Sharon Rhodes, MS, RDN, LD
Question: I am confused by all of the varieties of milk in the grocery store. Between regular milk, coconut, soy and almond milk, I don’t know which is best for my family. Can you help me to make a healthy selection? Answer: Navigating the dairy case can be challenging for consumers as “milk” alternatives are more prevalent than ever in our supermarket aisles. Keep in mind that most plant-based milk alternatives are fortified to try to match cow’s milk unique nutrient package. Real milk is a nutrient powerhouse with nine essential nutrients, including calcium, potassium and vitamin D, which the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans identify as three of the four “nutrients of concern” lacking in American diets. Not all milk beverages are created equal. When reading the nutrition facts label, here are some things to consider: - The nutrient package: Compare the total fat, carbohydrates and protein amounts. For example, nut-based beverages can be ground from any nut and the most popular is almond. Almond beverages only supply 1 gram of protein per serving and lack many of the natural benefits found in almonds. Each 8-ounce glass of real milk provides eight times more high-quality protein, than a glass of almond beverage. - Naturally occurring nutrients vs. fortified: Naturally occurring calcium is easily absorbed by our bodies. Most milk alternatives have added calcium to try to mimic the naturally occurring calcium in real milk, which provides 30 precent of the daily value. - Ingredients list: Less is more! Sometimes, what you leave out is just as important as what you keep in. Non-dairy milks like almond and soy include 10 or more added ingredients, including added sugar and salt. Real milk, on the other hand, is pure and simple. For those with lactose intolerance, lactose-free milk is real cow’s milk, just without the natural milk sugar, lactose, and contains the same great nutrition as regular milk. Real milk offers more nutritional value than just about any other beverage you can buy. At about 25 cents per 8-ounce serving, milk is a bargain, especially when you consider all the liquid assets inside — protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and more.