Got milk: which type should you really be drinking?
The white stuff
With the plethora of options now available there is a milk to suit every intolerance, taste and diet. If you cannot digest cow's milk, you should try goat's milk; if you're lactose intolerant there is almond; if you're allergic to nuts, experiment with oat milk; if you're a coeliac that happens to be vegan, don't worry there is coconut! Find one that works for you or mix it up and use them all. Personally I like cow for coffee, soy in tea, almond in smoothies and coconut in cooking! Well, why not?
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Cow's milk remains a nutritious option if it comes from organic, grass-fed sources. Milk from pastured cows retains the ideal ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids, as well as higher levels of beta-carotene, and vitamins A and E. Choosing full-fat will ensure there is less sugar, more vitamins and minerals and keep you fuller for longer. Cows milk is higher in protein than any of its non-dairy counterparts.
Goat's milk is nutritionally similar to cow's milk, providing a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals without the fortification that the non-dairy milks require. Many people who cannot tolerate cow's milk are able to digest goat's milk without any problems.
When shopping for soymilk always check the ingredients for whole organic, soybeans, not soybean isolates. The controversy surrounding soymilk is due to the phytoestrogen content, which remains a complex and not fully understood issue. A normal dietary intake of high quality soymilk should not be problematic, however high intakes may therapeutically impact on the bodies own endogenous oestrogenic activity. Soymilk should be avoided by anyone with an underactive thyroid due to the goitrogen content of soybeans.
Almond milk is the most popular alternative to cow and soymilk but it is not their nutritional equivalent. Despite actual almonds being high in protein and essential fatty acids, its milk version is primarily water so it is very low in protein and nutrients. If you buy your almond milk packaged it will be fortified. Always look for an unsweetened variety, otherwise make your own at home.
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Coconut is the most nutritious of the non-dairy options and comes with the highest caloric value due to its significant fat content. It will provide the most energy and keep you fuller for the longest. It is creamier than rice or almond milk and works well for cooking and baking.
Oat milk is great alternative if you find coconut too rich as it is still creamy but contains less fat. Oat milk should be should be avoided if you have an allergy or intolerance to gluten.
Rice milk is the least nutritious of the non-dairy milk options but it is also the least likely to trigger allergies, so for some it is the best option. Made from milling rice and blending it with water, it is much higher in carbohydrates than the other non-dairy alternatives.
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