What’s the healthiest type of milk?

What’s the healthiest type of milk?

If you’ve ever considered switching to a different type of milk, you know it’s not a simple decision.

With a wide variety of options including fat-free, almond, soy, coconut and rice – just to name a few – it can turn into a daunting task.

To help narrow down options, researchers recently revealed what type of milk you should reach for the next time you’re in the dairy aisle. The study, published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, compared the nutritional value of almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk and rice milk. They concluded that while cow’s milk is always the most nutritious, soy milk is your next best pick.

Carrie Ek, a nutritionist and registered dietitian at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, Ill., shares her thoughts on the milk debate.

“None of the plant-based milk alternatives are equivalent in nutrients to cow’s milk because they don’t naturally contain calcium,” she says. “When fortified with calcium, soy milk is the closest and is the best choice for a dairy replacement.”

Ek points out that the other options hardly contain any protein, which is essential for a young child. “When dairy is removed from a child’s diet, it leaves a big hole nutritionally. Milk provides a large portion of protein and almost all the calcium and vitamin D in their diet.”

If your child doesn’t tolerate milk and he or she has no dairy allergy, parents should consider purchasing lactose-free milk. Lactose-free products are made with real dairy but are easier to digest.

The amount of calcium a child needs for strong bones varies according to age, with children between 9 and 18-years-old requiring the most calcium, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommends that children in that age range consume 1,300 milligrams of calcium per day – equivalent to about four-and-a-half 8 oz. glasses of low-fat milk.

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  1. I am lactose intolerant and have been drinking calcium fortified soy milk for years. I have found, depending on what store you go to, lactose-free milk cost more than the soy milk. The soy milk is ultra pasteurized so unopened it stays fresh longer and I drink at least a gallon each week so I like to be able to stock up. The Silk Original is very good and the Vanilla is good too but adds a bit more sugar.

  2. Have you read the new research that shows soy milk is not recommended due to estrogen levels?
    Also, no human actually needs cows milk. Calcium can be obtained from other food sources such as vegetables and nuts. Ripple is a great milk alternative that actually has more calcium then milk, less saturated fat, and the same amount of protein.

    • I agree. I cannot drink soy milk because I had a lumpectomy that was hormone sensitive, and my doctors instructed me not to eat soy. I have to be careful what veggies I eat because I also have a salicylate allergy and salicylates are in EVERYTHING.

  3. This article addresses the need for children/teens but what about adults? I don’t like soy milk and I have thyroid issues so I prefer to avoid soy milk, what are my best choices?

  4. She completely ignored A2 milk which, among all dairy milk, is the healthiest.

  5. Cristian Hernandez March 9, 2018 at 1:26 pm · Reply

    Cow’s milk is not made or intent for human consumption, come on. I assume milk companies are “sponsoring” this “study”.

  6. Within regular dairy milk, what are the pros and cons of whole vs 2% vs 1% vs skim milk? I’ve heard various stories about some fat being necessary for proper digestion of all milk’s nutrients. But I don’t know the truth of this. I have personally opted for 1%.

  7. But there are also alternatives to cow’s milk when it comes to calcium. There is goat’s milk, for one. Or calcium fortified orange juice. Or a cup of cooked kale. Or a serving of sardines with edible bones. When it comes to protein, it is obvious that milk isn’t the only source for that.

  8. I read this because I wanted to know what was the best milk for me not a child, I’m 72. I don’t think cows milk is good for humans past puberty.

  9. Why are people talking about things other than milk in this comments section? This wasn’t the what is the best source of “X” nutrient article. It was about milk. Want to know why milk is great? Because it is a liquid, replenishable, calorie rich, nutrient rich, filling, and tasty. You know how many foods are like this? Not many, because mammalian milk evolved to be that awesome. Do adults need to drink it, not if they have sources to all these nutrients. But if they don’t then this is the hands down best way to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to calorie and nutrient density. When included in a balanced diet you can not go wrong with milk unless you have lactose intolerance.

    For people who are like, “that’s not made for humans”. Well guess what? Bananas, wheat, grapes, rice, corn, and ALL animals weren’t “made” for people to eat either. Humans are omnivorous and we can find and ingest many things. Its one of the perks of being human!

    And to answer Merri’s question. The % in milk really just boils down to caloric density. The fat is reduced with each product. If you wanted the nutrients, but not the calories or cholesterol then you pick the lower % milks. There is a taste difference because the fat is what give milk its “richness”.

    • I encourage you to eat entirely plant based for six weeks. You will find that it will not only change what you think, but moreover how you feel. Look up Dr. T. Colin Campbell.

  10. What about Almond Breeze Vanilla Regular is it good for you that all I drink now I use to drink soy but I found out that it is not good for women’s to drink something to do with not good for the breast.
    I am I wrong about that.

  11. Almond milk comes fortified with 10% or 45% calcium. Do your comparison again using the 45% kind, and I’ll bet almond milk passes soy. In any case, many people have to avoid soy (soy is not recommended for people with thyroid or gastrointestinal health issues).

  12. I guess anyone can be a nutritionist and spew erroneous information and propaganda. The only milk humans have to consume is breast milk as a baby. Aside from that, any other animal milk is solely intended for that particular animal’s offspring.

  13. Soy will certainly have GMO ‘s these days.

  14. I didn’t realize how controversial the topic of milk was until I saw how many comments were here for this article! If you can’t trust an article from a journal on nutrition or a nutritionist, the next best thing is to listen to a bunch of people who may have heard something from a neighbor or read a blip on a magazine. (sorry for the sarcasm, but half of you sound like conspiracy theorists living in shacks in the woods because you can’t trust the government. Ha!)

    Personally, I am glad the topic was discussed because I’ve wondered how other milks compared to cow’s milk and would like to hear a weigh-in from an adult nutritionist as well. I would think that the protein in cow’s milk is the second best reason for its consumption.

    • Go do some research and educated yourself. No one is acquiring information from neighbors, or a bunch of people who heard something or blips in magazines The anti milk comments are based on scientific study – specifically Dr. T. Colin Campbell (The China Study) and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease). There is no conspiracy. Big Pharma and Big Food companies do not care about our health. All they are worried about is profits.

    • There is actually plenty of evidence-based research available that supports the opposing side to this article. I am very surprised the most recent information is not being used in this article.

  15. Wow, another milk industry study! Can we stop being brainwashed? No human needs cows milk. Cows milk is for calves.

  16. I love cow’s milk and cow’s meat !!!!

  17. I have been learning about A1 and A2 milk. Most US cows milk is A1. It has a different protein that supposedly causes the digestive problem. A2 milk is more like breast milk. It has the proper digestible protein. Goat, sheep, camel milk is A2 milk. That’s why one is less likely to have digestive problems drinking goat milk. There are other forms of milk that can be eaten for calcium . . . Yogurt, cottage cheese, other cheeses like cheddar, swiss, colby, jack, etc. Although the more solid the “milk” the more salt it seems to vontain. Not good for those of us with hypertension.

About the Author

Julie Nakis
Julie Nakis

Julie Nakis, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs at Advocate Children's Hospital. She earned her BA in communications from the University of Iowa – Go Hawkeyes! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, exploring the city and cheering on the Chicago Cubs and Blackhawks.