Milk: Let’s Talk About It

Cow milk and benefits of alternative milk

By: Ada Wang

Staff Writer

Image Source: Osborne, Ria/Getty Images

There are many different kinds of milk, each with different benefits and drawbacks to them. Starting with the most common one is cow milk. Cow milk has the benefit of calcium which is widely known as being necessary for building and strengthening bones, but it also carries out important functions in our body. It allows our muscles to contract, our blood to clot, and our heart to beat. Cow’s milk is one of the most accessible and well-known foods that is rich in calcium. The downside of whole milk is that it is full of saturated fat and calories, making it bad for people with high cholesterol and heart problems. My parents always have milk in our fridge and I had been drinking it since I was a child. I dislike the aftertaste, and a year or two ago, I have tried to avoid it to the best of my ability, opting for milk alternatives instead. 

Soy milk is the most nutritionally balanced alternative of the bunch and most similar to the nutritional value of cow milk. Soy milk is a good source of protein, vitamin A, B12, and D as well as potassium. It also has no cholesterol which is good for those with heart problems. Soybean is also fairly easy to grow. There are many speculations about the cons of soy milk, including lower fertility and issues for people with thyroid conditions, but none backed by consistent evidence and research. The only clear disadvantage of soy milk being that soy is a possible allergen. Soy milk was one of the first milk alternatives I tried and I enjoy the taste of soy milk. I have tried sweetened soy milk to unsweetened soy milk that tasted more bean-y. It took a little to adjust to the taste of the more bean-flavored one, but after a bit, it tasted just fine, and still better than dairy milk to me.

Almond milk is low in calories with no saturated fat or cholesterol, and is a good source of minerals, calcium, vitamin D and vitamin E. Almond milk is also high in omega-3 fatty acids which is beneficial for your heart. The downside is that it takes over a gallon of water to produce a single almond and yet most of it is grown in California where droughts are likely to occur. There are ways around this though; you can buy certified organic almond milk which usually means less water is used in the production process. In comparison, almond milk production uses less water than dairy milk. My first attempt at trying almond milk was not great. The one I tried did not feel smooth and felt like there were tiny pieces of almonds or something and it was very unpleasant for me. Recently, I tried a new brand of almond milk that was smoother and did not have little specks of almond and enjoyed that experience more and I am back on board with almond milk. 

Coconut milk contains antioxidants and is said to help with increasing good cholesterol, reducing inflammation and boosting the immune system. Coconut milk is high in calories and saturated fats, and rich in energy. Like many other foods, coconut milk should be consumed in moderation, as the saturated fat in high levels may cause weight and heart issues. It is said to also cause digestive issues in people with IBS. Unsweetened organic coconut milk tastes like thick creamy water, there was no taste really besides hints of coconut here and there. The sweetened coconut milk gives you more of the coconut taste in the milk. Despite the unsweetened coconut milk having barely any taste, it is still my favorite of the bunch, I think it is the texture and thickness that sells it for me.

Pea milk, which I have never heard of until very recently, uses yellow peas, has the same amount of protein in regular whole milk, and has about 50% more calcium. Pea milk is a great source for omega 3s, potassium, vitamin D and iron. There are also gum and gel additives in the milk to create a creamy texture. This is something I have not tried yet but would love to. I mean I love green peas, so maybe pea milk will be good too.

Sophomore Wayne Low input his own thoughts, saying “I’ve been drinking [milk] since I was a kid and the calcium is good for my bones.” And some may argue that traditional milk is important for that exact reason, but there are many alternatives to cow’s milk that allows us to get the calcium we need in our body, such as sardines, dark leafy greens, enriched grains and bread, and fortified cereal, orange juice and soy milk. Fortified foods are foods that have added nutrients which do not have added costs. Almond, pea and flaxseed milk have about 25-135 mg more calcium than in regular whole milk.

While many of these plant based alternatives have nutrients, many of them are fortified or added in during production. This does not make the product worse or less healthy, although it really depends on each product. The most important thing to keep in mind is looking at the brand you are buying from, the ingredients, and nutrition facts to ensure you are getting the best quality for your money.

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