Guide to Different Types of Milk
Once, there was only full-fat cow’s milk. Today, the choice is mind-boggling –lactose-free, low-fat, sweetened soy milk, unsweetened coconut milk, rice, almond, cashew, oat… you name it, it’s probably on the market. And while having numerous choices can be a great thing, it can also make the shopping experience a little overwhelming. Whether you’re looking for the perfect skim milk for your coffee, plant milk for your cereal or the traditional full-fat version for your next dessert recipe, this guide is for you. Here, we cover all types of milk and talk about their nutrient profiles so you can decide easily which is better for you.
There are several types of cow’s milk, with full fat and low fat being the most popular ones. Read on to find out which type may be the best for you.
Full Fat Milk
For years, doctors have been telling us to avoid full-fat milk and instead opt for low-fat or skim versions. Now we know that full-fat milk not only has a number of health benefits, but is actually healthier than its lower-in-fat counterparts. How is this possible? Well, because full-fat milk is higher in calories than low-fat milk, many experts believed that avoiding it would reduce excess weight and lower diabetes risk. Turns out, consuming full-fat dairy actually lowers the risk of obesity and heart disease when compared to low-fat dairy! This is thanks to a host of beneficial micronutrients found in whole milk.
Nutrition: most whole milks contain between 2.5-5% of fat, all are quite rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iodine, calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients. In other words, quality (preferably organic) whole milk is one of the most nutritious foods out there. As for whole milk calories, they’re pretty high thanks to that fat content so you do need to be careful with both full-fat milk and full-fat dairy in general.
Low Fat and Skim Milk
Skim or low-fat dairy is similar to full-fat dairy in the sense that it comes from a cow and is relatively rich in protein and even richer in calcium. But, unlike whole milk, skim milk is low in calories, which is great news if you need to watch your weight.
Nutrition: as mentioned, both skim and low-fat dairy are lower in fat, typically containing between 1.3 -1.4% for low fat milk, and 0.15% for skim milk. Both types are rich in protein and lower in saturated fat than whole milk, but also lower in omega-3 fatty acids. That said, skim milk nutrition is slightly poorer than low-fat milk nutrition simply because it’s lower in fats, therefore even lower (practically non-existant) in omega-3s. However, both skim and low-fat dairy are slightly higher in calcium than full-fat milk.
If you’re lactose intolerant but still want to consume dairy, lactose-free milk is a fantastic option. This type of milk has had its lactose content – which is a type of sugar – completely removed, making it easier to digest, which is great news for folks who have lactose intolerance.
Nutrition: similar to other types of cow’s milk, lactose-free milk nutrition is great – pretty high in protein and various micronutrients, including calcium, riboflavin, phosphorus and vitamin B12. Many lactose-free milks are fortified with vitamin D as well, which is a huge plus. On the flip side, this type of milk tastes sweeter than other types of cow’s milk, which can make it a little tricky to pair with other foods and drinks.
The plant milk market is vast and growing. From soy to almond to coconut to rice milk, there seem to be countless flavors of milk out there. Which one is tastier, more nutritious and overall better?
Made from soybeans that have been ground and combined with plenty of water, soy milk is one of the most popular types of non dairy milk – for a reason. It’s stable, tastes pretty neutral, albeit a little sweet, making it perfect for a variety of dishes, foods and drinks. It’s also one of the richest-in-protein plant milks, with about 7 g per 8 ounces.
Nutrition: soy milk is relatively low in calories (certainly lower than both whole and low-fat milk), fat and therefore cholesterol, but is high in protein, so pretty nutritious when it comes to plant milks. Most are also fortified with calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. On the negative side, too much soy can lead to thyroid issues in people susceptible to thyroid disease, so balanced consumption is recommended.
When it comes to types of nut milk, almond is perhaps the most popular one. Made of ground almonds, and, of course, filtered water, almond milk has a pleasant nutty flavor that makes it perfect for coffee and other beverages. If you want to avoid excess sugar in your diet, we highly encourage you to choose only sugar-free types of almond milk.
Nutrition: almond milk is pretty low in fat, therefore cholesterol as well, but is also low in protein – about 2% per 8 fluid ounces. Most brands fortify their almond milk with calcium and vitamin D, and since it’s naturally lactose-free, it’s a fine choice for folks with lactose intolerance. That said, if you need more protein in your diet, almond milk may not be the best choice.
Made from rice and lots of water, rice milk is another popular non dairy milk, mostly because it’s the least likely to cause allergies. Thanks to its neutral taste, it’s fantastic in a variety of drinks and dishes, including coffee, tea, cereal and more. This milk is typically higher in calories than other types of plant milk though so you should be careful with consumption, especially with sweetened rice milk.
Nutrition: as mentioned, rice milk is higher in calories and carbs than other plant milks, and is also low, or rather nonexistent in protein. That said, it’s a good choice if you struggle with various food allergies as it’s the least likely of all non-dairy alternatives to offend.
Coconut milk is made from coconut cream (which is made from coconut flesh) and water. It’s naturally sweet, flavorful and fatty, so it’s perfect for all kinds of beverages. However, most coconut milks are sweetened, so you need to watch out for those added sugars and calories if you’re maintaining or trying to lose weight.
Nutrition: while relatively low in calories, coconut milk is pretty high in fat, and almost all of it is saturated. It’s also very low in protein and doesn’t contain calcium or vitamin D, but the good news is that most brands supplement their coconut milk with all important micronutrients.