Source: Asbury Park Press
Studies show that cow’s milk’s spot on the kitchen table is diminishing. In fact, the average American is drinking nearly a third less milk than they did in 1975, down from about 247 pounds of milk a per year to just 154 pounds by 2016, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The nutritional content of milk has not changed — One cup of whole milk contains about 150 calories, 8 grams of protein, and about 25 percent of the daily recommended dose of vitamin D. Experts say it remains a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, among other essential nutrients. But milk alternatives, look-alikes made from almonds, soy, coconut, cashews, rice, even hemp, also contain many of these essential nutrients, according to experts.
The saturated fat contained in 2-percent or whole milk is detrimental to cardiovascular health, says Stephanie Macaluso, a doctor of clinical nutrition and registered dietician in the intensive care unit of Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune. Eating large amounts of saturated fats, found within red meat and high-fat dairy products, can raise the level of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, which could increase someone’s risk of stroke or heart attack, according to the American Heart Association.
Milk alternatives can be a smart choice for people looking to cut calories. For example, most sweetened vanilla almond milk brands contain around 80 calories per cup, while non-vanilla varieties contain about 60 calories per cup.
In these milk-like substitutes, “you have to look at the sugar that’s being added,” said Laura Allen, a registered dietitian at Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.. “Sometimes they’re sweetened or flavored.”
“You want the unsweetened (varieties of) nondairy milks, because you want lower sugar content in your diet,” said Macaluso, of Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
Though fortified and lower in calories, many of the nut-based milks do not contain the same amount of protein as cow’s milk, she said.
“The other milk — coconut, almond, cashew and rice — they’re actually very low in protein, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing on its own, because you can get protein from other sources in your diet,” Macaluso said.
But consumers looking for a higher-protein plant-based alternative milk should look to soy milks, which contain about 6 grams of protein per cup. “If you’re choosing whole cow’s milk, compared to unsweetened almond milk, the almond milk is going to be a better choice,” Macaluso said.
But comparing fat-free cows’ milk to unsweetened almond milk is harder, she said. The unsweetened almond milk contains fewer than half the calories of skim milk, but has only 1 gram of protein compared to skim milk’s eight grams.
“Do you need skim milk to be a source of protein in your diet, or are you getting protein from other sources?” Macaluso said. She added that when deciding which to buy, “just make the best choice that you can in the circumstances that you’re in, with what’s available.”