Having a glass of milk is no longer the social norm. Now on any given day less than half of all adolescents and adults consume milk as a beverage. Simultaneously there has been a rise in sales of alternative types of “milk” made from soy, almonds, coconut, rice and other plant sources.
So now more often than not, the question arises; should you be jumping on the nondairy milk health bandwagon? Or is it just another fad that has swept through society, leading many astray?
For many people who can’t digest lactose or are following a vegan diet, opting for a plant-based alternative is a no-brainer. However if you are just looking at making the switch based on nutritional quality alone, it’s hard to beat skim dairy milk. Each type of milk and milk alternative has its advantages and disadvantages (see table below for nutritional comparison). The final decision lies on the individuals’ health and nutritional needs, taste preference and ethical beliefs.
LETS LOOK AT THE FACTS
Dairy milk is packed full of the good stuff. Providing up to 16 nutrients such as protein, vitamins including vitamin A and D and essential minerals such as calcium, phosphorous and magnesium.
If you are still drinking the whole full fat milk option however, there may be a reason to make the switch. A glass of whole milk contains about 2.6g saturated fat, the leading dietary contributor to unhealthy cholesterol levels. Compared to almost none found in skim milk, soy and almond milk.
So let’s talk about skim milk, there is a great deal of concern lately about the amount of sugar we eat and rightly so. Unfortunately though our dear friend skim milk has wrongfully been picked on during the no sugar craze. All milk contains natural sugar, known as lactose. Lactose is a 100% natural sugar found in milk. Still concerned about the sugar content, there is some research that suggests that milk components such as whey, calcium, vitamin D, fatty acids and/or lactose are thought to help out with sugar metabolism.
I can understand though, skim milk taste isn’t for everyone. There are the lower fat 1% and 2% dairy milk options available on the market. As well the levels of saturated fat are significantly lower in milk alternatives, and can be an appropriate option for adults concerned about their cholesterol levels who do not like the taste of skim milk.
Protein is another important nutrient to keep in mind when thinking about making the switch. Soymilk is almost comparable to dairy milk in terms of its protein content, however other alternatives such as almond, rice and coconut milk are much lower. This may only be of concern for children, adolescents and adults with increased requirements, as the majority of Australian adults eat plenty of protein from other food sources.
It is important to note however that vegetarians and vegans should opt for soymilk, as it has a “complete” protein composition with all essential amino acids.
Majority of plant-based milk products these days are fortified, delivering similar amounts of calcium and vitamin D for bone health. When making the comparison though dairy milk generally contains more vitamin A, vitamin B12, phosphorus and potassium.
Next week we will look at each milk alternative in a little more detail, and see what all the fuss is really about.