Written by Halli Tinti

Got milk? Yes we do and plenty of it! From cow’s milk to almond milk and everything in between, how do we know which carton to reach for at the grocery store?

Registered Dietician Trish Brimhall with Nutritious Intent says it’s all in the milk’s label. Trish says you don’t have to drink milk, but you do need calcium and milk is the easiest way to get it. Let’s look at the five most common types of milk you see in your local dairy isle.

Cow’s Milk

If you’re not allergic or lactose intolerant, cow’s milk is the most nutritious choice, says Trish. It’s high in protein, calcium and vitamin D and it’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all of the essential amino acids.

Things to consider:

Children under the age of two should drink whole milk or vitamin D because they need the extra fat to help their brains and bodies develop. Anyone above the age of two should opt for a lower fat milk, like one or two-percent.

“I recommend avoiding skim milk all together,” says Trish. “There is little to no nutritional benefit from drinking skim milk. People who drink low fat milk verses skim milk tend to maintain a lower body weight.”

Harvard Researchers found in a study of 12,829 kids ages 9 to 14 from across the country that “Contrary to our hypothesis, skim and 1% milk were associated with weight gain, but dairy fat was not.” This is because fat helps you feel full and will curb your appetite and help you make better nutrition choices throughout the day.

Soy Milk

Soy milk comes in second best behind cow’s milk, says Trish. It provides a considerable amount of protein and is generally a great tasting option.

Things to consider:

Make sure your check the soy milk label for at least a 25-percent daily value of vitamin D and calcium. Unless the label states “unsweetened” you can assume it has already been sweetened. Unsweetened soy milk will have a not-so-sweet bean-like taste.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is thinner in texture than other varieties of milk. It tastes great, but buyer beware: this milk does not contain enough protein to meet your daily needs and contains the highest amount of carbohydrates. While rice milk is no nutritional star, however, it is the closest milk to cow’s milk in both appearance and taste, says Trish.

Things to consider:

Make sure the rice milk in your grocery cart is fortified with at least 25-percent daily value of protein and calcium. Drinking rice milk is basically drinking fortified carbohydrates. You will not get the protein content that cow’s milk provides.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is thicker in texture and better tasting than most other varieties of milk. It is naturally a great source of calcium, but contains less protein than soy milk.

Things to consider:

Make sure that the almond milk you buy is fortified with vitamin D, although it will already be high in calcium.

Hemp Milk

This newly popular drink provides a great source of protein, however, it is not a substitute for cow’s milk. It’s gritty and most people don’t love the plant-like taste.

Things to consider:

Be sure to check the label for protein, calcium and vitamin D content, all of which are common reasons for needing milk in our diet, says Trish.

Goat’s Milk

Goats rival cows, when it comes to milk. Goat’s milk has more calcium than skim cow’s milk, and more potassium. It is also a good source of phosphorous.

Things to consider:

Goat’s milk isn’t an alternative for anyone with more than a mild lactose intolerance. Furthermore, it carries more calories per cup than cow’s milk. The best advice may be to drink goat’s milk, but to drink it sparingly.

At the end of the day, your choice of milk has to come down to what tastes good. Trish says, you won’t put in your mouth what you don’t like. Find a type of milk you like and stick with it, and don’t beat yourself up over that tablespoon of chocolate flavoring you know you love to add. The health benefits of drinking milk far outweigh the sugar content.

For more tips on which milk is best for you, visit www.nutritiousintent.com
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