Written by UConn Dietetics student Heather Phillips
Humans began drinking milk products at least 6000 years ago1. Yet if you walk into the dairy isle at the grocery store you will see rows and rows of dairy alternatives. These alternatives made from foods such as oats, almonds, cashews, and soy claim to be healthier for you. Are they really? Is there anything actually wrong with consuming cow’s milk?
First let’s explore the claims from the beverages made with:
- Almonds– provides close to the traditional milk flavor and mouth feel with fewer calories. Provides 50% of your vitamin E needs.
- Soy – has a balanced nutritional profile, making it similar to 2% milk in regard to protein and fat. Naturally free of cholesterol and saturated fat.
- Oats – fortified with vitamins A, D, and B12, iron, and fiber and has no saturated fat.
- Cashews – loaded with heart healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and several vitamins and minerals. Helps to improve heart health, improve blood sugar, and promote eye health.
Now let’s look at cow’s milk:
According to the American Dairy Association2 cow’s milk is:
- Naturally rich in nutrients – natural nutrients are always better than fortified. Cow’s milk contains calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin, and vitamin B12.
- High quality protein – cow’s milk provides 8g of high-quality protein per 8oz.While soy milk may contain about the same amount, there are usually also added sugars.
- Cost per glass is less expensive – The average price of cow’s milk is $0.26 per 8oz where milk alternatives can run $0.62 per 8oz. That’s almost 3x the cost!
- There are now lactose-free options for those who have trouble digesting lactose! – receive all of the same benefits of cow’s milk without the lactose.
In most cases lactose is the reason consumers seek dairy alternatives. With lactose-free options now available, you can enjoy cow’s milk and the natural nutrients it offers.
You might be wondering- why are natural nutrients a better option?
When dairy alternatives are fortified with nutrients that means that the nutrients are made in a lab and then added to the product. Usually, these synthetic nutrients have the same structures as naturally occurring nutrients. However, the process of creating synthetic nutrients is different than the process used by plants and animals. So, despite being similar in structure your body may react and process them differently. It is also often unclear how well our body can absorb synthetic nutrients. So even though you may consume the same amount of nutrients you might only be absorbing (and benefiting from) a fraction of the synthetic vitamins and minerals added to the product.
Looking for a really quick, easy and high protein dinner?
Try this crustless quiche recipe as a way to use up milk, eggs, or to add more dairy into your diet!
Crustless Quiche Makes: 4 Servings
- 1 ½ Tbsp fine dry plain breadcrumbs
- 1c frozen chopped onions
- 1c diced cooked ham (1/4 lb.)
- 1 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2c shredded swiss cheese
- 4 large eggs
- 1c heavy cream
- 1c whole milk
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle
- Butter quiche dish, then sprinkle all over with breadcrumbs
- Cook onions with ham in butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until pale golden, about 5 min. Spread in dish then evenly sprinkle cheese on top.
- Whisk together eggs, cream, milk, and 1/2tsp pepper and pour over cheese. Bake until top is golden and custard is set in center, 20-25 minutes.
- Cool slightly before cutting into wedges.
Note: Looking for a lighter take on the recipe? Choose a low salt ham, reduced fat swiss cheese, and use whole milk for both cups of liquid. You can even reduce fat more by using 2% milk.
- Curry, A. (2021, January 27). Humans were drinking milk before they could digest it. Retrieved from ScienceMag.org: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/01/humans-were-drinking-milk-they-could-digest-it
- Lynch, F. (2018, February 21). 5 Reasons to Always Choose Cow’s Milk Over the Alternatives. Retrieved from American Dairy Association North East: https://www.americandairy.com/news-and-events/dairy-diary/nutrition-and-health/5-reasons-to-always-choose-cows-milk-over-the-alternatives.stml
This material is funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
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