Let's answer these murky (or is it milky?) questions by outlining the pros and cons of each type of milk. After you've read this article, you'll be able to reach into the cooler and make the right milk decisions.
1. COW'S MILK
The most common variety of milk consumed is cow's milk. Cow's milk is available in a number of milk fat percentages: skim (fat free), 1%, 2% and whole (where no fat has been removed).
Here's how they break down:
|1 Cup whole milk
|1 Cup 1% milk
|1 Cup 2% milk
|1 Cup skim milk
The drawback to cow milk is that it contains sugary lactose, which many people are intolerant to, causing a variety of negative side-effects. Cow milk is an animal product. Those who would like to refrain from consuming animal products would probably choose not to drink it.
Also, if you're watching your weight or saturated fat intake, whole milk is not the wisest selection because the calorie and fats counts are higher.
However, cow milk is great for anyone who can tolerate lactose and who has no issues consuming animal products. By adjusting the fat percentage (skim, 1%, etc.), if necessary, cow milk can be a part of any diet plan.
2. ALMOND MILK
Vegetarians looking for a cow milk substitute can rejoice. Almond milk might be just the ticket.
Here's the breakdown:
|1 Cup Almond Milk
Almond milk is good for those who can't drink cow milk and who are looking for weight maintenance or muscle gain. Also, many people prefer almond milk's sweet taste to that of cow's milk. It also offers a healthy dose of calcium.
On the downside, almond milk, despite containing 60 calories per cup, doesn't have an ideal macronutrient profile for someone looking to lose weight. It's not a great protein source and is high in sugars, eliminating it as a go-to choice for low-carb dieters.
3. COCONUT MILK
Another delicious alternative to cow milk is coconut milk. Here are the stats:
|1 Cup Coconut Milk
Coconuts are high in saturated fats, but the fat comes from medium-chain triglycerides, which are not nearly as harmful as saturated fats. Coconut fats also offer some great health benefits. For example, the fats found in coconut can be used immediately as an energy source by the working muscle tissues.
The drawbacks to coconut milk are the calorie count and low calcium content.
So the take-home message for coconut milk is that you shouldn't consider it a protein source but rather a fat source. And, if you do choose to add it to your diet, use careful portion control. A quarter cup would be a more appropriate serving size than a full cup and would then offer about the same calories as a cup of cow milk.
So who's coconut milk best for? Coconut milk can be used for people seeking fat loss or muscle gain provided the serving size is adapted to meet your total daily calorie needs and is accounted for in the fat portion of the diet. Despite its higher calorie level, it's still beneficial for fat loss because the body can derive instant energy from the fat.
4. SOY MILK
Soy milk is a popular choice among vegetarians or people who are lactose intolerant; comes in a wide variety of flavors. The nutrition of soy milk is comparable to 2% cow milk, so the two may be easily interchanged.
Here's the breakdown:
|1 Cup Soy Milk
Soy milk is rich in calcium and is a source of healthy fats. However, one of the drawbacks is that soy milk may have negative side effects for men, so some may want to look elsewhere for a milk source.
So who is soy milk best for? Soy milk is a great option for vegetarians and those who are struggling to get enough calcium in their diet. Soy milk doesn't contain cholesterol, so it's also good for people who watch their intakes to promote optimal heart health.
Now that you have some of the basic facts about milk, you can make your own decision about how to satisfy your craving for something creamy.