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The health benefits of cow’s milk are well known. It’s packed full of protein, calcium and vitamin D to name a few. Not only does cow's milk get a big tick when it comes to the quantity of protein, but it also gets a tick when it comes to quality as contains all of the essential amino acids that we need.
However, in recent years cow’s milk has seen a serious decline in popularity. With more and more people adopting a plant-based lifestyle, milk alternatives have been on the rise.
But how do they weigh up to regular cow’s milk?
Of all the milk alternatives, soy is probably the best known and is nutritionally the closest non-dairy substitute to cow’s milk while also being lower in calories.
While it has a slightly high-calorie content than other alternatives on the list, it is one of the few that can be classed as a complete protein. Despite all its positives, the Journal of Food Science and Technology recommended that you ensure your bottle is fortified with B12 and vitamin D (especially if you’re following an entirely plant-based diet).
If your alternative dairy preference is almond milk, then you’re in luck – it is lower in calories than both cow’s milk and soy milk and is full of healthy fats along with vitamin E and A.
However, lower calories also mean you’re sacrificing on some pretty crucial nutrients, such as protein. If it is fortified then you could still be getting a pretty respectable amount of calcium, vitamin B and vitamin D (but make sure you’re checking the label just in case).
You might be surprised to hear that unsweetened coconut milk is actually quite low in calories, coming in at about 28 calories per 100ml.
Sadly, apart from this and its pretty decent taste, unless it’s fortified, it doesn’t stand up against the likes of cow’s milk and soy milk.
Last but not least, it’s the recent addition to your local coffee shop menu, oat milk. Oat milk contains more vitamin B than soy and coconut milk, also containing beta-glucan, which can help you to maintain a healthy blood cholesterol level.
Despite this, it’s calorie content is a little higher when compared to other alternatives. We knew there was a reason it was so deliciously creamy.
While none of the milk alternatives quite compare to cow’s milk when it comes to their nutritional value, they all do have different benefits and if they are fortified this is not a massive issue.
As more scientific research goes into milk alternatives (and more dairy-free ice creams bless our supermarket shelves), we are likely to see a lot more benefits revealed.