We drink different types of milk based on our preferences and culture and each of these milk variants have their own set of benefits.
Cow’s milk is consumed across the globe but there are people who wouldn’t opt for dairy and instead go for plant-based milk alternatives. Plant-based milk beverages of this kind have been on the market for a couple of decades and are advertised as being healthy and wholesome for those who are lactose-intolerant, little research has been done to compare the benefits and drawbacks of the various kinds of plant-based milk.
Researchers at McGill University looked at four most-commonly consumed types of milk beverages from plant sources around the world – almond milk, soy milk, rice milk and coconut milk – and compares their nutritional values with those of cow’s milk. After cow’s milk, which is still the most nutritious, soy milk comes out a clear winner.
The researchers compared the unsweetened versions of the various plant-based milks in all cases and the figures below are based on a 240 ml serving.
Cow’s milk benefits & drawbacks
- A wholesome, complete food, providing all major nutrients like fat, carbohydrates and proteins.
- Can help humans by providing a wide range of host-defence proteins because various beneficial anti-microbial effects are found in both human and bovine milks. (E.g., a study shows that in the case of infants, consumption of cow’s milk has considerably reduced risk of fever and respiratory infections.)
- But the presence of various pathogens like Salmonella spp and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in milk have been associated with disease outbreaks around the world.
Soy milk – the most balanced nutritional profile
- Soy milk is widely consumed for its health benefits linked to the anti-carcinogenic properties of phytonutrients present in the milk known as isoflavones.
- Has been a substitute for cow’s milk for 4 decades.
- Concerns, however, are the ‘beany flavor’ and the presence of anti-nutrients (substances that reduce nutrient intake and digestion).