Got Milk

Friday, February 18, 2011 - 10:14am

Dozens of milk alternatives are now available. Which is best for you?

Michael Cohen and Melissa Van Orman have their reasons for skipping milk.

Cohen is lactose intolerant, so too much dairy gives him a stomachache.

Van Orman is a yoga instructor and health educator.

She believes avoiding animal products when possible is better for your health.

Fortunately, there are lots of alternatives.

Nutrition experts the increase in popularity of milk substitutes is due in part because to their lower calorie and fat contents, dairy allergies and vegan diets.

Registered dietitian Rebecca Stritchfield says there's no simple answer to which milk is best.

It often comes down to what you're looking for in your diet.

Soy is the most similar to cow's milk.

They're both high in protein and are typically fortified with extra vitamins and minerals.

Soy tends to have less sugar than milk, but Stritchfield says the sweetness in soy is typically added sugar.

"The sugar that's found in cow's milk is low on the glycemic index, so it's not going to cause a big spike in your blood sugar as added sugar would," she explains.

Rice and almonds milks don't have much protein, but both contain added sugar.

The difference here is in taste and calories.

A cup of rice milk has about 120 calories and a watery flavor.

Almond milk is smoother and creamier.

It has about half the calories of rice milk.

Coconut milk has a similar nutritional profile, but it also has saturated fat, about 5 grams, the same amount in cow's milk.

"The saturated fat in coconut milk is not as concerning as saturated fat that is literally found in fatty animal meats," Scritchfield says.

Hemp milk, created from hemp seeds, has a nutty flavor.

It has one thing the others don't.

It's one of the few non-animal sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Scritchfield says none of these products are the key to good health and weight loss.

She says focus on what you're having with the milk.

"For example, if you're having a high sugar cereal, it doesn't matter what you're dumping in it," she says.

Cohen and Van Orman say they've tried many of these products.

For them, it often comes down to taste.

"Flavor is a really important aspect when you're drinking milk. Any kind of milk," Cohen says.

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