Home > Nutrition > How Does Your Glass of Milk Stack Up?

How Does Your Glass of Milk Stack Up?

Today’s milk drinker is faced with many choices. Whether you go dairy or dairy-free, find out which milk satisfies both your taste preferences and the health benefits you’re looking for. Here’s the skinny on cow’s milk and some of the many popular alternatives: soy, almond, rice and coconut.

Cow’s Milk
Hands down Americans drink dairy milk than any other type—in fact, we consume 583 million cups annually (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2008). Cow’s milk is a good source of protein and it’s naturally high in calcium with 300 mg per cup*. It is fortified with vitamin D necessary to absorb this calcium. Choose nonfat, ½% or 1% milk for the heart healthy options.

Nonfat/Skim Milk by the Cup:

  • Calories: 90
  • Total Fat: 0 g (0 g saturated fat)
  • Carbs: 12 g
  • Protein: 8 g

* Note that milk alternatives from plant sources may contain some natural calcium, but it is not well absorbed. Be sure to choose the ones that say fortified with calcium and vitamin D to get the bone-building benefits.

Soy Milk
This popular milk substitute comes in different flavors like vanilla, chocolate and plain. It works well for dairy-free cooking and baking, and there is a lighter option that is fat free and contains fewer calories than the original. Soy milk offers a comparable amount of protein to cow’s milk and has virtually no saturated fat.

Soy Milk by the Cup:

  • Calories: 100
  • Total Fat: 4 g (.5 g saturated fat)
  • Carbs: 8 g
  • Protein: 7 g

Almond Milk
Almond milk is gaining in popularity. It’s an attractive option for people with allergies to dairy, soy or rice. It is not suitable if you have a nut allergy. It has a nutty flavor and comes in different flavors. You can add it to your morning coffee or in baked goods. Almond milk offers the least amount of calories compared to the other beverages, however it is very skimpy in protein with only one gram per cup.

Almond Milk by the Cup:

  • Calories: 60
  • Total Fat 2.5 g (0 g saturated fat)
  • Carbs: 8 g
  • Protein: 1 g

Rice Milk
Rice milk is a dairy-free rice beverage that’s not particularly allergenic. You can find it in plain or vanilla flavors. It has a more watery texture so you may not want to use it in cooking. For the carb-conscious, beware of the 25 grams of carbs per glass—nearly double compared to cow’s milk. It also ranks low in protein with less than ½ gram per cup.

Rice Milk by the Cup:

  • Calories: 120
  • Total Fat: 2 g (0 g saturated fat)
  • Carbs: 25 g
  • Protein: .4 g

Coconut Milk
A rich and creamy milk replacement, coconut milk is low in carbs and provides some protein. For those of us who are watching our waistline and cholesterol numbers, one cup contains a whopping 467 calories and more than two days worth or “bad” saturated fat!

Coconut Milk by the Cup:

  • Calories: 467
  • Total Fat: 51 g (45 g saturated fat)
  • Carbs: 6.6 g
  • Protein: 4.8 g

Do you have a favorite milk?

  1. Nana Mensah
    April 17, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Saturated fat, as a rule of thumb, is bad for you. The larger question is…are all saturated fats the same?

    According to research, “while it is important to note that there is conflicting evidence on the claimed health effects of consuming significant amounts of coconut milk, coconut is rich in medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs), which the body processes differently than other saturated fats. MCFAs promote weight maintenance without raising cholesterol levels. They work best for preventing weight gain if you’re not overweight or maintaining your new weight after a successful diet.” [St. Onge, Marie-Pierre PhD and Peter J.H. Jones PhD “Journal of Nutrition” 1999-2002.]

    In addition, the saturated fat in coconut milk is mostly lauric acid, which was found to have positive effects on the cardiovascular system.

    I believe that your article could have shed a little better light on this topic…I guess I expect better from the Cooper Clinic.

    • April 18, 2012 at 7:29 pm

      Hi, my name is Elana Zimelman. I am a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Cooper Clinic. Thank you for your comment.

      1. Like all fats, coconut oil is a mixture of fatty acids, however its unusual blend of short and medium-chain fatty acids may offer health benefits. According to Penny Kris-Etherton, PhD, Rd, “coconut oil is better than partially hydrogenated trans fats and possibly animal fats,” but the best choice is still liquid vegetable oils, such as olive and canola oil, that are lower in saturated fat.

      2. It is important to note that the article from “The Journal of Nutrition” (published in 2002 by Marie-Pierre St-Onge and Peter J.H. Jones) cited in the blog comment, states that studies conducted have been short term, therefore the long lasting positive effects of coconut oil on weight management have not been established.

      3. There are only a few studies that have found that coconut oil improved the ratio of total cholesterol and HDL (good) cholesterol; however, they also elevated the LDL (bad) cholesterol.

      4. The Cooper Clinic, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Heart Association and many other health organizations continue to recommend a diet low in all types of saturated fat as part of a cardio-protective diet.

      5. One may choose to consume very small amounts of coconut oil or milk as part of a low saturated fat diet. Keep in mind that ½ cup of coconut milk contains about 23 grams of saturated fat, which is more than the daily recommendation of 16-22 grams of saturated fat daily based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet with less than seven percent calories coming from saturated fat.

      6. There are many claims that coconut oil may have health benefits, but there is no concrete scientific data yet to support this. More research is needed before making formal recommendations for its use.

      7. Please see Kathy Duran-Thal’s article below on Coconut Oil.

  2. doye bayird jr
    May 9, 2012 at 5:24 am

    i just ate 14 0z of haagen-dazs vanilla ice cream 175% of sat fat for the day @ bedtime and i wonder why my blood sugar is high in the am

    • Elana Zimelman
      May 9, 2012 at 8:38 pm

      Eating a large serving of dessert, such as ice cream, can raise your blood sugar. Carbohydrates in the food you eat digest into sugar (glucose) and raise your blood sugar. The high fat content of the food may also cause your blood sugar to spike. If you eat late at night your body will process the food into sugar while you are sleeping and you may wake up with a high blood sugar reading.

      If you have diabetes, speak with a nutrition and diabetes expert, a registered dietitian (RD) who is also a certified diabetes educator (CDE), to find out what, when and how much to eat. Also, check with your physician and diabetes educator to learn what your blood glucose readings should be. At Cooper Clinic in Dallas, our certified diabetes educators are registered and licensed dietitians. You can learn more about our nutrition services on our website, http://www.cooperaerobics.com.

  3. August 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    What’s up, I desire to subscribe for this weblog to obtain hottest updates, therefore where can i do it
    please help.

  4. October 3, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    magnificent publish, very informative. I’m wondering why the opposite experts of this sector do not realize this.

    You must proceed your writing. I’m sure, you have a great readers’ base

    • Elana Zimelman
      October 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Thank you for your comments! It is great to get positive feedback.

  5. November 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Diabetes has been common with individuals who have
    dietary deficiency, individuals who are obese, individuals with less physical
    activity and will generally be genetically acquired or inherited.
    Keeping blood sugar at healthy levels can prevent diabetic retinopathy from getting worse.

    Check out the National Institute of Health’s Portion Distortion website for more examples and pictures of portion distortion.

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