Nothing compares to milk

Going to buy milk at the grocery store, I’ve noticed several options in the dairy case that may have the word milk on the label but aren’t produced by a cow, goat, or other animal. 

Apparently, I’m behind the times. According to Webster’s Dictionary, milk can be either “from an animal and especially a cow used as food by people” or “a food product produced from seeds or fruit that resembles and is used similarly to cow’s milk.” 

I assumed these alternative beverages (sorry, I can’t call them milk) offered the same nutrients as milk, but you know what they say happens when you assume something. It wasn’t until I started reading the labels and researching alternatives that I learned nothing compares to milk. 

Milk is naturally produced by cows after they give birth. This natural food has nine essential nutrients including calcium, high-quality protein, and vitamin D. No matter what brand or fat percentage of milk you buy, all cow’s milk has the same essential nutrients. Three of these nutrients – calcium, vitamin D, and potassium – have been identified in the Dietary Guideline for Americans as ones Americans aren’t getting enough of in our diets. This is especially important for my kids, who need more calcium and vitamin D to support building strong bones.

I took a few minutes to read the labels of alternative beverages in the grocery store this week. There are no government standards for these beverages. Milk, however, does have a standard.  Here’s a quick summary of what I learned:

Soy beverage is made from soybeans and is the only alternative beverage listed with dairy as a source of calcium and vitamin D in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It is a natural source of protein but has added calcium, vitamin D, sugar, and other ingredients. Other alternative beverages are not listed in these guidelines because their overall nutritional profile isn’t similar to milk or soy beverage. 

Almond beverage is made from ground almonds and water. Knowing that a handful of almonds is a nutritious snack, I expected almond beverage to offer more nutrients than it does. With approximately 1 gram of protein per 8-ounce glass, it falls short of the 8 grams in one serving of milk. It is fortified (meaning they have been added) with calcium, vitamin D, and protein. 

The flesh of coconut is soaked in water to make coconut milk. There were 12 ingredients in the bottle I looked at, and like the other alternatives, was fortified with nutrients.

I know some people avoid drinking milk due to lactose intolerance.  Even if you are lactose intolerant, there are options in the dairy aisle for you, which I talked about in this post. Others choose alternatives because they mistakenly think these are healthier, which my few minutes looking at the labels showed was clearly not the case.

If you are looking for a naturally nutritious beverage, no alternatives compare to dairy.  

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