Milk is the first food our bodies require when we are less than hours old. At birth, breastmilk is clinically-proven to be the best source of nutrients required for growth; however, many parents are faced with the decision to choose the right formula or milk alternative for their baby. Adults are also faced with similar decisions for themselves when deciding which type of milk to choose. “Do I choose lactose-free or soy, 1% or whole, chocolate or white? And why so many options?”
Milk is an excellent source of nutrients, but there can be a significant variation in the calorie and fat amount depending on which type you choose. There are also many alternatives to cow’s milk available in the grocery store today, such as almond milk, which is made from straining almonds with water, or soy milk which is derived from soy beans. Organic milk, shelf-stable milk and even dry milk are some more options available. Many people have a preference for a certain type of milk based on taste, cost or even a health need; however making that decision is not always easy.
So which milk should I choose?
First, let’s review the nutrition content of some common milk products. See the chart below and notice how the amounts of each nutrient changes with each different product:
Next, think about your health goals. Are you trying to lose weight? Do you want to lower your cholesterol? Or are you simply looking for an inexpensive milk that tastes good? Now, consider if you have any health concerns that limit your ability to consume a certain milk product, such as lactose intolerance.
Now let’s look at a few recommendations to help you choose which milk is the best for you:
- For weight loss, choose lower calorie - 1%, Skim, Almond or Soy
- For heart health, choose lower saturated fat - 1%, Skim, Almond or Soy
- For bone health or depression, choose more Vitamin D and Calcium - Almond or Cow
- For a post workout recovery, choose more protein and carbohydrates - Cow’s milk
- For lactose intolerance, choose dairy free - Almond or Soy
- For ages 1-2 years old, choose higher fat for brain development - Whole (cow's) milk