With all of the influencers on social media posting their oat milk lattes and dairy free ice cream, it can be confusing to know what is actually healthy and what is just being over hyped. Lots of people are posting about how dairy is causing them inflammation and acne, while others are posting that dairy is an amazing source of protein, calcium and probiotics for gut health. So what is the truth here?
Let's unpack it:
Real dairy milk is full of fats, protein, calcium and vitamin B12. Essentially everything you need to keep your body healthy and happy. Most times, cow milk also has added vitamin D, which many of us are lacking. Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium and is very important to consume adequate amounts of both nutrients per day.
The main takeaway here is that cow's milk is just milk. There are no added sugars (unless you are buying chocolate milk), fillers, gums, etc. It is naturally thick and creamy while packing in protein and nutrients. The big reason cow’s milk has such a bad reputation is the fact that many people are being diagnosed with lactose intolerance. So, unless you are told by your doctors that you should stay away from lactose, cow's milk is actually ranked number 1 on the health scale according to dietitian Jessica Ball MS.,RD.
2. Soy milk
Soy is next on the list due to its similar nutrition facts to cow’s milk. It packs a protein punch while keeping sugars low and also has a high amount of calcium and vitamin B12. Not all brands will fortify with vitamin D so check the label if you want to purchase open with adequate vitamin D.
Some soy milks will also add in lots of sugar so try to purchase a plain unsweetened soy milk if possible.
3. Almond milk
Almond milk is another alternative milk that is usually just water, almonds, salt and fillers. It is very low in carbs and calories when looking at an unsweetened option. Almond milk is also high in calcium but lacks in the protein department. This was the OG alternative milk that put dairy free milks on the market. It has gone down in popularity but is always a solid option if you're lactose intolerant. Many people are allergic to nuts which makes almond milk a hit or miss.
4. Oat Milk
The milk that is all the rage right now, oat milk. People really enjoy oat milk for the taste and some people claim to think it is healthier. As I have mentioned throughout the blog, non-dairy milks are not healthier than cow’s milk or any dairy product. Oat milk is high in carbs, low in protein and is also mixed with fillers to get that thick consistency. Oat milk is typically higher in added sugars which is another thing to look out for. It is the highest in calories among the alternative milks coming in at 113 calories per cup of milk and is pretty low in calcium when compared to the other milks.
The shock to most people is that oat milk has the least nutritional benefits out of them all. It is basically all carbohydrates with little to no protein and almost always has a good amount of fillers and gums added to mimic cow’s milk. Not trying to tell you to never drink oat milk again, and if it is your favorite then go for it! But, if you are looking to choose one with a nutritional punch there are stronger options.
There are many other alternative milks like coconut, almond, and rice milk. The main takeaway from the milk debate is that if you prefer one milk over the other then drink it! There is no reason to be afraid of real dairy and cows milk, it is the most simple and natural milk on the market. Check with your doctor if you think you may have an allergy or intolerance to real dairy but if not then drink the milk you enjoy the most!
In the world of nutrition, it can often seem like there's a lot to figure out. It seems like everyone is trying to sell a specific diet or plan, but the truth is that everyone’s nutrition needs are unique. Know that you don't have to go on your nutrition journey alone. Check out www.emilyzorn.com to sign up for a free nutrition intro session where we can talk about creating a nutrition plan that works best for you.
For more in-depth nutrition information on a range of topics, tune into my podcast RDs vs BS available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or through the website www.rdsvsbs.com. Sugar is one chapter; let’s explore the rest together!