Which Type Of Milk Is Best For You?

by Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Last Updated: September 29, 2020

In recent years, the dairy aisle has evolved and exploded with a variety of new options and milk alternatives that may leave you with many questions. Whether you’re looking to experiment with plant-based alternatives for dietary reasons or wanting to try out different options, we’ve got the breakdown of how these milk varieties stack up against each other.

Cow’s milk
Cow’s milk is jam-packed with key nutrients including, calcium, vitamin A, potassium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Cow’s milk is one of the most commonly consumed foods and can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is a great nutritious option for both adults and children who do not have lactose intolerance or a milk allergy. The average adult should choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products to help limit the amount of saturated fat in their diets. Foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol can have health implications, like raising your “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood, which increases the risk of heart disease.

An 8-ounce serving of 1% milk provides the following:
  • Calories: 100
  • Total fat: 2.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 12g
  • Protein: 8g
  • Calcium: 300 mg
  • Vitamin A: 150 mcg
  • Vitamin D: 2.5 mcg

Soy milk
Nutritionally, soy milk is the plant-based alternative that is closest to cow’s milk. Soybeans are a great source of complete protein, and soy milk is fortified to resemble the nutritional profile of cow’s milk. Soy milk is an excellent choice if you’re looking to avoid or limit dairy in your diet, but want to make sure you’re getting a higher protein option. Choosing unsweetened varieties of soy milk will help limit added sugars in your diet.

An 8-ounce serving of unsweetened soy milk provides the following:
  • Calories: 80
  • Total fat: 4g
  • Carbohydrates: 3g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Calcium: 300 mg
  • Vitamin A: 150 mcg
  • Vitamin D: 3 mcg

Almond milk
This trendy non-dairy alternative is made by soaking almonds in water and then blending and straining out the solid bits. This is a tasty option that is ideal for those who are allergic to soy, lactose intolerant, or searching for something new. It has a similar creamy consistency to soy milk and a slightly nutty flavor that works well in smoothies. Almond milk is high in vitamin E, a nutrient that promotes healthy skin. However, with only 1-2 grams of protein per 8-ounce cup, compared to the 7 grams found in soy milk and 8 grams in cow’s milk, almond milk is not considered a good source of protein.

An 8-ounce serving of unsweetened almond milk provides the following:
  • Calories: 40
  • Total fat: 3g
  • Carbohydrates: 2g
  • Protein: 1g
  • Calcium: 50 mg
  • Vitamin A: 90 mcg
  • Vitamin D: 5 mcg

Oat milk
The newest plant-based variety to hit the market, oat milk is a good choice for those with allergies and intolerances, as it’s naturally free of lactose, soy, nuts, and gluten (if made from certified gluten-free oats). This milk is made from strained oats, so you’re not receiving the exact same nutrients as you’d get from eating a bowl of oats. Oat milk is often enriched with nutrients that are lost in the straining process. It provides a smooth and full flavor, similar to that of nut milk. Compared to other types of milk, oat milk generally has more calories, carbohydrates, and fiber than the milks mentioned above, while providing less protein than soy and dairy varieties. Like most plant-based alternatives, we recommend choosing an unsweetened or low-sugar variety to maximize the health benefits.

An 8-ounce serving of oat milk provides the following:
  • Calories: 80
  • Total fat: 1.5g
  • Carbohydrates: 14g
  • Protein: 4g
  • Calcium: 18 mg
  • Vitamin A: 180 mcg
  • Vitamin D: 0 mcg

Consuming dairy products provides an array of health benefits, including improved bone health and the potential to help maintain healthy blood pressure. When choosing a dairy or dairy alternative, it’s important to consider your specific nutritional needs to make the best decision. If you’re unsure what to choose, make an appointment with a Kroger Health Dietitian today.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.

Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria Le Maire, RD, LD

Victoria is a dedicated dietitian with a love for helping others develop a positive relationship with food, while setting realistic goals. Victoria has professional experience with various conditions such as strokes, diabetes and weight management. She strives to make a nutritious lifestyle attainable for all. You can catch Victoria scratch-cooking at home, trying new workouts at her local gym or spending time with her dog, Jack.