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As you walk down the milk section in a grocery store, you are baffled at the number of choices. From full fat, skim, semi-skimmed and even plant-based choices, you can’t help but reach for the usual, drop it in your cart and move on. Sure, we all know the milk basics. We know that full fat is fattening and skim is for those who want to stay slim. But how much of that is actually true? Let’s take a look at the difference and ask ourselves if we should stay with our choice of milk or move on.

Cow milk

This is the most widely available option everywhere you travel. Be it in the form of a powder or those tiny milk cans you get in an airplane, you can find cow’s milk plentifully.  Cow’s milk is available in a host of choices like full fat,  reduced-fat, low fat and even fat-free milk. The prime difference in all these types is in the composition of fat. Let's take a look at each one in detail

Whole milk

A glass of whole milk contains about 8 grams of fat and contributes about 150 calories. 

Reduced fat milk

This is also known as 2% milk because the whole carton of milk contains about 2% of fat. A glass of reduced-fat milk contains about 5 grams of fat in it.

Low-fat milk

Low-fat milk is popularly marketed as 1% milk. A glass of 1% milk contains about 100 calories and 2.5 grams of fat.

Skim milk

This is probably the go-to choice for many fitness buffs. It is fat-free and has about 80 calories in an 8-ounce glass.

Besides cow milk, there are other animal sources like buffalo milk and goats milk along with other plant sources like soy and almond. 

What is the difference between buffalo milk and cow milk?

Milk from a buffalo is thicker, creamier and has higher fat content. This is why cow milk is easily digestible than buffalo milk. Buffalo milk also has higher protein content along with more calories.

Which is better? Cow milk or goat milk?

For ages, goat milk has been believed to really beneficial for kids. True, for those who have cow milk allergy, goat milk is the perfect way to get proteins and other essential nutrients. Goat milk contains more Vitamin A, proteins and even has less sugar than cows milk. Cow milk, on the other hand, is rich in folates and has more Vitamin B12 than goat milk. Though both are great sources of Vitamin D, cow’s milk contains more selenium than goat milk. 

Which is better soy milk or almond milk?

Both are plant-based sources of milk but which is better you ask? When it comes to calories,  almond milk is lower. But wait, there is a catch. Almond milk contains more sugar than soy milk. Soy milk is believed to have cancer-fighting properties and has higher protein content. If you can get past its “beany flavor”, soy milk is indeed the best option as a plant-based cow milk substitute.

Tips to sneak in some milky goodness into dishes

Sneak in some milk in your daily cooking. If you can’t stand milk or want to sneak in some milky goodness into your little fussy eater, we have some tips.

For extra soft and calcium-rich bread, use milk instead of water to make a rich soft dough and other baked goods by replacing the water with fresh milk.

  • Add powdered milk to your muffins, pancakes, biscuits, and cookies for better bones.
  • Use Powdered milk in your casseroles or even to make meatballs. This will not just add more nutrition to your food but will also prevent them from crumbling and will help them hold their shape better.
  • Add milk or buttermilk to your pancakes or french toast to make it yummier.
  • Indulge in a richer,  nutritious, guilt-free hot chocolate by replacing the water with milk. For those who add sugar to their hot chocolate, adding milk can give you a bit of extra sweetness naturally without the addition of any refined sugar.
  • Add milk to pasta, soups and even stews to enhance flavor and creaminess. However, you need to make sure you don’t bring the dish to a boil after you add milk as this can cause curdling
  • On a hot day, get yourselves a tall glass of chilled buttermilk instead of reaching for a carbonated drink.
  • Whip up your own naturally flavored milk by blending together a glass of chilled milk with fresh fruits and berries. 

Some interesting research findings

A closer look at the various alternatives to cow milk

Settling the debate of plant-based milk once and for all, the researchers at McGill University have revealed that soy milk is clearly the winner! Below are the study findings:

Soy milk 

    • Soy milk has anti-carcinogenic properties.

    • It has successfully played the role of cow's milk substitute for 4 almost decades now.

    • Soy milk is less favored by some people because of its beany flavor.

    • 1 cup of full fat cow’s milk contains 8 grams of protein which is exactly how much protein one cup of soy milk contain.

Rice milk

    • Rice milk is lactose-free 

    • Perfect substitute for those who are allergic to soy or nuts.

    • Rice milk could lead to malnutrition if the diet is not a balanced diet. When compared to all the other milk substitutes, rice milk contains the least amount of protein.

Coconut milk

  • Help reduce cholesterol and even bring down blood pressure.
  • Coconut oil is high in calories and saturated fats.
  • Very light on the stomach and improves bowel movement and prevents constipation.
  • One cup of coconut milk contains about 5 grams of protein.

Almond milk

    • Almond milk is rich in Vitamin E.

    • Most of the almond milk available in the stores contain a lot of sugar.

    • Almond milk is low in protein. A cup of almond milk only has about 1 gram of protein. 

This clearly shows that the best cow’s milk substitute is, in fact, soy milk.

Good news for all those allergic to cow milk

The University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna have found that adding Vitamin A in cattle fodder has been found to protect against developing cow’s milk allergy. By loading the cattle feed with retinoic acid, a potential milk allergen is changed into a milk tolerogen. Milk allergy, all by itself can also increase the risk of other allergic diseases like atopic dermatitis and even asthma. Apart from supplementing the cattle feed, some natural ways of adding more Vitamin A to the cattle feed is by adding more green fodder. 

Less iodine in cow milk substitutes

Researchers at the University of Surrey have found that those who favor milk alternatives may be at a greater risk of iodine deficiency. Our body needs iodine to make thyroid hormones. Iodine is also crucial during pregnancy as it is essential for normal brain development in the baby. It just doesn’t stop there. Children who received less iodine from their mothers during pregnancy showed lower IQ and poor reading scores in school. So, if you are avoiding dairy or dairy products, it is important that you consider including other sources of iodine in your diet.