Once upon a time, milk was quite simply milk – delivered to your door on a daily basis, in glass bottles – full cream, thick and naturally rich in key nutrients. Fast forward 50 years and milk as we once knew it is no longer. Instead, a wide variety of low fat, reduced fat and A2 cow’s milk competes with goats, rice, coconut, soy, nut and oats milks on supermarket shelves. Ultimately which milk you feel is best for you and your family is a personal choice, but as is the case with any area of nutritional science, it is always good to know the pros and cons of each.
Popular on Paleo regimes and for those who which to avoid animal milks, unsweetened almond milk contains few calories per serve and literally no sugars. Almond milk is also a good source of the key nutrient Vitamin E, which helps with cell regeneration in the body. The biggest issue with almond milk is that it is naturally low in protein and calcium, so always choose almond milk that contains added calcium, to reap the bone health benefits and be careful of almond milk that contains added sugars, as this bumps up sugar and calorie content of almond milk significantly.
Sanitarium Unsweetened Almond Milk
Per 250ml serve - 178kJ (43cal), 1.5g protein, 3.5g fat, 1g carbs, 0.5g sugars, 188mg calcium
Contains one of the highest amounts of calcium for almond milk. 2.5% almonds.
Blue Diamond Almond Breeze
Per 250ml serve - 168kJ (40cal), 1.3g protein, 3.0g fat, 1.8g carbs, 0.3g sugars, 188mg calcium
Contains good amounts of added calcium but also added salt. 2% almonds.
Australia’s Own Organic Almond Milk
Per 250ml serve - 375kJ (90cal), 1.5g protein, 6.8g fat, 6.0g carbs, 4.8g sugars.
With added sugar, fat from vegetable soil and no added calcium, there are better options on the market nutritionally although it is an organic choice and an Australian company. 3% almonds.
Originally popular with allergy sufferers, rice milk can be a good option for individuals with a nut allergy, who prefer a vegan or vegetarian alternative to animal milk. Generally made from brown rice and water, like almond milk, rice milk can be exceptionally low in protein and calcium, whilst containing significantly more sugars and calories than almond milk so where possible look for varieties that contain added calcium.
Vitasoy Rice Milk
Per 250ml serve - 577kJ (137cal), 3.7g protein, 3.0g fat, 23.7g carbs, 14.5g sugars, 300mg calcium
One of the few rice milks fortified with calcium and protein thanks to the addition of chickpeas, it also contains added salt and vegetable oil and is relatively high in sugars compared to almond milk.
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Made from a mix of oats, water and oat flour, oat milk is slightly higher in protein than almond and rice milk and much lower in sugars. Oat milk also contains the added benefit of dietary fibre which may help to lower blood cholesterol levels. Whilst lower in sugars, oat milk remains relatively high in total energy and carbohydrates with up to 30g total carbohydrates per 250ml serve and for this reason is best for individuals who may want to lower their cholesterol levels but who do not have weight or blood glucose issues.
Vitasoy Oat Milk
Per 250ml serve - 640kJ (153cal), 2.5g protein, 2.5g fat, 29.5g carbs, 3.8g sugars, 300mg calcium
The most popular dairy alternative, soy milk is one of the highest sources of plant protein with 5-10g total protein per 250ml serve (similar to that of dairy milk). Soy is also lower in saturated fat than dairy milk with most of its fat coming from polyunsaturated fat, and in general there is regular, reduced fat and low fat soy milk available to suit your preference. With so many soy milks on the market, the majority of soy milk available fortified with good amounts of the essential nutrients typically found in dairy milk including calcium. Be aware though, soy milks can also have sugars and/or vegetable oils added. There are some medical conditions in which soy milk may be contraindicated so always check with your medical doctor or dietitian if you have any significant medical history before you switch to soy.
Sanitarium Essentials Soy Milk
Per 250ml serve - 433kJ (133cal), 8.3g protein, 3.8g fat, 15.8g carbs, 5.5g sugar, 400mg calcium
One of the most nutrient rich soy milks on the market with added calcium. Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and Vitamin E, formulated for women, check your labels as sugars and oils are often added to processing in the Sanitarium range.
Per 250ml serve - 483kJ (115cal), 8.2g protein, 4.4g fat, 11g carbs, 4.4g sugar, 51mg calcium
One of the original and best tasting soy milks, Bon Soy is free of added oils and is a high protein soy milk option, although it contains much less calcium than some of the other soy milk brands.
Vitasoy Unsweetened Soy Milk
Per 250ml serve - 170kJ (40cal), 2.5g protein, 1.3g fat, 5.0g carbs, 1g sugars
A lower calorie, low fat soy milk, whilst it is low in sugars and calories it also lacks calcium and other essential nutrients we would ideally get from the milk we consume in our diet.
Australian’s Own Organic Unsweetened Soy Milk
Per 250ml serve - 450kJ (108cal), 5.0g protein, 7.5g fat, 5.0g carbs, 2g sugars
A little more protein in this option but is a full fat variety of soy milk and lacks the nutritional benefits of added calcium and also contains added salt and oil.
When it comes to dairy milks, your choice of milk really depends on your personal preference and mouth feel, as well as desire to consume full cream or low fat foods in your diet in general. As a general rule of thumb, if you do not consume a lot of milk, full cream will be fine but if you consume 2-3 glasses per day, a reduced fat or low fat variety of milk will help to keep your calories and fat intake controlled.
Full Cream Milk
With a returned focus to unprocessed, natural foods, full cream milk is seeing a comeback. Per 250mls, full cream milk contains almost 10g of fat which is unlikely to be an issue if your intake is low, but 2-3 glasses per day can equate to as much as 20-30g of extra fat. If your choice is full cream dairy milk, look for organic or A2 milk which contains beta-casein protein, which is thought to help with digestive comfort and as well as some other long term health benefits which are still being explored. Full cream milk is the best choice of milk for children aged between 12 months and 2 years.
Full Cream Milk
Per 250ml serve - 738kJ (178cal), 8.8g protein, 8.8g fat, 15.8g carbs, 15.8g sugar, 270mg calcium
Often thought of as being high in sugars, keep in mind that much of the sugar found in milk is coming from lactose as opposed to added or refined sugars.
Reduced fat milk
Reduced fat milk contains half the fat of full cream dairy milk and is also often fortified with extra calcium. Reduced fat milk can strike a good balance between skim and low fat milk and the full creaminess of full cream milk. A good choice for families with primary school aged children or for those wanting the taste of full cream dairy with a little less fat.
Reduced fat or ‘Lite milk’
Per 250ml serve - 495kJ (118cal), 9g protein, 3.5g fat, 13g carbs, 13g sugar, 315mg calcium
Again look for organic or A2 varieties of ‘Lite’ milk where possible although more expensive. In general all brands of reduced fat milk will be similar nutritionally.
Skim and Low fat milk
Low fat milk can range from having almost no fat and existing in a low calorie, watery state, to a more creamy, fortified milk that still contains <1g of fat per serve. One of the most common misconceptions about skim milk is that it contains added sugars in processing which is not the case – it actually contains less sugars in total (most of which come from lactose) than full cream milk and many rice and soy milk varieties. Low fat milk is a a good choice for individuals wanting to keep their calories low but for who also want the benefits of dairy in their diet.
Low fat or skim milk
Per 250ml serve - 375kJ (90cal), 9g protein, 0.3g fat, 12.5g carbs, 12.5g sugar, 300mg calcium
In general, low fat milks will contain more nutrients including calcium and have a richer mouth feel than skim milk.
*A random selection of milk was selected from both Coles & Woolworths supermarkets.
**The author of this article is not affiliated with any of these products, nor was she paid by any of these companies for product review
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