HealthChoosing the right milk for you. The health benefits and drawbacks of cow, oat, soy and almond milk

Choosing the right milk for you. The health benefits and drawbacks of cow, oat, soy and almond milk

The healthiest milk? A doctor advises on which is best to drink.
The healthiest milk? A doctor advises on which is best to drink.
Images source: © Getty Images | bea8476

11:57 AM EST, January 15, 2024

Benefits of good milk

Cow's Milk

Cow's milk is a rich source of protein, calcium, vitamins D & B, phosphorus, and iodine. Regularly consuming cow's milk can improve bone health, promote growth and muscle regeneration, and enhance overall health. However, it's not suitable for everyone- specifically those with lactose intolerance, a cow's milk protein allergy, or irritable bowel syndrome.

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Oat Milk

Popular amongst vegans, oat milk is fiber-rich. It can also provide vitamins A, D, and B12 and calcium, iron, and phosphorus when adequately fortified. Unlike dairy, the minor amounts of phosphorus in oat milk do not hinder calcium absorption, making it a potentially superior source of this nutrient.

Routine consumption can improve heart health, lower cholesterol levels, prevent anemia, and enhance the immune system. However, people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance might need to avoid it due to the chance of gluten contamination. For those gluten-intolerant, some brands offer gluten-free drinks clearly marked on their packaging.

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Soy Milk

Unsweetened soy milk is a low-calorie plant-based source of protein with a good amino acid profile. It also offers significant amounts of folic acid, potassium, and vitamin B12. When adequately fortified, it contains calcium and vitamins A & D. Regular consumption can lower cholesterol, reduce post-menopausal bone loss and lessen bisphenol A's negative impact on female fertility.

It should be avoided by men with significantly low testosterone levels and people with estrogen-dependent cancers. Individuals with hypothyroidism, or those on medication, should wait at least four hours between taking their medication and consuming soy milk due to its interference with absorption.

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Almond Milk

Low-calorie and low-fat almond milk contains good-quality fiber and is a natural source of vitamins E, D, B2, and B12. Drinks fortified with it also provide additional doses of calcium. However, its phytic acid content can interfere with zinc, magnesium, and iron absorption.

Regular consumption can help maintain heart health, skin health, and the nervous system. Yet, those with a nut allergy or kidney stones should avoid it.

Choosing the Best Milk

According to dietitian Marcela Fiuza, the choice of milk depends on one's metabolism, nutritional needs, and diet. Cow's milk, with the highest nutritional value, is the closest to soy milk in terms of nutritional profile amidst plant-based alternatives, she explains.

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