The days when cow’s milk dominated the dairy aisle in the grocery store are long gone.  Now you can expect to see a wide variety of milk-by-name-only beverages crowding the shelves. In a previous article for The Scientific Parent, I addressed the nutritional differences between organic and regular milk. Today, setting aside the fact some people are allergic or intolerant to dairy, I’m going to look at the nutritional difference between cow and goat milks, as well as some popular plant and nut-based beverages sold in your local dairy case as “milk.”

For a basis of comparison I looked at and compared unflavored milks.  All amounts listed below are per an 8 ounce glass. Of course, due to the variety of products and brand differences from region to region, there may be variations in amounts listed below versus the ones available at your local supermarket, but I believe this gives a good baseline for discussion:

  • Cow (2% fat) – 122 Calories, 8 g Protein ,5 g Fat,11 g Carbohydrates (11 g Sugar), 285 mg Calcium
  • Goat (Meyenberg) – 140 Calories,8 g Protein,7 g Fat ,11 g Carbohydrates (11 g Sugar),300 mg Calcium
  • Soy (Silk) – 110 Calories,8 g Protein,4.5 g Fat ,9 g Carbohydrates ( 6 g Sugar),450** mg Calcium
  • Almond (Silk) – 30 Calories,1 g Protein,2.5 g Fat ,Less than 1g Carbohydrates (less than 1 g Sugar,450** mg Calcium
  • Flax Milk (Good Karma) – 50 calories, 5 g Protein, 2.5 g fat, 2 g Carbohydrates (0 g Sugar), 300 mg **Calcium
  • Coconut (Silk) – 80 Calories, Less than 1 g Protein, 5 g Fat ,7 g Carboydrates (6 g Sugar),450**  mg Calcium

** Calcium carbonate or Tricalcium Phosphate has been added to these milks to increase the calcium amount

There are a few things to consider when you select a beverage of this nature:

The protein amount: While milks from cows, goats and soybeans all have naturally occurring protein, the nut-based or plant-based milks are typically quite low in protein. Newer products have been introduced with added protein but seldom naturally have the same amount as you would get from the cow, goat or soy milks.

Additives: Read the ingredients and see what’s been added to the product you’re choosing. From salt and sweeteners, to vitamins, minerals, and gums aimed at thickening the consistency of the liquid, many of these plant or nut-based milks have to add in a number of ingredients to make it palatable. Don’t be surprised to see a fairly long list of ingredients in these products.

It’s also worth nothing that there’s a recent lawsuit alleging false advertising on the part of almond milk marketing campaigns, regarding the actual amount of almonds in almond milk.  Some sources say that the amount of almonds in almond milk may allegedly be only be about 2%.  

Price: Typically cow’s milk remains the most cost effective way to get the maximum amount of protein and calcium in an 8 ounce/1 cup serving of this entire grouping.

So what’s the bottom line?

With so many different options in the dairy case, it comes down to a combination of these qualifications and your personal preference. Just be sure you are making the best choice for your nutritional needs,  personal and taste preferences….and of course, your wallet!


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Categories: Food, Nutrition, + Infant Feeding