Are you drinking the right milk? Know Your Milks

by Danielle Bertiger

In recent years, we’ve seen the nondairy milk market skyrocket while consequently plummeting the sale of cow’s milk. This 180° in dairy popularity explains why the milkman is no longer a profession, but what are the differences in the milks now being sold at our grocery stores?

COW’S MILK

In 1950, the average dairy cow produced around 5,000 pounds of milk each year. Today that number is over 20,000. One main factor leading to this increase is the implementation of the Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) which causes a dramatic increase in milk production in dairy cows.

While research regarding the short and long-term health effects of rBGH on the consumer is often conflicting, many countries have banned its use due to the uncertainty.

Hormone risks aside, as we grow older, the enzymes that digest lactose naturally decrease, making it harder for our bodies to process dairy products. We are the only mammal to drink another mammal’s milk as well as the only mammal to drink milk past infancy, which may explain the decline in enzymes.

Dairy milk also has an acidic effect in the body when it is consumed. The pH of our blood is naturally slightly alkaline. Stress, exercise, meat, dairy, and processed foods create a more acidic environment, and therefore should be balanced with alkaline-forming foods, such as the nondairy alternatives below.

SOY MILK

Soy milk has traditionally been the most common nondairy milk substitute. It has a creamy consistency, similar to dairy milk, and is enjoyed by many as a coffee creamer substitute. With the mass production of soy, it is important to look for soy milk made from nonGMO project certified ingredients.

Some studies have linked large amounts of soy with tumor growth, however, most research has been done with soy supplements and pure isoflavones (an estrogen-like compound found in soy), which are processed by the body very differently than dietary soy. Moderate soy consumption has shown no risks. In fact, some studies suggest it can lower prostate and breast cancer risks.

ALMOND MILK

The most common nut-based milk on the market is almond milk. It’s low in calories and high in calcium, Vitamin E, B, and iron. With a fairly thin consistency and a neutral taste, almond milk is a great base for smoothies and won’t impact the flavor or consistency of your drink.

COCONUT MILK

Coconut milk is often marketed in two varieties: the full-fat cooking version and the beverage. The cooking variety is sold traditionally in cans with a 1:1 ratio of coconut cream and water. It’s very rich and better used for cooking stews, risottos and desserts. The beverage is a watered down version with a thinner consistency making it more suitable for drinking, adding to smoothies or pouring over granola.

Although coconut milk gets slammed for its high saturated fat content, it contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), as opposed to long chain triglycerides (LCTs). MCTs are more water-soluble and therefore are more easily transported and converted to energy. Studies have shown that medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs) are beneficial for healthy brain function and can be especially helpful for those with Alzheimer’s.

CASHEW MILK

The creamiest of all nut milk, cashew milk is an excellent source of Vitamin E, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. While still maintaining a low calorie count of about 25 calories per cup, it’s a great addition to smoothies, coffees, cereals, or simply on its own! Magnesium deficiency can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, digestive issues, and headaches, therefore incorporating more magnesium rich foods in your diet can be extremely beneficial.

HEMP MILK

Hemp milk contains a number of nutrients like phosphorous, B12, calcium, magnesium, and omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential to healthy heart. It has the thinnest consistency of the group and a strong nutty flavor. Never the less it’s a great alternative for those with food allergies as it is tree nut, soy, dairy, and gluten free.

FINAL FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Make sure all of the drinks you choose have no sugar added. That can often doubles the calorie count. If you feel it needs to be sweetened, try adding pure stevia extract, 1-2 tsp of agave nectar, maple syrup, raw honey, or another low glycemic sugar. There are many nondairy sources of calcium out there – spinach, broccoli, dried figs, white beans, bok choy, almonds just to name a few!
Try some other fun ways to mix it up in smoothies by using coconut water, cold brewed coffee, or unsweetened iced tea as a base too