Maylin Rodriguez-Paez RNGoat milk, flax milk, soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, rice milk, and even donkey milk — with so many choices out there, how do you know what to choose?
Yes, it can be a bit overwhelming.
In this post, we’ll examine the pros and cons of today's most popular forms of milk. The goal here? To help make your "milk-based" nutritional decisions a little bit easier to swallow.
Cow’s MilkThe market for “alternative milks” has been largely fueled by the anti-milk movement. While we’re not exactly anti-milk, we recognize it’s not for everybody. A good portion of the world’s population is lactose-intolerant, and let’s not forget that milk allergies are not uncommon.
There are also concerns about growth hormones, toxins, and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, so it’s understandable why alternatives exist. But before you chuck cow’s milk altogether, consider its benefits. Milk is a complete source of protein and according to studies, it helps to fight obesity.1
Rice MilkThe good thing about rice milk is that it is more tolerable for people who are allergic to other milks, but overall it’s probably our least favorite. You’re getting little protein, lots of carbs, and according to some reports — an unhealthy dose of arsenic.2
Our advice? Drink it sparingly, if at all.
Goat MilkFor some, goat's milk is an acquired taste. For others, it’s a staple. Some of the longest living people in the world (Ikarians) drink goat milk on a daily basis.
Studies show goat milk has immune-modulating, anti-inflammatory, and cholesterol-lowering effects.3-5 Not only that, it may prevent the development of high blood pressure and heart-related problems.6
Goat milk may be more tolerable for people who are allergic to cow’s milk but there is still a significant risk for cross-reactivity.7
Almond MilkAlmond milk is perhaps one of the most popular “milks”. It has a creamy texture and considered delicious by many. While there is little research on the benefits of almond milk, the benefits of almonds are undeniable.
Eating them has been linked to lower blood sugar and LDL levels.8 But as appealing as almond milk sounds, you’re better off eating whole almonds. Much of the health benefits (antioxidants, fiber) are actually attributed to the almond skin which is removed during the preparation of almond milk.
Regardless, it’s hard to deny the usefulness of almond milk. It’s a nice substitute for cow’s milk. If you can, make your own at home or buy the non-sweetened versions at the supermarket.
Soy MilkThis one's pretty controversial. Critics argue it’s estrogen-loaded and bad for your health. We, on the other hand, recognize its pros and cons. Yes, soy contains phytoestrogens, but they are actually good for you. Research shows they help protect against a variety of health conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, and hormone-related cancers.9-10
On the other hand, soy like all other beans contains anti-nutrients in its raw state. These compounds interfere with digestion and the absorption of nutrients.
The solution? Fermented soy products. During fermentation, the anti-nutrients are destroyed. If you’re a fan of soy milk, buy the fermented kind. It’s hard to find, but it’s definitely worth the try.
The Bottom LineWhat’s the best milk? There really is no right or wrong answer. Each has its pros and cons. But in the end, aim to drink a milk that has a decent amount of protein, little sugar, and lots of nutrients.
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- J Environ Monit. 2008 Apr;10(4):428-31.
- Curr Pharm Des. 2010;16(7):870-6.
- J Nutr. 2006 Mar;136(3):672-6.
- J Dairy Sci. 2005 Mar;88(3):1024-30.
- J Dairy Sci. 2006 Sep;89(9):3326-35.
- J Dairy Sci. 2011 Feb;94(2):998-1004.
- J Bioproces Biotechniq 2012, 2:5. Available at: http://omicsonline.org/potential-health-benefits-of-almond-skin-2155-9821.1000e110.pdf. Accessed May 20, 2014.
- J Nutr. 2002 Jul;132(7):1900-2.
- Biomed Rep. 2013 Sep;1(5):697-701. Epub 2013 Jun 3.
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