Consumers sure have a lot of options these days when it comes to choosing milk, according to a recent Los Angeles Times article.
The newspaper took a hard look at six different kinds of milk and broke them down by nutritional qualities. Here are some highlights:
Though milk made from cows is the most popular choice in the U.S., the health benefits of said milk are debatable. Whole milk packs a whole bunch of calories — 150 per cup to be exact — so skim and reduced-fat milks are generally healthier to drink.
Cow’s milk provides a good dose of calcium and vitamin D, but just how important calcium is for bone health is a controversial issue and the relationship between cow’s milk and cancer is also mixed. Plus, people who are allergic to dairy or lactose intolerant can't drink cow’s milk.
“Most of the world's population can't digest milk. Our bodies are not made to drink this stuff," said Dr. Scott Sicherer, professor of pediatrics at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York,
Goat’s milk is pretty popular around the world, and it seems to be coming around in the U.S. as well.
Still, those who eschew cow’s milk for health reasons may want to sidestep goat’s milk as well. Whole goat milk has about the same saturated fat and cholesterol content as whole cow milk.
Plus, some studies have found that goat’s milk is just as likely to cause allergies or cause discomfort to those who are lactose intolerant.
“If someone's allergic to cow's milk, I tell them to stay away from mammalian milks,” said Sicherer.
Soy milk has a lot of health benefits like no cholesterol and little saturated fat. It still provides the same amount of key nutrients found in whole cow’s or goat’s milk, such as calcium, protein, vitamins and potassium. It’s also been shown to lower the risk of cancers like prostate, colorectal and breast cancer.
But the relationship between soy milk consumption and cancer is kind of iffy and, since soybeans are pretty bitter, the milk is often heavily processed and sweetened, which means it has a higher calorie count. Since soy milk contains high levels of carbohydrates that are hard for the body to break down, drinking soy milk can create an, um, uncomfortable situation.
"It can really cause a lot of gas in some people," said Alexandra Kazaks, professor of nutrition at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash.
Like soy milk, almond milk is drowning in health benefits. It contains no cholesterol, saturated fats or lactose. It’s also lower in calories and total fat than soy milk. Plus, almonds are a good source of iron, riboflavin, vitamin E and some essential fatty acids.
But, since the amount of almonds in almond milk can actually be pretty minimal — often they’re second or third on the ingredient list — drinking almond milk may get you very little of the nut's health benefits.
Plus, there’s the whole issue of tree nut allergies which affect about 0.2 percent of children.
Health-wise, rice milk has a lot going for it. It doesn’t have cholesterol, saturated fat or lactose, and it’s rare that people are allergic to it. It does often contain more calories than almond or soy milk, however.
Rice milk is also pumped up with calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D, but not with sweeteners, since it’s a mild-flavored product anyway. But, it’s not a great source of protein, so rice milk drinkers will have to look elsewhere for their daily intake.
Hemp milk contains the same amount of calories as soy milk, but it also packs more fat content, albeit the healthy kinds like omega-3 and omega-6. It’s also low in saturated fat and cholesterol- and lactose-free. And, people with hemp allergies are rare.
However, it’s unclear whether the omega-3 fat in hemp has the same heart-health benefits of those found in fish oils, said William Harris, director of the Cardiovascular Health Research Center at the University of South Dakota.
And, just in case you’re wondering, hemp milk is made from different cannabis varieties than those used to produce marijuana, and contains none of the mind-altering active ingredient THC.
Overall, it’s clear that the many milk choices out there all have pros and cons. It’s up to you to decide what goes best with your cookies.