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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Milk Vs Coconut Milk, Almond Milk

Many parents today fail to give their kids milk at meals.  Some even serve water thinking water is actually healthier than milk.  Odd since milk has water in it and one doesn’t need to serve a kid water when milk is served at the meal.   It is great that the new MyPlate shows a glass of milk with meals.  But many people choose milk alternatives.  Some because they are lactose intolerant.  Lactose is the naturally present sugar in milk that some people have trouble digesting so regular milk can lead to stomach upsets for them.  Others, have heard “coconut milk” is healthy so they forgo regular milk and have jumped on the coconut milk bandwagon.  So what are the pros, cons and nutritionally differences in milks versus milk alternatives?  Consumer Reports in their September issue did a great review of the various milk alternatives and their nutrition strengths and weaknesses.  Consumer Reports noted that up to 21% of Americans are drinking milk alternatives.  Unfortunately, they also report that 15% of Americans are buying less milk or none at all.  This week, we’ll look at Cow’s Milk, Coconut Milk and Almond Milk.  Next week we’ll focus on Soy milk, rice milk and Hemp milk. 

Cow’s Milk up to 2 years of age, most children should drink whole milk at meals.  However, WebMD notes that some doctors may recommend 2% milk if the child is overweight.  After 2 years of age a child should be switched to fat-free or low fat milk.    Teenagers, adults should also choose fat-free or low fat milk to reduce our intake of saturated fats. 
    Pros:  Protein, Calcium and Vitamin D
  •   Protein – muscle-building, high quality protein.  Milk offers a higher quality protein than meat.
  •    Calcium – our bones need calcium and milk is a rich source of bone-building calcium. 
  •   Vitamin D – milk has vitamin D added to it and an important source of vitamin D in our diets.  So many adults and children are low or deficient in vitamin D.   
  • Saturated fat – whole milk has saturated fat.   So choose low fat or fat-free milk.
  • Lactose – this natural milk sugar is not a problem for most people.  However, some people are low or lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose so choosing a lactose free milk is a good alternative for them.
  • Milk protein allergies – not as common but some children and adults can be allergic to the protein in milk.
Coconut milk found in cartons in the dairy case – unsweetened or original 

    Pros:  Water is added so this beverage matches the water and fat content of cow's milk.  
Usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D, but read the label to be sure. 

    Cons:  NO Protein, Saturated Fat
  • NO protein – ZERO PROTEIN.  So not a good choice as a cow’s milk replacement.  And not a good choice to replace cow’s milk in a child’s diet.
  • Fat – fat-free is not an option.  The fat content is more like 2% or whole milk.  The fat is mostly saturated so not a heart healthy choice. 
 Almond Milk -  since it is made from almonds and water it is lower in both calories and fat than cow’s milk.  Make sure the milk is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.       Pros:  Lower in fat and calories than cow’s milk.    
      Cons:   Very low in protein.  Some brands add sugar so read the label.  
Per Cup
Vitamin D
Cow’s Milk 1%
8.2 grams
2.4 grams
305 mg
100 IU
Coconut Milk
0 grams
4.5-5 grams
Varies by brand:  2 mg, 38 mg, to >400 mg.
0 to 100IU, read label to see if fortified with vitamin D
Almond Milk
<= 1 gram
2-2.5 grams
Read label, plain almond milk 2mg, Silk >400 mg.
0- 100 IU,
read label to see if fortified with vitamin D


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