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What type of milk should I drink?

Kids and Parenting, General Nutrition, Musculoskeletal - Arthritis, Joint, Bone and Muscles, Healthy Eating
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A nutritional comparison of cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, or goat’s milk 

It seems that even milk has become complicated these days. It used to be that the milk man would drop off a bottle on the door step (probably whole milk) and no one would think much of consuming it. But now you go to any supermarket and there are so many different “milk” varieties to choose from, so which is best?

Cow’s milk 

Cow’s milk contains a significant amount of protein (about 8g per cup) and is generally fortified with vitamins A and D. It provides an important source of calcium for only about 100 calories. One cup of milk provides around 300mg of calcium. The recommended dietary intake of calcium is different for people of different ages. The Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand as determined by the Ministry of Health recommends 1000 mg of calcium per day, which can be met consuming about 3 cups of milk.1

The problem with cow’s milk is that many people cannot tolerate the milk sugar, otherwise known as lactose. Lactose intolerance is a common problem and can cause bloating, diarrhea, gas, and other digestive issues. 2  Children may also develop an allergy to milk protein, or casein, therefore consumption of milk is not an option.Cow’s milk is also high in phosphorus therefore should not be consumed by those with kidney disease.4

Soy milk

Soy has become popular over the last few years due to several potential benefits such as the ability to reduce the rate of certain kinds of cancers and the ability to decrease menopausal symptoms.5 A 2004 study published in “Nutrition” compared the effect of soy milk to fat-free cow’s milk on LDL “bad” cholesterol. It was found that those who consumed the soy milk had lower levels of LDL at the end of the study than those who consumed the fat-free cow’s milk.6 Soy can be a good alternative for those who are lactose intolerant and contains about the same amount of calcium as a cup of cow’s milk.

Although there has been no negative long-term effect found from the consumption of soy7, there are a few things to consider when choosing soy milk. First, many soy milk brands have added sugar or flavors, look at the label to make sure it is not too high in sugar. The light plain soy milk only has around 60 calories and 4g of sugar, some of the flavored “light” versions can have up to 15g of sugar!8 Way too much! Soy milk should also not be used for those who have renal failure as it is high in phosphorus.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is a good alternative for those watching calories and who want to lose weight. A cup of almond milk contains about 40-60 calories depending on the brand and has about the same amount of calcium as a glass of milk. Almond milk is lower in protein than regular milk, therefore it is not considered a concentrated protein source. Almond milk is lower in phosphorus than regular milk or soy milk, therefore it is safer for those with renal failure to consume almond milk.

The only downfall may be the taste, it is not as creamy as cow’s milk or soy milk therefore it may take some getting used to. Watch out for brands that have added flavors (added sugar) if possible, especially if you are watching calories and trying to lose weight.

Goat’s Milk

Goat’s milk can be a good alternative for those with a milk protein allergy, as goat’s milk does not contain the same type of casein as cow’s milk and is slightly higher in calcium. The lactose found in goat’s milk may be easier to digest and may not cause as severe of a reaction as cow’s milk.9 Goat’s milk contains several important fatty acids which may be beneficial for brain development, especially in children. The FSANZ does not recommend the consumption of raw goat’s milk due to potential contamination by E. Coli, but pasteurized goat’s milk is safe for human consumption.10


Overall, any “milk” you choose can be good for you depending on your taste preferences. Make sure that no matter which choice you go there will be adequate calcium to support your daily needs. Drink up!


Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for Calcium for all ages and life stages: click here




1.     http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/calcium.htm

2.     http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/lactoseintolerance/

3.     http://www.smallruminantresearch.com/article/S0921-4488(06)00257-4/abstract

4.     http://www.dm2nb.ca/pdf/patient_resources/healthy_eating/nutrition_resources/phosphorus.pdf

5.     http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1595159/

6.     http://www.nutritionjrnl.com/article/S0899-9007(03)00253-3/abstract

7.     http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025619611649756

8.     http://silksoymilk.com/products/silk-light/original

9.     http://www.smallruminantresearch.com/article/S0921-4488(03)00272-4/abstract

10.  http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/_srcfiles/P1007%20PPPS%20for%20raw%20milk%201AR%20SD2%20Goat%20milk%20Risk%20Assessment.pdf



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What type of milk should I drink?