but has the most protein of the bunch. While it does contain lactose, it’s said to be more easily digestible because of its protein molecule size. However, some people are stopped by its distinct sweet and salty taste.

Soy Milk: Lactose- and gluten-free, soy milk has almost as much protein per cup compared to cow’s milk (7 grams to cow’s 9), but only half as much calcium. It’s still low in calories at 132 per cup. However, this soybean and water alternative may inhibit protein and mineral absorption, though more experts say more research needs to be done.

Almond Milk: Like soy milk, almond milk is a simple lactose- and gluten-free concoction of ground almonds, water and a little sweetener (many people make their own versions at home). It’s low in calories and fat (60 and 2.5 respectively per cup) and while it contains a good selection of vitamins and minerals, it’s low in protein—only 1 gram per serving. It does come in many flavors (plus!), but is obviously not the choice for those allergic to nuts.

Coconut Milk: While it may make you think of a piña colada (take that as a plus or minus), coconut milk is more easily digested for many than dairy milk. You’ll find a few types of coconut milk out there—one is the canned variety that’s rich and creamy and comes in at a whopping 467 calories and 50 grams of fat per cup. While you could pour this over your cereal, it’s probably better off being utilized in your Thai or Indian recipes. Coconut milk beverages, like the one from So Delicious, are less rich versions of the full-fat canned variety. So Delicious’ one comes in at only 45 calories a cup, making it a more figure-friendly variety for everyday imbibing.

What About Raw Milk? A new trend by milk purists is to pay upward of $10 a gallon for raw cow’s milk, which is not pasteurized or homogenized, because they believe it’s healthier by being packed with more vitamins, minerals, proteins and enzymes—as well as having more flavor. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA disagree, saying that pasteurized milk has all the same nutrients as raw, and that raw milk also brings with it the risk of becoming sick from bacteria not eradicated by pasteurization. That risk-versus-benefit debate can be decided by the consumer, at least in the 33 states where raw milk sales are allowed.

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