Milk, Whats The Big Difference?
In grocery stores today there are so many different versions and types of “milk.” There is the original dairy milk, soy milk, cashew milk, rice milk, the list is endless. New items are often hitting the shelf weekly, which can make it even more overwhelming.
There are often many questions, are they all the same? What is the main differences? And does it really matter? Let’s break it all down.
Dairy milk comes from dairy cows. Dairy milk sold in grocery stores comes in different perfect milk fat, or %MF. These are 0% (or skim), 1%, 2%, or 3.25% (or homo). The %MF refers to the percentage of total fat in the specific dairy product. The only main difference between 0%, 1%, 2% or 3.25% MF is the amount of fat, all other nutrients and vitamins/minerals are generally the same. Foods with higher fat content will also have higher calories. Thus, this will also increase when you go from 0% (skim) to 3.25% (homo). Check out the comparison between 1% milk and 3.25% milk below.
As illustrated, milk is very nutrient dense drink. It is a complete protein source with 9g per 250mL. It is also rich in calcium, and contains potassium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and many other vitamins and minerals.
Soy milk is a well known milk alternative. Soy milk comes from soaking dried soybeans in water and and grinding them. Soy milk is nutritionally comparable to dairy milk. Check out the nutrition information below for soy milk and compare it to dairy milk. It is a complete protein with 7g per 250mL serving. Soy milk is also lactose free, has no cholesterol, and is low in saturated fat. In most grocery stores there are original and light versions. The only main difference is the fat content, and resulting calorie content. In addition, soy milks can also have added sugars and flavours, such as chocolate and vanilla. Soy milk has added calcium and vitamin D.
There are many different recipes to produce Almond, Cashew, and Coconut milk. Yet, the processes are all similar. The recipe involves soaking the nut for a period of time, adding them to a blender with water, and then straining out the remaining nut/pulp. Occasionally they are further watered down.
For rice milk, cooked rice is added to a blender with water and mixed well, then strained with a strainer or cheesecloth. Additional water is also occasionally added. There are also sweetened version of most of the milks, which will have added sugar.
Check out the nutrition information below for all other “milks”. Especially note the protein content. All milks have only 1g of protein per 250mL. Although nuts are a source of protein, the process of adding water dilutes and lowers the protein content when making these “milks”. The dilution also lowers calories and fat. Because nuts do not have much carbohydrates to begin with, neither do their “milks.” These specialty “milks” have added nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D.
Although these items are often called “milks,” they are actually not considered to be milk alternatives. This is because the nutrition content does not compare to dairy milk or soy milk.
What do you think is the best choice?
By comparing apples-to-apples, dairy milk comes out on top. Dairy milk has the most nutrition content per volume. Dairy milk is a complete protein with 9g per serving and with only 88-155 calories depending on %MF. It is also an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, and contains many other essential vitamins and minerals.
Coming at a close second is soy milk. Soy milk is a great alternative, especially if avoiding dairy products for personal or medical reasons. Soy milk contains 7g of protein per 250mL serving, vs. only 1g per 250mL serving in the other “milks.”
By now it is no surprise that the other “milks” do not fully compare. But, these choices can still fit within a healthy daily diet. When using these milks, other foods/drinks that are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals should be incorporated to make up the difference if they are used as a staple.
Most often breakfast lacks enough protein. When using almond, coconut, or rice milk in place of dairy or soy milk in cereal, protein intake will likely be insufficient. Protein needs are individual. But, there has been research showing an optimum amount of protein per meal is between 20-30g. Ensure your breakfast contains other protein rich foods, such as nuts, nut butters, eggs, cheese, and/or yogurt.
**We made the best attempt to ensure the above nutrition information is correct. We used corresponding company websites to obtain our information, but variations can occur based on brand and if product changes**