Milk alternatives have enriched the lives of the 65 per cent of the human race that does not tolerate milk well after infancy and provided a much-needed option for anyone who wants to avoid animal products.
The emergence of these non-dairy options has also enriched a whole new corner of the food and beverage market.
But what is good for veganism and business is not necessarily good for your nutrition.
Once we’ve outgrown our mothers’ breast milk, cow’s milk is a great stand-in source of calcium, protein and vitamin D.
These nutrients are particularly important for growing children and elderly people, both of whom need boosts to their bone strength.
In two per cent milk, there are about 8g of protein, 293 g of calcium, 342 mg of potassium and 120 IU of vitamin D, which is added to milk during manufacturing in order to bolster its benefits for osteoporosis.
For bone, muscle and even heart health, cow’s milk is hard to beat, and has the added benefit of being nearly sugar free, though it does lack fibre and contains both good and bad fat.
Cow’s milk is also a bit heavier in terms of calories, with 150 calories in whole milk, and 122 calories in a glass of two-per cent milk.
In non-traditional milk world, soy is the most popular alternative dairy product.
Soy milk is made by boiling a mixture of ground up soy beans after they have been soaked to soften them.
The original dairy alternative actually quite closely matches the nutritional values of regular cow’s milk.
Soy milk has gotten a bad rap lately, as other alternative forms have come onto the market, people are maybe trying to find reasons not to drink soy milk.
But, in terms of nutrition that is misguided.
Soy milk is a really good alternative and the best thing is that, from a nutrition standpoint, it’s as close to cow’s milk as you’re going to get in terms of protein, vitamin C and calcium.
As compared to an eight ounce glass of cow’s milk, soy milk matches cow’s milk almost exactly for protein, calcium, vitamin D and comes pretty close for potassium, with just 43 fewer mg of the nutrient.
If you’re reading the label and are looking for a fortified version of soy milk, you’re pretty much getting everything you would in cow’s milk.
There are only a couple of potential drawbacks to drinking soy milk.
First, be sure to check the nutritional labels for added sugars, as some - especially flavoured - soy milks use them to enhance taste.
It’s a slightly more low-calorie option, but not by much with about 118 calories in an 8oz glass.
There have also been some studies showing ‘discrepancies’ in estrogen levels - high levels of which can be a cancer risk factor for women - among soy drinkers, but the ‘jury is still out’ and the research is inconclusive.