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Milk or an Alternative? What Does the Body Good

07/15/2015 06:28 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 05:59 EDT
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Long gone are the days when the milkman dropped off the traditional bottle of milk! A lot has changed since those days. Milk consumption has decreased 36 per cent from the 1970s until now. Due to abundant allergies and diets, demand for milk substitutes is at an all-time high. These alternative milks mainly cater to vegans and lactose allergies. While it's great to have substitutes, not all alternative milks are created equal! You could be missing out nutritionally.

Don't be overwhelmed when cruising the isles and refrigerators of the grocery store. Get the low down on milk and its counterparts:

Cow's Milk

Only 40 per cent of adults can properly digest lactose.

• No antibiotics or hormones are allowed in our milk in Canada.

• Calcium-rich

• One cup has roughly 300 milligrams of calcium, 1/3 of our daily requirement. It doesn't matter if it's whole milk, 2%, 1% or skim.

• Grass-fed milk has 3 times the omega-3 fatty acids

• For those allergic to milk lactose, select lactose-free milk.

• One cup of Sealtest 2% milk contains: 120 calories / 8 g protein/ 5 g fat / 12 g sugar / 30 per cent daily calcium intake

Goat's Milk

• Taste: Goat's milk has a stronger and tangier flavour compared to cow's milk.

• Similar to cows milk nutritionally, it's slightly higher in calcium, potassium and vitamin A. Goat's milk contains less lactose, making it easier to digest.

• Can be used like cow's milk

• One cup of Liberte contains 120 cal / 5 g fat / 11 g sugar / 7 g protein / 30 per cent daily calcium intake

Soy Milk

• An option for vegetarians, vegans and lactose intolerant. Also a kosher substitute.

• Soy beverages are made from whole soybeans.

• Similar to cows milk nutritionally

• It is the highest in protein of plant-based milks

• Pro: Good for lowering bad cholesterol since the fat is heart-healthy. Keeps bones strong.

• Con: Studies show that soy may be linked to increased men's reproductive problems.There are also concerns regarding a link to breast cancer in women due to soy increasing estrogen-mimicking effects.

• Buy only fortified and organic to avoid pesticides. Shake as the nutrients sink to bottom.

• One cup contains:

Silk Soy Beverage Unsweetened = 80 cal / 4 g fat/ 0g sugar/ 7 g protein/ 30 per cent daily calcium intake

So Good Vanilla = 180 cal/ 5g fat / 13g sugar /7g protein /30 per cent daily calcium intake

So Good Chocolate = 150 cal / 3 g fat / 15 g sugar / 9 g protein / 30 per cent daily calcium intake

Rice Milk

• With no dairy or nuts, this is the best option for those with these allergies.

• Made from filtered water, brown rice, and vegetable oil

• Taste: From the standpoint of taste, texture and appearance, rice milk is best substitute for cow's milk, as it has a sweet rice taste.

• No cholesterol, but low in protein

• Not a good for option for diabetics as it is high in carbohydrates

• Pro: The carbohydrates in rice are good before and after workouts.

• Con: Rice milk has no fibre, which aids in weight loss. It is better to eat whole grains.

• Best in: coffee, smoothies, desserts

• One cup of Rice Dream contains:

Original =120 cal / 2.5 g fat/ 10 g sugar / no protein or vitamins and minerals

Enriched =130 cal / 2.5 g fat/ 10 g sugar / 0 g protein /30 per cent daily calcium intake / vitamin D / vitamin B12

Enriched Chocolate = 180 cal /3 g fat / 14 g sugar / 0 g protein / 30 per cent daily calcium intake

Almond Milk

• Almond milk flavour is nutty and toasty

• Nuts are mixed with water and fortified with nutrients and thickened.

• Almond milk is naturally high in calcium.

• Great in shakes after workouts

• Cons: contains little nuts, mostly water -- eating nuts is healthier

• Best in smoothies, coffee, and cereal

• One cup of Blue Diamond Almond Breeze contains:

Unsweetened= 40 cal / 3.5 g fat / 0 g sugar / 1 g protein / 30 per cent daily calcium intake

Original= 60 cal / 2.5 g fat /7 g sugar / 1 g protein / 30 per cent daily calcium intake

Chocolate= 120 cal / 3 g fat / 20 g sugar / 2 g protein /30 per cent daily calcium intake

Hemp Milk

• Made from hemp seeds

• Tastes grainy and nutty and fermented

• Pros: One cup provides an entire day's worth of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, 6 times that of cow's milk.

• Cons: Contains little protein; separates in milk

• Best in: Mashed potatoes, muffins, and quick breads

• One cup of Hemp Bliss contains:

Unsweetened= 60 cal / 5 g fat / 0 g sugar / 2 g protein/ 25 per cent daily calcium intake

Original= 110 cal / 5 g fat / 6 g sugar / 2 g protein/25 per cent daily calcium intake

Vanilla= 110 cal / 5 g fat / 11 g sugar /2 g protein / 25 per cent daily calcium intake

Coconut Milk

• High in saturated fats, it's not one to down by the glass. Try in cereal instead!

• Low in carbs, calories, and cholesterol, but it contains virtually no vitamins and minerals.

• One cup of Silk True Coconut contains:

Unsweetened = 50 cal / 5 g sat fat /1 g sugar /0 g protein/ no calcium

Original = 80 cal / 5 g sat fat / 5 g sugar / 0 g protein/ no calcium

Aside from your personal reference in taste and texture, the most important element in choosing a proper substitute is to ensure you are getting the most nutrition. My guidelines:

• Buy fortified. Look for 25 to 30 per cent daily value (%DV) for calcium.

• Keep added sugars to a minimum. Unsweetened beverages are sugar-free.

• If choosing soy beverage, pick one with at least eight grams of protein per one cup serving.

• Don't give these substitutes to children under the age of two.

Raise a glass to your health!

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Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives