These days many people are lactose intolerant, have a dairy allergy, or have ethical concerns about drinking milk. There is not a shortage of milk alternatives available to those who have these issues. Milk can now be derived from rice, soy, and almonds. A common response I get when collecting diet histories and asking about milk consumption is “I drink the vitamin D milk”. What most people mean by this is that they drink whole milk and they believe that the skim version or milk alternatives do not contain Vitamin D and this is incorrect. Vitamin D3, or cholecalciferol, is the form of Vitamin D found in milk. Vitamin D is in any type of milk, fat free or not. It is mainly bound to proteins (which are the same in all types of milk). Vitamin D comes either from the cow milk, itself, or from the fortification of the milk with D3. Actually MOST of the Vitamin D3 comes from fortification. Now that I have clarified that misconception, I would like to provide some information about what type of milk and milk alternatives are best nutritionally.
Best Milk Option: Skim Milk
Skim milk is a good source of protein with 8 grams of protein, and best of all it has 0 grams of fat and 90 calories for 1 cup serving, meaning it has the least amount of butterfat of all milks, which is why it is recommended for weight loss. Carbohydrates are 12 grams and sugar is also 12 grams so for this reason I only recommend keeping intake to one (8 ounce) serving per day.
Best Soy Milk: Light Silk
Soy is part of one of the biggest debates in the health community. Some studies indicate that estrogen-mimicking compounds in soy products might be responsible for reproductive problems in men and increase the risk of breast cancer in women. Other studies show beneficial and sometimes opposite effects. Generally for women, I only recommend limiting soy products if you know you have the estrogen receptor positive breast cancer gene. If you are using soy milk, you should steer clear of the flavored varieties and stick with the real, unadulterated stuff. Best soy milk is Silk Light with 0 grams of fat, 60 calories, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of sugar, and 6 grams of protein in 1 cup.
Best Nut Milk: Unsweetened Original Almond Milk
Generally, nuts make for light milks, but almond milk is the low-calorie best. Unsweetened, it has half the calories of fat-free milk, which makes it a great dairy alternative for those trying to lose weight. Just refrain from the flavored varieties (like chocolate) as they can carry up to 20 grams of sugar in a serving (providing 80 extra calories per serving). Unsweetened Original almond milk has 35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, and 0 grams of sugar in a cup. Unfortunately, Almond milk is not a great source of protein though with only 1 gram of protein in a serving.
Best and Worst Milk Alternative for the Lactose Intolerant
Worst: Rice Milk
Rice milk is not much different than low-fat milk calorically. The difference is you are switching out milk’s natural protein for rice milk’s natural starch. This is a horrible idea. A one cup serving of rice milk has 1 gram of protein and 27 grams of carbohydrate so I don’t recommend using this milk alternative period.
Best Lactose free and Best Overall: Mootopia
Luckily food manufacturers have developed a method for breaking down the lactose in real milk so even the lactose intolerant can benefit from dairy’s health benefits without suffering the stomach problems. Fat Free lactaid milk is nutritionally equivalent to skim milk with 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 12 grams of sugar, 13 grams of carbohydrate and 8 grams of protein in a serving. My favorite lactose free milk is Mootopia. It has 90 calories, 0 grams of fat, 6 grams of carbohydrate, 6 grams of sugar, and 12 grams of protein. Therefore, this is what I believe is the best milk choice overall with half the carbohydrate and sugar content and almost twice the protein of skim milk and other milk alternatives.