Health & Lifestyle

Which Milk is Healthiest? Dairy, Oat, Almond, Soy, Rice, Coconut?

Pronami Chetia
Pronami Chetia

Milk is a nutrient-rich liquid food which is essential for human body. Moreover, Milk has been enjoyed throughout the world and mainly in India since ages. However, with changing times, people's priorities are also changing. Besides dairy milk, we have oat, almond, soy, rice and coconut milk available in the market.  These alternatives are suitable and healthy for people who are intolerant to dairy milk or have ethical or other personal preferences. 

So, it's really tough to decide which milk is best. Dairy milk tends to come out on top for nutrient quality, though soy is a good substitute from a nutrition perspective. But you need to remember that these alternatives aren’t technically kinds of milk, as they’re not derived from mammals.

Also, its important to take note of these differences when making a selection. Let's know about the nutritional differences and so that you can decide the best one for you.

(Research Source: Inverse)

Dairy milk

Milk provides us with important nutrients including calcium, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin (B2), zinc, phosphorus, and iodine. The quantity and quality of cow’s milk proteins is high, with both whey and casein containing all nine essential amino acids. Milk plays an important role in bone health and is a particularly rich source of dietary calcium.

Research investigating the ability of the body to absorb and utilize calcium determined the best-absorbed calcium source is dairy milk and its derivatives.

Although dairy foods do contain some saturated fats, the fat in dairy doesn’t seem to be overly problematic for heart health. A large study featuring people from 21 countries, published in 2018, found dairy consumption was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death.

Although dairy milk has a high nutritional value, there’s no reason why people need to drink it if they choose not to. All of the nutrients in milk can be obtained elsewhere in the diet.

Soy milk

If you’re seeking a dairy-free alternative, then soy is a good choice (though some people may be intolerant to soy). It’s made from ground soybeans or soy protein powder, water, and vegetable oils and is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals including calcium.

A 2017 study found soy fared considerably better than other milk alternatives including almond, soy, rice, and coconut varieties in terms of nutritional profile.

It typically contains more protein than other plant-based alternatives and contains healthy unsaturated fats and fiber.

Almond Milk

Nut drinks such as almond consist mainly of groundnuts and water. Despite almonds being a good plant source of protein, the almond drink is significantly lower in protein and calcium than dairy milk. Consumers should take care of an almond drink to ensure essential nutrients are met elsewhere in the diet.

In a 2017 survey of widely available commercial almond milk, consumer group Choice found almond drink contained only 2-14% almonds, with water being the predominant ingredient. It tends to be low in energy and saturated fat and contains some healthy unsaturated fats as well as vitamin E, manganese, zinc, and potassium.

Almond drink often contains added sugars. Terms to keep an eye on including those indicating added sugars, such as organic rice syrup, agave syrup, organic evaporated cane juice, raw sugar, or organic corn maltodextrin. It’s best to look for unsweetened varieties if you can.

Oats Milk

Oat milk is made by blending oats and water and straining off the liquid. It’s a source of fiber, vitamin E, folate, and riboflavin. It’s low in fat and is naturally sweet, containing double the carbohydrates of cow’s milk, so it may not be suitable for people with diabetes.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is low in protein and carbohydrates, and high in saturated fat. Some brands have added sugars. Similar to nut drinks, it doesn’t naturally contain calcium and isn’t a suitable substitute for dairy milk nutritionally.

Rice

Rice drink is produced from milled rice and water. It’s naturally high in carbohydrates and sugars, and has a high glycaemic index meaning the glucose is quickly released into the blood which may mean it’s not suitable for people with diabetes. It’s also particularly low in protein and needs to be calcium-fortified.

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