Another week, another type of milk on supermarket shelves, and unless you have a PhD in nutrition how can you possibly decipher which milk options are best for you, and for the family?
The first point that needs to be made is that milk by definition comes from a mammary gland, which means a number of newer ‘milks’, or ‘mylks’ are actually not milk. Rather, they’re a formulated version of milk using a range of nuts, legumes and fruit.
Nutritionally, milk is a significant source of dietary protein, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, nutrients that play key roles in bone and energy metabolism. For this reason, if you are seeking an alternative to dairy milk, it is crucial your choice of milk offers these important nutrients, too.
So if dairy is not for you, here is everything you need to know about every type of milk (or mylk).
Milk Options: Which is the Best for Your Family?
What milk options are best for your child? We take a look at the different types. | Image source: iStock
Found in three main varieties – full cream, lite or reduced fat and skim or low fat – cow’s milk is a nutrient-dense whole food offering 8g of protein and close to 300mg of calcium per 250ml glass.
Whilst low fat varieties of milk become popular 20-30 years ago after a push for Aussies to reduce their intake of saturated fat, full cream milk has made somewhat of a comeback as more people seek out whole foods.
A glass of full cream milk contains roughly 10g of fat, 6g of which is saturated compared to 4g of fat for reduced fat milk and less than 1g of fat for low fat or skim milk. Contrary to popular belief, low fat milk does not contain more of the naturally occurring sugar lactose than is found in full cream milk. Organic milk has been shown to have slightly higher nutrient contents than non-organic milk, while A2 milk contains beta-casein protein, which is associated with digestive comfort.
It is recommended that children consume full cream milk up to the age of five and after that, whether you opt for low fat or full cream milk is really up to you, although for those with heart disease risk factors, a reduced or low fat milk is recommended.
Best for – families.
Image source: iStock
For the past year or so, oat milk has been taking the ‘mylk’ world by storm, especially since it sounds so incredibly healthy. Made from a mix of oats, water and oat flour, oat milk is much lower in protein than dairy milk, with just 4g on average per serve and little-to-no natural calcium. While some varieties may add calcium, not all do and the formulated mylk product still lacks a range of nutrients – such as phosphorus and magnesium – working synergistically the way they do in cow’s milk.
The other issue with oat milk that is not frequently mentioned is that contains significantly more carbohydrate than all other milks, nut and soy milk included. While these carbs are naturally occurring, a single cup of unsweetened oat milk can add up to as much as 30g of carbs (a similar amount to two slices of bread) to your favourite coffee order. While these carbs are naturally occurring (unless your oat milk is also sweetened), keep in mind that the extra carbs and calories add up. Also keep in mind that many baristas use sweetened oat milk in cafes and restaurants as it tastes sweeter, hence making especially tasty oat milk coffee. The good news is that you can opt for unsweetened varieties if oat milk is your thing.
Best for – families who prefer plant-based milk.
There are a lot of milk varieties out there – but what is best for little and big tummies? | Image source: iStock
Popular on paleo and other low carb regimes, unsweetened almond milk contains few calories per serve and literally no sugars. Almond milk is also a good source of the key nutrient Vitamin E, which helps with cell regeneration in the body. The biggest issue with almond milk is that it is naturally low in protein and calcium, so always choose almond milk that contains added calcium to reap the bone health benefits and be careful of almond milk that contains added sugars, as this bumps up sugar and calorie content significantly. There is also a growing range of almond milk that contains added protein, usually from soy, which can translate into more than 10g of protein per serve.
Best for – keto and low-carb diet followers
Which milk options are best? If you’re looking for protein, soy milk is your top choice. | Image source: iStock
The most popular dairy alternative, soy milk is one of the highest sources of plant protein with 5-10g total protein per 250ml serve (similar to that of dairy milk). Soy is also lower in saturated fat than dairy milk with most of its fat coming from polyunsaturated fat, and in general, there is regular, reduced-fat and low-fat soy milk available to suit your preference. With so many soy milks on the market, the majority of soy milks available are fortified with good amounts of the essential nutrients typically found in dairy milk including calcium. Be aware, though – soy milks can also have sugars and/or vegetable oils added. There are some medical conditions in which soy milk may be contraindicated so always check with your medical doctor or dietitian if you have any significant medical history before you switch to soy.
Best for – vegetarians and vegans
Made from a mix of water and coconut milk, coconut milk as a replacement for daily milk consumption is still an emerging product with only a couple of supermarket options currently available. Relatively high in fat, with 10g of fat per serve, as well as up to 10g of sugars per serve, the current range available is less likely to contain added calcium and with exceptionally low levels of protein, nutritionally there are much better milk and milk alternatives you can choose for your family.
Best for – N/A
Image source: iStock
Popular with allergy sufferers, rice milk can be a good option for individuals with a nut allergy, who prefer a vegan or vegetarian alternative to animal milk. Generally made from brown rice and water, like almond milk, rice milk can be exceptionally low in protein and calcium, whilst containing significantly more sugars and calories than almond milk so where possible look for varieties that contain added calcium.
Best for – allergy sufferers.
This article was first published in KidSpot and republished on theAsianparent with permission.
Soy Milk During Pregnancy: Benefits and Risks
An Age-wise Guide to Selecting Milk for Your Child
Soy As A Milk Alternative: Pros And Cons Of Using Plant-Based Milks