Dairy Alternatives

All “Milks” Are Not Created Equal


Dairy: The Real Deal

Before you reach for a carton of almond milk, soy milk, or other dairy alternatives, it’s important to learn what you’re really pouring into your cup or bowl. Dairy alternatives tout a nutrient or two, but they don’t measure up to the nine essential nutrients in cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is the real deal – the original milk. Here are some of the reasons why milk alternatives are no match for the real deal:

  • Sometimes what you leave out is just as important as what you keep in. Milk alternatives, such as almond and soy, contains 10 or more added ingredients, including salt, stabilizers, syrups, thickeners and sugar. Dairy milk, on the other hand, is pure and simple. Wholesome, nutritious milk is the result of the tremendous care that America’s dairy farmers provide their animals.
  • Cow’s milk products are the richest source of well-absorbed calcium. According to researchers from Creighton University, the calcium in cow’s milk is absorbed 25% better than that found in soy milk. An 8-oz serving of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. By comparison, it would take 500 mg of calcium in an 8-oz serving of fortified soy milk to equal that amount of calcium.
  • It only takes about 48 hours for milk to get from your local dairy farm to your grocery store’s dairy case. Alternatives to milk cannot compare to the freshness of dairy milk.
  • The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee identified low- and non-fat dairy as part of a healthy dietary pattern. The same cannot be said for milk alternatives which lack the quantity and quality of nutrients milk has, including vitamin D, calcium and potassium.

Many milk alternatives use fortification to mimic the nutrient profile of cow’s milk and there is no standard nutrient profile across brands. Here’s how some of the most common dairy alternatives stack up against natural dairy nutrition:

  • Soy beverages are made from soybeans and are a good source of protein. However, according to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), soy protein is a lower quality protein than the whey protein found in dairy products.
  • Rice-based beverages are generally processed from brown rice and are fortified with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Rice beverages typically contain only one gram of protein compared to eight grams in cow’s milk.
  • Nut-based beverages can be ground from any nut and the most popular is almond. Almond beverages only supply one gram of protein per serving and lack many of the natural benefits found in almonds.
  • Seed-based beverages, such as hemp, are newer to the marketplace. Their nutritional benefit is touted to be their omega fatty acid content. Similar to the other beverages, they also fall short on protein compared to dairy nutrition.

As you can see, dairy and milk alternatives cannot stack up against the essential nutrients found in cow’s milk. So next time you are in the dairy aisle, make the best choice with fresh and natural milk.