Friday, September 7, 2012

Do Almonds, Soybeans and Coconuts really Got Milk?

There are so many different "Milk" products out there on the market.  Are the manufacturers really milking the consumers?  Read on and then tell me what you think, because I will tell you my opinion.

Good old fashioned cow's milk. It is naturally high in protein as well as a very high quality protein (we must not forget about protein quality in terms of essential amino acids which our body cannot make). You get approximately 8g Protein per 8 oz of cow's milk..

In addition to the protein, cow's milk is a major source of Calcium and Vitamin D. Naturally high in calcium and fortified with Vitamin D (which our body needs to efficiently absorb the calcium).

If you are worried about fat and need...a glass of skim milk (fat free) has 0 fat and about 80 calories per 8 oz.  If you aren't crazy about the taste of skim milk you can go to the slightly higher fat alternative, 1%  which is 102 calories and has 2 grams of fat and 2 grams of saturated fat per 8 oz.  Skim or Fat Free is recommended to keep in line with healthy eating according to all the experts.

What if you are Lactose Intolerant (you cannot digest the lactose or carbohydrate component in milk)? What if you have a Milk Allergy and cannot tolerate the protein?  Are you a vegan? Or, what if you just want to go "dairy free"?

It is necessary to look at another alternative!   Soy milk, which is made from soybeans,  is pretty much equal to that of cow's milk in protein quality and quantity.  It is lactose free and casein free (which is usually the source of protein based milk allergies from cows milk) Since it is a plant source, it is a viable choice for vegans. 
 The natural source of calcium found in soy milk is about1/6 as much as cow's milk so it is fortified with calcium and vitamin D as well as B vitamins. 
Soy milk comes in different varieties pertaining to fat and sugar content so you need to read your labels and make sure you are comparing apples to apples or should I say fat free soy milk to fat free cows milk. If you choose a variety of soy milk that contains fat, know that it is the "good" fat (unsaturated) when compared to the saturated fat found in 1%, 2% and whole cows milk.There is also no cholesterol in soy milk (cholesterol is only found in animal foods).

What about almond "milk"?  Does it make the grade? You tell me.  The protein content in almond milk is minimal, just 1 gram of protein per 8 oz (that would be about 4 almonds!). Almost all the "milk" is fortified with Calcium, Vitamin D and B vitamins (nothing naturally occurring there). What about sugar content? Most Almond "milk" has added sugars to sweeten for taste, so anything above the natural sugars found in cows milk (12 g/8 oz serving) is something to question. Again, you have to read your labels! Yes almond "milk" is low in calories, about 40 calories per 8 oz and it is mammal free, lactose free and casein free....BUT IS IT REALLY MILK?  I don't think so! Think of it as 4 almonds, crushed up with water and sugar and some vitamins and minerals thrown into the mix.

Lastly, I have to mention coconut milk, because people ask me about this all the time. Do not confuse this with coconut water (which is another blog, another day). What I will say about coconut milk is that it is extremely high in calories, 552 calories/ 8 oz, high in fat and SATURATED fat (coconut and palm oil, our tropical oils are high in SATURATED fat!), 51 grams of saturated fat compared with 5 grams in whole cows milk!!!  WOW! That's all I need to say about coconut milk.

There are many other designer milks out on the market today impersonating cows milk but skim milk is the way to go unless you have a reason to switch to a plant source, and for that I would recommend soy.


If you have trouble adding fat free cow or soy milk to your diet try foaming up a little milk to add to coffee/espresso. Fat free milk foams up better than whole milk.. You can do it with hot coffee or iced coffee.  There are tons of milk frothers Froth Au Lait Mini Hot Milk Frother (Google Affiliate Ad) and foamers Capresso Froth Pro Automatic Milk Frother (Google Affiliate Ad)out on the market today that range in price to make it an affordable, viable option to help you GET MILK.

Eat low sugar cereals Advantus SN13896 Cheerios Breakfast Cereal, Single-Serve 1.3oz Cup, 6 Cups/Pack (Google Affiliate Ad) in the morning or for a snack with sliced bananas and skim milk.

Use a blender KitchenAid Black 5-Speed Blender (Google Affiliate Ad) or a hand blender Cuisinart Smart Stick Stainless Steel Hand Blender & Chopper (Google Affiliate Ad) to whip up a smoothie with fresh/frozen fruit, skim milk, some ice cubes and yogurt (add some flax seeds and you really have a healthy breakfast or snack).


  1. Can't wait to hear what you have to say about coconut water!

  2. Skim milk may be the way to go, but what about when baking/cooking? I find that most often whole cow's milk has better results.

    1. Lynn, you can definitely substitute a lower fat milk in your recipes, but, yes, there may be a slight taste difference. Depends on the recipe!

  3. This is a good article, I'm lactose intolerant and my stomach gets destroyed if I drink regular milk. This article really helpted to inform me of my different options. Jorge Madan

  4. This is a great article! I found it useful since I've switched to coconut&almond milk. Soy milk makes my skin break out a lot. I have not considered going back to drinking cow milk after hearing a nutritionist's speech. She talked about how baby mammals are the only ones who should be consuming milk because once we grow up we no longer need it. She said humans are the only mammals to still do so as grown ups. Green leaves, tofu, she said, can give us sufficient calcium with no need of sabotaging calves source of food and she went on with more details regarding the suffering this animals undergo, but that might be aside from the main subject (do we really need milk as grown ups). I would like to know what your opinion is on this matter professor. Thanks a lot!
    Vanessa Orellana
    WCC Nutrition Class

    1. Vanessa, there are a lot of factors to consider when answering your question. First, to answer the question, do we need milk as grown ups, we need calcium, vitamin D and a good protein source. With that being said, fat free cows milk provides the most nutrient dense choice with soy milk following. If you don' t want to drink cows milk because of your beliefs and if soy milk is not a viable choice then, yes, it is possible to get those nutrients via greens and tofu with diligence. However, to drink almond and coconut milk thinking that you are getting an equitable exchange for cow or soy milk, that is not the case. Hope that answers your question!