Thursday, April 5, 2012


Alternative Milk Sources

I am a huge fan of milk, and always have been as a child it was a rule in my house to finish a full glass of milk before leaving the dinner table. I was always the first out to play after dinner because I had no problem drinking my full glass of milk! I am grateful for my love of milk because it is an excellent source of calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin A, and a complete source of protein that sets the foundation for strong teeth and bones.

However, lately I find that I rarely have regular skim milk in my fridge at college mainly because I have a passion for trying new nutritious foods and since skim milk is readily available at many locations including, my house at home, in most coffee shops, and most places I go out to eat I like to purchase things like almond milk, and soy milk for my fridge at school. 

Alternative sources of milk are a great solution for people with lactose in tolerance or milk allergies as a means of adding vitamins and minerals to their diet and enjoying some of their favorite foods like cereals and smoothies that are livened up with a creamy source of liquid. However, there are increasingly more alternative sources of milk on the grocery store shelves and they all offer different nutritional benefits so it’s important to know the nutrient differences before replacing or swapping one milk source for another.

Here is a nutrition comparison of some of the alternative milk sources out there.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is made from soybeans, comes in various flavors, and has become a very popular alternative to milk. Soy milk contains nutritional benefits such as omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, B-vitamins, magnesium, potassium, selenium and manganese. It is an excellent source of dietary protein because it contains a complete profile of essential amino acids. Soy contains isoflavins a compound that is supposed to act like estrogen in the body. According to a study done by the American College of Medicine soy has LDL cholesterol reducing effects. The study compared soy milk to diary milk consumption in a series of  4 week phases with a wash-out phase in-between  and found that when the participants drank soy milk for four weeks three times a day their LDL-cholesterol was modestly reduced compared to the phase in which they drank dairy milk three times a day for or a total of four weeks.

Almond Milk
 Almond milk is a creamy nutty flavored milk source that differs quite a bit on the taste scale from milk but is a great low calorie and low carbohydrate milk option that is great for weight management. Almond  milk ranges from 40-60 calories a cup and contains about 2-8 grams of carbohydrates per serving. However, unlike dairy and soy milk almond milk only contains one gram of protein per serving and it is not a complete source of protein.  Almond milk is also a great source of vitamin and calcium in fact almond milk has the same amount of calcium as diary milk meeting 30% of the daily requirement in one cup. Almond milk also happened to be low in both phosphorous and potassium making it a safer option for those struggling with kidney disease.

Coconut Milk
Coconut milk is extracted from the meat of coconuts, it has a strong creamy flavor (I personally LOVE) but it can be high in saturated fat and calories the full fat version can ring in 51 grams of saturated fat per serving! So it should be consumed in moderation or there are some reduced fat versions available in stores. On the positive side, coconut milk is high in fiber and protein containing 5 grams or each! It provides beneficial micronutrients including a good source defined as over 10% of the daily need for iron, manganese, and vitamin C.

Rice Milk
Rice milk is extracted from rice (shocker there), it is made by pushing rice through a mill stream usually, brown rice, and it tends to be lighter in flavor than some of the other milk alternatives.  It is a healthy alternative to milk but it is missing some of milk’s key ingredients including protein and calcium. Rice milk only contains one gram of protein compared to the 8 grams found in a glass of milk.  Rice milk averages around 120 calories per glass and is higher in carbohydrates than the other milk alternatives with around 23 grams per glass. Rice milk’s high carbohydrate content may make it less ideal for people with diabetes.

The take Home Message: Various milk alternative’s  including almond, coconut, rice, and soy milk provide nutritional benefits and can be incorporated into a healthy diet. However all of them have a different nutritional profile and none of them can fully replace all the benefits of dairy milk.


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