Walking around the grocery store, it’s easy to see that new dairy-free products are popping up on the shelves weekly. So what are the actual benefits that come from drinking these dairy alternatives?
Looking at the food labels, there are noticeable differences between the two. Almond and soymilk have fewer calories, fat, and sugar than regular 2% cow’s milk. One serving of cow’s milk has 130 calories while original almond milk has 60 calories. Almond milk also has half the fat and sugar of 2% cow’s milk (2.5 g fat compared to 5; 7 g sugar compared to 12). Another benefit is that these alternatives are plant-based, which means they contain no cholesterol unlike whole and low-fat cow’s milk. This is definitely a benefit to those individuals needing to watch their cholesterol content. And finally, the obvious benefit is that dairy alternatives are perfect for those who have lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. Because these products are fortified, they contain many of the same values of vitamins and minerals (specifically vitamin D and calcium) needed in a healthy diet.
Taking a look at the benefits of cow’s milk, it’s protein content is significantly higher than its’ dairy-free counterparts. Cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein per cup, soymilk typically contains 5 grams and almond milk contains just 1 gram. Cow’s milk is a natural source of bioavailable nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin B12. There are also low-fat and non-fat cow’s milk options for those who desire lower fat options.
While dairy and dairy alternatives both offer different benefits, one has not been scientifically proven to be more beneficial than the other. It is up to the consumer as to which source they prefer. Whether consumers choose dairy or non-dairy sources, it is important they include one of the two as part of a well-balanced diet in order to get enough of the essential nutrients well known to milk. For the best dairy option, choose low-fat (such as 1%). For the best dairy-free option, choose unsweetened flavors of soy or almond milk (and make sure there’s no sugar listed in the ingredients!) Below is a helpful image that compares each milk alternative in more detail:
photo credit: shutterstock.com