It seems that every few months, there’s a new type of milk appearing on our super market shelves. While this is a boon for the dairy intolerant people and vegans, allowing them many more options, not all milk or milk alternatives provide the same nutrients. Therefore it would be useful to know their differences to make the best choices.
Cow milk is rich in protein, calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus. It also contains lactose and hence is not suitable for those with lactose intolerance. Nowadays, however, lactose free variants are commercially available. There are two varieties of cows classified on the basis of A1 milk protein and A2 milk protein.Their prevalence varies from one herd of cows to another and also between livestock of different countries. The A1 gene is present mainly among cattle in the Western World, while the Asian, traditional Indian (Desi Cow) and African varieties do not produce A1 gene. Recently, a relationship between disease risk and consumption of A1 or A2 genetic variants has been identified. Studies suggest that milk from cows with A2 genes is far healthier than that of their A1 counterparts.
Richer in fat and higher in calories, buffalo milk is also an extremely rich source of calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. Its protein content is also higher than that of cow milk. But like cow milk, it too contains lactose.
Not so common but on the nutritional count, camel milk is unusually rich in vitamin C and iron compared to cow and buffalo milk. The vitamin C levels in camel milk are three times higher and the iron content is nearly 10 times that of cow milk. Camel milk is also a good source of proteins with potential antimicrobial and protective activities, not found commonly in cow milk. It also contains heart-friendly essential fatty acids (linoleic acid), not found in cow or buffalo milk. It is also rich in B vitamins, particularly vitamin B2. It is also higher in its content of potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, sodium and zinc.
Goat milk is lower in lactose content and has a slightly different protein profile compared to cow milk. It is also rich in calcium, phosphorus and potassium. It’s higher in saturated fats almost like whole milk. It has an edge over cow’s milk with respect to nutrients like magnesium, vitamin A and C.
Its popularity has grown over the last two decades due to the rising number of people who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy. Soy milk provides a nutritious alternative and is low in fat, cholesterol-free and higher in protein than other plant-derived milks. It is also rich in phyto-estrogens and heart-friendly poly unsaturated fats. However, many people who are gluten or dairy intolerant may also be intolerant to soy. Excessive amounts of soy in any form can also be counter-productive. Choose organic or non-GMO varieties of soy milk.
A great source of calcium, almost double of cow milk, and high in vitamin E. It is lower in calories and proteins. One cup of unsweetened almond milk provides only 30 calories and nearly double the amount of calcium in cow milk. Almond milk can be bought or made at home by blending one part raw soaked almonds to three parts water and straining. Commercial almond milks may contain additives and emulsifiers.
Cashew milk is very similar to almond milk and is a great choice for those looking to avoid dairy or soy. A cup of cashew milk provides about 40 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per serving and is low in protein compared to one cup of soy or cow milk.
Traditionally used to add thickness and body to soups, it is difficult to drink undiluted. Lower in protein and calcium, coconut milk is higher in saturated fat and calories. Its fat is in the form of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are beneficial for digestion and immune function.
Rice milk is a highly hypoallergenic form of milk suitable for those who are allergic to cow milk, soy milk, nuts and vegan. It is high in carbohydrates, B vitamins, iron, copper and magnesium. There are however concerns around arsenic in rice.
Oat milk is another good option just like rice milk for those who are allergic to all other forms. It is more nutritious than rice milk and is rich in calcium and vitamin A and low in fat.
In conclusion, try different types of milk and figure out which one works the best for you. Consult a qualified professional to ensure you meet your nutritional needs.