Which Type of Milk Is Right for You?

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The demand for alternatives to dairy milk has grown significantly over the past 30 years. Whether you're shopping for a substitute due to medical necessity, personal preference, health, sustainability, or cost concerns, switching to a different dairy or non-dairy milk can be confusing. With more and more options on the market, it can be difficult to decide which is best for you. I'm here to help. 

Nondairy milk consumption has steadily grown about 11% each year since 1999, while consumption of cow's milk has declined 25% since 1975. There are a few reasons for this change in demand.

The Reason for the New Milks

1. DAIRY INTOLERANCE
A substitute for dairy has become a medical necessity for many people. The prevalence of food allergies has increased almost 20% since 1997. (Many also believe sensitivity or intolerance to foods has increased, although that is harder to diagnose and quantify.)

2. SHIFT IN PERCEPTION
Cow's milk is not necessarily the nutritional gold standard anymore. Many feel that nondairy milks are better for them—but choices should be based on an individual's health and needs.

3. PUSHING PLANTS
Consumers as a whole (from vegetarians to meat-eaters) are seeking more plant-based foods to use in place of meat and dairy. Motivation may stem from health, sustainability, or cost concerns; switching to a nondairy milk is an easy way to incorporate more plant-based foods.

4. CONCERNS ABOUT HORMONES
While the FDA has deemed conventional farming practices safe, many people still question the safety of hormone-like drug and antibiotics given to animals that produce milk.

The Newest Milks on the Market and What's Next

DAIRY MILK

  • Filtered Milk One of the newest products to hit the market. Filtering concentrates the nutrients in milk by removing water; one cup of filtered has up to 50% more protein, up to 30% more calcium, a creamier mouthfeel, and a richer taste compared to unfiltered milk.
  • Grass-Fed Organic Milk For milk to be labeled organic, the cows must get at least 30% of their diet from grass-grazing. Grass-fed organic milk differs from standard organic in that it comes from cows whose diets are exclusively grass.

NONDAIRY MILK

  • Peanut Milk The National Peanut Board confirmed development is under way, but there's no release date yet. This milk will have around 8g protein per cup—an amount currently only found in soy and pea milks for the nondairy crowd.
  • Plant and Grain Blends Manufacturers are blending coconut, legumes, nuts, seeds, and grains for new flavors.
  • Added Protein Many nut and grain milks are low in protein, so several brands now offer "protein" or "boosted" versions. The added protein usually comes from peas and bumps protein to about 8g per cup.

The Skinny on Sugar and Milk

Original, unsweetened, vanilla—the options are plentiful, and added sugars are different for each. Here's a breakdown of approximate added sugar amounts in the different milks; aim for less than 10g.

NO ADDED SUGAR
Plain dairy milks, nondairy milks labeled "unsweetened"

5-7G ADDED
Most nondairy milks labeled "original"

8-9G ADDED
Vanilla-flavored dairy and nondairy milks

16-17G ADDED
Chocolate-flavored dairy and nondairy milks

The Final Word on Raw Milk

Some people claim nutrients and good bacteria are lost when milk is pasteurized, making raw milk a healthier choice. But research suggests little to no nutrients are actually lost, and the CDC warns raw milk can contain harmful bacterial like E. coli and salmonella. Best to play it safe. (Above content pulled my from feature with Cooking Light here.)

So Which Type of Milk Is Right for You?

You can see with all of the options listed above that determine what milk is best for YOU can be more difficult than it seems.  In fact, one Birmingham grocery store had over 72 options for milk.  SEVENTY-TWO!!!! Don't get discouraged though.  Figuring out what works best for you is actually pretty simple.

Click here to see my feature in Cooking Light, where I give you pros and cons for each type of milk as well as break down each option by nutrition, price, and taste so you can sip with satisfaction.