August 15, 2011

By Julie Upton, RD

At any given time, my refrigerator has at least three different types of milk in it. I have cow’s milk for my family, soy milk for tea, and usually almond milk because it can have half the calories of skim milk, making it an easy way to cut calories without really giving anything up.

To compare cow’s milk to the new nondairy milk alternatives, here’s a look at what’s best for refrigerated and shelf-stable milk products.

Cow's milk
Skim (1-cup serving): 80 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 8 g protein, 30% of your daily value (DV) of calcium, and 25% DV vitamin D. Milk also offers potassium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin.

The skinny: Cow’s milk is loaded with nutrients and it’s also a natural source of whey protein and leucine, compounds that may provide benefits for burning fat and gaining muscle. Always choose skim or 1%, because 2% and whole milk are rich in saturated fat.

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Soy milk
Original flavor (1-cup serving): 100 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 30% DV calcium, and 30% DV vitamin D. Soy milk also offers vitamin A, iron, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B12, potassium, and magnesium.

The skinny: Soy milk is a fortified vegetarian option that provides the calcium and vitamin D of cow’s milk but is naturally lower in saturated fat. Plus, because it’s plant based, it provides beneficial compounds that may protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer.

Coconut milk
Original flavor (1-cup serving): 80 calories, 5 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 45% DV calcium, 25% DV vitamin D, and 50% DV vitamin B12.

The skinny: Coconuts are a source of medium-chain fatty acids, which are thought to be burned more readily as fuel rather than being stored as fat. However, since the research is not conclusive and coconut milk is rich in saturated fat, I wouldn’t make it my main source of milk.

Almond milk
Unsweetened Almond Breeze (1-cup serving): 40 calories, 3 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 45% DV calcium, 25% DV vitamin D, and 50% DV vitamin E. Almond milk also offers riboflavin, vitamin B12, and zinc.

The skinny: This is a calorie bargain because its first ingredient is water. Most almond milk varieties have more calcium than cow’s milk does. Like many of the other nondairy sources, almond milk is 100% lactose free.

Rice milk
Original flavor (1-cup serving): 120 calories, 2 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 30% DV calcium, 25% DV vitamin D, and 25% DV vitamin B12. Rice milk also provides phosphorus.

The skinny: Rice milk is considered the least allergenic of all milk products, and it's dairy- and nut-free. It is higher in calories and lower in protein than most other milk products.

Hemp milk
Original flavor (1-cup serving): 100 calories, 6 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 2 g protein, 30% DV calcium, 25% DV vitamin D, 25% DV riboflavin, and 25% DV vitamin B12. Hemp milk also provides phosphorus and magnesium.

The skinny: You won’t get the munchies after drinking this milk that’s made from the seeds of the edible part of marijuana plants. It is lower in protein than most other nondairy milk products.

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