Ask the Expert: Milks

You want to know: Moooove over, cow’s milk. Over the last several years, an outpouring of alternative “milks” has filled up grocery store refrigerators, great news for anyone with a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy as well as those who simply want to drink in some fresh options. But which ones fit a healthy diet?

The dietitian says: Across the board, most milks are fortified with vitamins. Some plant-based milks also have additives to give them a richer texture. Since every milk type has both pros and cons, there’s not one best option, though you should go for the unsweetened versions wherever possible. When it comes to choosing the right milk for you, consider what your body tolerates, what you enjoy and what fits into your own balanced diet.

(Left to right) Almond Milk – Available in sweetened and unsweetened varieties, this low-calorie milk fits within a plant-based diet. While not a protein source, most commercial brands are fortified with calcium; Cow’s Milk – While it does have natural sugar, this milk boasts the fewest ingredients and the most protein. Fat content determines the number of calories per serving. Most individuals over age two don’t require whole milk; Oat Milk – Another plant-based option, this dairy-and-nut-free blend of oats and water contains very few ingredients, but may include added sugar. It’s also fairly easy to make at home, though the fresh liquid won’t last as long as other plant-based milks.
(Left to right) Coconut Milk – Often used for cooking,this low-carb plant-based milk is free from allergens but does contain more saturated fat than cow’s milk; Soy Milk – With a protein punch similar to that of cow’s milk, this plant-based option also contains little saturated fat and comes sweetened or not. Soy is, however, a common allergen.

The takeaway: Deciding which milk will do your body good depends on your goals. When allergies are a concern, opt for oat or coconut milk, as almond, soy and cow’s milk land among the top eight major allergenic foods. If you’re trying to improve heart health, consider a low-fat cow’s milk or unsweetened plant-based milk other than coconut milk. For a dose of protein, turn to soy or cow’s milk.