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The Milk Aisle Blues: So many choices, so little time

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Does it seem like every time you turn on the television or check your newsfeed you are seeing another ad for new kind of milk? The way they market these products almost makes you feel like you are doing something wrong for providing your family with dairy milk or one of the other dairy alternatives not in that particular advertisement. With so many options, a walk through the milk section at the grocery store can be daunting. Don’t sweat it anymore my fellow moms. Here is a little milk knowledge for you to digest to help you make informed decisions on the best option for your family.

As many of you may have heard, cow’s milk has become more and more scrutinized as the long-term health benefits of milk and milk products are questioned now more than ever. Recent studies have indicated there is little, if any, evidence that consumption of dairy prevents osteoporosis, fractures, and may actually increase the risk to certain cancers according the Harvard School of Public Health. In addition, some researchers and nutrition experts recommend limiting dairy to 1-2 servings per day. On the contrary, according to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the dairy group is a key contributor of calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin B12, potassium and choline and “none of the alternatives to milk and milk products provide a similar enough nutrition profile in terms of these impacted nutrients to be considered for inclusion of the Dairy group.” Thank you science for making this an easy decision.

Luckily, if all of the research leaves you undecided or in the anti-cow’s milk department, as the title suggests, there are a variety of alternatives to dairy milk available. With the ever popular almond, soy, and rice milks, and the emergent dairy alternatives, coconut, oat, flax, cashew, hazelnut, and hemp milks, how does one choose the right kind of milk? Reasons for seeking alternatives to the traditional cow’s milk vary including eating a vegan diet, ethical considerations, allergies and food related intolerance, and reducing ones carbon footprint. If you are looking to avoid dairy milk, or just want to try something new, take a look at the following descriptions of some of the popular choices!

Almond milk is one of the most common non dairy milk options available and consumption has skyrocketed over the past decade. Almond milk is naturally lactose and casein free; however is a potential allergen as it contains nuts. It is popular due to its nutty flavor and is lower in calories than most other milk options available. It contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, has no saturated fats, and is generally low in carbohydrates and protein. Almonds are naturally low in calcium; therefore most almond milks are fortified with calcium and other nutrients that are lost during processing.

Soy milk is the closest nutritionally to cow’s milk due to its high protein and calcium content. It is low in fat and does provide polyunsaturated fats including omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid which may prevent heart disease and improve brain development and promote normal growth and development. Soy also contains isoflavones which may decrease the risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and symptoms associated with menopause; however studies are not conclusive. Soy milk is also reimbursable as part of the school meal in participating schools.

Rice milk is the 3rd most popular of non-dairy milk products available. It is the most hypoallergenic milk product as it does not contain lactose, casein, nuts, or soy. It is made primarily of carbohydrates and is low in both fat and protein. Rice milk is not generally recommended for infants and children due to the low protein and calcium content and not for people with diabetes due to the high carbohydrate content.

How to choose: When choosing a non-dairy milk product look for options that are made with minimal ingredients, fortified with vitamins and minerals, unsweetened and plain, no added sugar, no thickeners and emulsifiers (such as carrageenan and xantham gum), organic, non-GMO. For almond milk, choose those made with high percentages of almonds (unfortunately not listed on many popular brands). Avoid soy isolate in soy milk and choose rice milk made with brown rice.

Did you like this article or find it helpful? Do you have a preferred non-dairy milk? Please share your comments and stories with us.

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