With so many new varieties of milk out there, how do you know which one is best for you?
Cow's Milk Personally, I am not a Cow's milk drinker. Even as a kid I had a dislike for milk. Now that I have been primarily vegetarian for many years, the thought of Cow's milk actually disgusts me. Alicia Silverstone, who has been a Vegan for many years best describes many of the reasons I have turned away from cow's milk, in her book The Kind Diet. First, "We are the only animals that drink another species' milk." and second "Cow's milk is designed to turn a baby calf into a 400 pound cow". Cow's milk is a rich source of proteins and calcium. Contains vitamin A and B12,thiamine,riboflavin and minerals like calcium, sodium and potassium. It's disadvantages include high allergy reactions and not good for Lactose intolerant. In many places, cows are treated with a compound called recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGh). Some studies have shown that this hormone leads to some health risks, like mastitis, infertility and lameness.
Soy Milk Soy milk is being mass marketed to the general public as the "new milk". Going so far as to even place it in the refrigerated section where consumers are used to going for their cow's milk. Those of us drinking soy milk before this boom know that soy milk does not need to be refrigerated until opened and used to be stocked in the dry aisles near the baking goods. Even Starbucks has jumped on the soy bandwagon appealing to vegetarians, vegans and lactose intolerant by offering soy milk to their customers and recently changing their Frappuccino mix to allow for the modification of soy. Soy milk contains high quality proteins and carbohydrates. It is cholesterol and lactose free. The downside is that Isoflavones from soy milk are held responsible for thyroid disorder, leukemia and breast cancer. Not to mention that 85% of all soybeans grown in the US are genetically modified. So as great as soy is it is better off to take in soy from pure products such as tofu and tempeh.
Almond Milk Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, magnesium, and manganese; they are a good source fiber, copper, phosphorous and riboflavin. Many studies are showing a possible protection against heart disease (America’s number-one killer) and support for weight management from eating a handful of almonds a day. Almond milk is lactose free and I find it not to be as bloating as soy milk. Of course since it comes from a nut this form of milk is not good for people who are nut allergy prone. This is my milk of choice right now. I use Almond Breeze Vanilla Unsweetened in my morning coffee and Original unsweetened for cooking. A few dangers of almonds are that they are a goitrogenic food, meaning they contain chemicals that can harm your thyroid. People with hypothyroid or in danger of hypothyroid should avoid goitrogenic foods. Also Almond milk tends to be much higher in sugars than cow's milk. If you are watching your sugar intake opt for the unsweetened varieties.
Rice Milk Rice milk is processed from brown rice and usually contains rice syrup, evaporated cane juice or some other natural sweetener. It is typically fortified with calcium or vitamin D. Rice milk is high in carbohydrates. It is low in protein and fat, and easy to digest. Those who are allergic to nuts, may also be sensitive to soy and therefore, need an alternative beverage. Organic rice milk does not contain added sugars and is naturally sweet, which may make it a great alternative to those who want to avoid sugar. Diabetics shoud beware or rice milk. I found rice milk to be a little on the watery side. While I dont like using it in coffee or cereal it is a good alternative for recipes.
Nutritional Comparision of Major Brands
Which milk is best? Well it all comes down to what you are looking to get out of your milk. Protein? Low fat? Low sodium or sugars? Avoiding milk or nut allergies? Taste? Health conditions? There does not seem to be one form of milk or milk substitute that comes out as the Blue Ribbon winner. At least now you have some of the facts to make the best decision for you and your family.
Please note that most of the milk substiutes discussed are not advised as replacement for formula or infants. Please consult a physician regarding best (if any) substitutions for infants.