For whatever reason people sometimes choose to cut milk from their diet. Whether they are lactose intolerant, have decided to become a vegan, or otherwise wish to limit their lactose intake, alternatives to cow’s milk such as almond, rice and soy, are currently widely available in both whole food stores and regular supermarkets. So which alternative to cow’s milk is right for you and what are the health benefits of each? This article will group specific health concerns and detail how each other the three milk alternatives; almond, rice, and soy; compare.
Depending on how active someone is on a daily basis, people must consume calories in order to ensure they have the proper energy to get through the day. Professional athletes aside, most people must consume a number floating around 2,000 calories a day.
When it comes to milk, varieties do not offer a considerable difference in calories. While it’s true healthy alternatives to cow’s milk contain less calories per serving (1 cup) than cow’s milk itself, the differences between alternatives are not staggering. However, of the three alternatives discussed today, rice dream is the heaviest in calories, giving 120 calories per serving. As this is only 10 calories shy of that found in typical 2% cow’s milk, and 40 calories higher than that found in skim milk, rice milk is not necessarily the healthiest alternative to regular cow’s milk if someone is concerned about calories.
Although rice milk is not the most healthy alternative to the calories found in regular cow’s milk, both soy and almond milk do offer more healthy differences. The lesser healthy alternative of the two, soy milk contains 90 calories per serving which is 40 calories less than that which is found in 2% cow’s milk. Therefore, if someone is a heavy milk drinker, switching to soy milk may save them a significant number of calories by the end of one week.
However, the healthiest alternative to regular cow’s milk, and by a long shot, is almond milk. Most almond milk, such as Almond Breeze, contains only 40 calories per serving. That is to say, almond milk has 40 calories less then skim milk and 90 calories less than 2% cow’s milk. To put this into context, if someone who drank one glass of milk every day were to switch from 2% cow’s milk to almond milk, by the end of one week they would have saved themselves 630 calories, quit a significant difference in improving a healthy diet.
Fat and Cholesterol
In addition to providing insulation and helping the epidermis stay waterproof, fat is an important nutrient of a healthy diet because it assists in the absorption of Vitamins A, D, E, and K. Therefore, if someone is experiencing a deficiency in any of those vitamins, fats can sometimes assist in collecting more.
However, though there are differences in the fat content of almond, rice, and soy milk, they are not especially significant when compared against one another. Furthermore, none are a healthier alternative to skim milk (unless, obviously, someone is lactose intolerant), which contains no fat per serving. However, almond, rice and soy milk contain 3, 2.5 and 4.5 grams of fat per serving, respectively and depending on the specific brand, may match or be a slightly healthier alternative to 1% and 2% cow’s milk.
There is no difference between the cholesterol related health benefits of drinking almond, rice, and soy milk. Fortunately, that is because all three contain absolutely no cholesterol, making all three equally healthy alternatives to cow’s milk, which contains 7% of the recommended daily value of cholesterol at worst. Though research once suggested that soy milk could help significantly reduce cholesterol, recent studies have concluded that while soy milk may assist in lowering cholesterol, it is to a minimal degree and only noticeable in frequent drinkers of milk. Therefore, soy milk may be the healthiest of the three cow’s milk alternatives, depending on someone’s habits. However, if soy milk is coupled with other small measures to fight against high levels of cholesterol, it may be an ingredient in creating a more healthy diet.
Carbohydrates, Fiber, and Protein
Both almond and soy milk are healthier alternatives to cow’s milk in terms of avoiding carbohydrates. Regular milk, regardless of whether it is skim or 2%, contains roughly 12% of the recommended daily value of carbohydrates whereas soy milk contains only 5 grams and almond milk, the most healthy alternative of the two types of milk, contains only 2 grams (1%) of the daily recommended value of carbohydrates. However, within this context rice milk is not a healthy alternative to regular milk. Containing 23 grams and 8% of the recommended daily value of carbohydrates, rice milk contains roughly twice of that found in skim, 1%, or 2% milk.
Milk is generally not a significant source of fiber, regardless of type, and is usually unhealthy when analyzed in this context. Regular cow’s milk contains no fiber and neither does rice milk. However, almond and soy milk are slightly more healthy, containing 1 and 2 grams, respectively. As The American Heart Association recommends about 15 grams of fiber daily, and the American Dietetic Association recommends upwards of 35 grams per day, drinking almond and rice milk may contribute to a small percentage of fiber necessary in a healthy diet.
Like fiber, the varieties of regular cow’s milk do not differ in terms of servings of protein; all types of cow’s milk have about 16-18% the protein necessary for a healthy diet. This means that both almond and rice milk are not healthy alternatives to regular milk in terms of protein, for both contain only 2% per serving. However, soy milk contains 7 grams of protein, which is roughly the same amount per serving found in skim and 1% milk, though a little less. Therefore, no significant loss in health is lost with the consumption of soy milk in terms of protein.
Sugar and Sodium
Cow’s milk contains 12 grams of sugar regardless of type. Therefore, almond and soy are healthy alternatives, as the former contains only 1 gram of sugar while the latter contains none. In this case, however, rice milk is almost just as unhealthy as regular milk, as it contains 10 grams of sugar per serving.
There is not a grand difference between the levels of sodium found in almond milk (6%) and rice milk (4%). However, soy milk contains almost no sodium at all. Although this difference is not large, it could be important to someone attempting to cut sodium from their diet altogether, in which case soy milk would be the healthiest alternative to regular milk.
Of the most well known vitamins, soy milk is the overall less healthy milk alternative of the three. Though both almond and rice milk contain 10% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin A, and 25% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin D, soy contains no Vitamin A or D. However, when considering lesser known vitamins, soy milk suddenly seems much more healthy than almond or rice milk. Containing 25% of the recommended daily value of Thiamin (Vitamin B1), 9% of the recommended daily value of Riboflavin (B2), 2% of the recommended daily value of Niacin (B3), and lastly, 5% of the daily recommended value of Vitamin B6, soy milk outshines almond and rice milk, which contain none of these vitamins essential for a healthy diet.
Neither almond, rice, or soy milk contains Vitamin C (that’s what orange juice is for!).
Of the minerals necessary for a health diet, soy milk has the most iron (8%) when compared to almond (2%) and rice milk (4%), the most magnesium (20%) when compared to almond (4%) and rice (0%), and the most copper when compared to almond (0%) and soy (0%). However, rice dream is the healthiest milk alternative in terms of phosphorus at 15% per serving whereas almond and rice contain 2% and 0%, respectively. However, almond and rice milk contain 20% and 30% of the recommended daily value of calcium where as soy milk contains only 8%, making soy milk less healthy in this case.
So Which Milk Is Healthier?
Of the three milk alternatives discussed, each seems to offer different health benefits. Someone quick to drink whatever has the lesser calories and a decent amount of core vitamins and minerals may grab some almond milk while someone more interested in magnesium, copper, and less sodium may find soy milk more refreshing. Still, someone looking for more calcium, phosphorus, and Vitamin B12 may find rice milk most healthy. Health benefits of these three types of milk depend upon the health goals of everyone personally and what they feel they most need from their serving of milk. Hopefully this article has provided enough information to guide such decisions and help lead to a more healthy life.