Dairy Diaries: Which Milk is Best for You?
Got milk? With so many varieties available at your nearest grocery store, you might have a hard time figuring out which is right for you. In addition to the wide array of cow’s milk to choose from, there are also non-dairy alternatives like almond milk, soy milk and rice milk. In this post, we’ll define each type of milk and highlight some of the most notable differences between them in terms of calories, fat and protein to help you determine which would best suit your needs.
Whole milk is pasteurized milk that has not had its fat content removed or reduced. This kind of milk has the highest fat content of any cow’s milk, hence the name “whole.” Whole milk is an excellent source of calcium, a necessary nutrient for healthy teeth and bones. In fact, whole milk gives us 28-30% of our daily recommended calcium intake. Other nutrients found in milk, like vitamin A and potassium, help strengthen the immune system and improve heart health. The biggest disadvantage of whole milk is its high fat content at 8 grams of fat, 5 grams of which are saturated fat. A one-cup serving of whole milk has 146 calories, 8 grams of protein, and 13 grams of sugar.
If you love the taste of milk, but are looking to cut more fat from your diet, try 2% milk. Also referred to as reduced fat milk, 2% milk contains – you guessed it – 2% fat by weight. One cup of this type of milk contains 5 grams of fat, only 3 of which are saturated fat. It has 138 calories, 10 grams of protein and 13 grams of sugar. One serving of 2% milk offers the same essential vitamins and minerals as regular whole milk, but with less saturated fat and fewer calories.
Nonfat milk or skim milk is nearly fat free. For this type of milk to be considered fat free, however, it must contain less than 0.5% milk fat. One serving has 31% of your daily recommended value of calcium and, while most of the fat has been removed, the nutritional value remains the same. At 83 calories per serving, this is a good option if you are limiting your fat intake or watching your cholesterol.
Perhaps the most popular milk alternative, soy milk is a tasty, nutritious substitute. Soy milk is made from liquid extracted from soy beans that is mixed with water. It can be made plain or flavored. Soy milk is low in saturated fat and cholesterol free. This milk alternative is excellent for people who have dairy allergies or are lactose intolerant. Soy milk is plant-based, so it doesn’t have the same amount of protein as cow’s milk, but it does help reduce bad cholesterol, prevent heart disease, and aid in weight loss. One cup of vanilla soy milk contains 105 calories, 6 grams of protein and 30% of your daily recommended amount of calcium.
Another non-dairy option is almond milk. Almond milk is made from blended, roasted almonds that are mixed with water and then enriched with nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin E. Like soy milk, almond milk can be sweetened or flavored and has little protein compared to cow’s milk. If you’re in the mood to try something new with your morning bowl of cereal, almond milk has no saturated fat, contains antioxidants, has zero cholesterol and lactose, and can be as low as 60 calories per serving if you buy unsweetened.
Rice milk is another non-dairy contender. Made from a mixture of boiled rice, water and sweeteners, this kind of milk has no saturated fat or cholesterol, and like the other non-dairy options, it has little to no protein. It does contain roughly the same amount of calcium as cow’s milk, though, and is safe for those who are lactose intolerant. Rice milk also contains phosphorous, a key mineral that helps with digestion, energy, cell repair and hormone balance.
So which type of milk is best for you? It’s all about preference, taste and health goals. Whether you’re looking for more vitamins and protein or need a non-dairy option, you now have the basic knowledge to make the best choice in the dairy aisle.
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