Milk

A Consumers Guide

Milk ~ Kitchen Tricks

It Does A Body Good

Don’t have a cow: this beverage now comes from many sources.

Nine out of 10 glasses consumed in the United States come from cows, but increasingly, North Americans are “opting” for other options.

For instance, sales of the goat’s variety more than doubled from 2003 to 2007 and the demand for “alternatives” (made from soy, rice, almond and even hemp) is at an all-time high.

Though you may drink these plant-based beverages in place of what a cow produces, technically, these drinks aren’t really milk as we have come to know it.

The reality is, the original beverage is a secretion from mammary glands and plants don’t have mammary glands.

In addition, plant-based variations don’t contain lactose, which is the sugar found in milk, and with the exception of the almond variety, they "naturally" contain only trace amounts of calcium.

And though many are fortified with calcium and vitamin-D, they may not be as nutritious.

You often don’t absorb as much of the nutrients as you do from cow’s milk, as an example, compounds in the soy variation, called phytates, may bind calcium making it less available to the body.

Still, for people who can't tolerate or choose not to consume a cow’s serving (as well as for those who just want to shake things up), plant-based varieties are healthful options that often provide unique benefits of their own.

Read more in our comparison chart and tasting opinions.

Comparison chart (per 1 c.)*

Cals...........Fat.........Protein.......Carbs.......Fiber.......Calcium......Vitamin D

Cow’s

80-150 - .5-8 g..........8-9 g.........12-13 g.......0 g..........30% DV.......25% DV

Goat's

90-150 - 2.5-8 g........7-8 g...........9-12 g.......0 g..........30% DV....to 30% DV

Soy

60-130 - 2-6 g........4-12 g...........5-15 g......0-4 g.....4-30% DV....to 30% DV

Rice

110-120 - 2.5 g.......20-24 g...................................2-25% DV....to 25% DV

Almond

60-80 - 2.5-4.5 g....2-9 g............5-11 g......0 g.......20-30% DV....to 25% DV

Hemp

110-130 - 3-7 g........4-5 g............6-20 g......1 g........2-46% DV....to 25% DV

*Data reflects a sample of 20 readily available types.

For plant-based types, we included only plain varieties, both sweetened and unsweetened, when available.

Tasting Notes

Cow’s

Nutrition notes: One cup provides a third of the recommended daily dose for calcium and 16% of the daily value for protein.

It’s a good source of vitamin-D (through fortification) and phosphorus, which build strong bones, as well as the B vitamin riboflavin.

Goat’s

Taste tips: Goat’s milk has a strong (tangy/sour) flavor.

Some people liken it to “drinking goat cheese.”

Nutrition notes: Like a cow’s beverage, a goat’s contains lactose, just a tad less.

Many suggest that people who are allergic to a cow’s drink can tolerate goat’s, but immunologists often advise those allergic to cow’s, should avoid goat’s too, because of cross-contamination risks.

Soy

Taste tips: If you’re looking for a drink comparable to cow’s milk, we recommend the sweetened soy variation.

Varieties labeled “unsweetened” tend to impart a “beany” flavor.

(If it’s not labeled “unsweetened,” generally it’s sweetened.)

Nutrition notes: Studies link soy’s protein and phytoestrogens with a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.

Choose a soy brand fortified with calcium and vitamin D (30% DV and 25% DV, respectively) and shake before you pour, as added nutrients can settle to the bottom of the carton.

Rice

Taste tips: From the standpoint of taste, texture and appearance, the rice beverage is hands-down, the best substitute for cow’s.

Nutrition notes: Rice beverage is lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates than cow’s and even soy.

It’s also a poor natural source of calcium so choose one that’s fortified with the mineral.

Almond

Taste tips: Almond beverage doesn’t taste much like cow’s milk, but if you’re looking for a plant-based drink with “inherently delicious” flavor, it’s worth a try.

Some brands (e.g., Westsoy Unsweetened Almond, Blue Diamond Almond Breeze) are “nuttier” than others.

Nutrition notes: Almond beverage is naturally high in calcium.

Purchase one that’s fortified with vitamin-D, too, for a nutrition profile similar to that of cow’s.

Hemp

Taste tips: Our testers’ comments ranged from “grainy and nutty” to “gritty, dirty and unacceptable.”

Hemp-based product is a poor substitute for a cow’s.

Nutrition notes: Hemp drink supplies high-quality protein (i.e., a good mix of amino acids) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid.

So, hopefully this info, brings you up to speed on the various types of this (usually) white bevy.

Now, armed with this wealth of info, you can make the educated choice for yourself and your family.

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