If you are about to pour a bowl of your favorite breakfast cereal but are confused about which type of milk to use, you aren't alone. Supermarkets are full of various milk products -- almond milk, coconut milk and rice milk included. Soy milk, cow's milk and Lactaid, a type of lactose-free milk, are generally the types you encounter in the dairy aisle. The bottom line: the best type of milk is the one your body can tolerate, tastes best and meets your individual dietary requirements.
Soy milk is a plant-based beverage created by grinding soybeans and mixing them with water until they form a milky consistency. Soymilk contains no animal proteins, therefore, it is popular with vegans and individuals allergic to cow milk proteins. Soy contains little calcium naturally. Calcium, in the form of calcium carbonate, is generally added to soymilk to create a nutritionally similar product to cow's milk. Soymilk is an excellent source of protein, B-vitamins and iron and contains very little saturated fat per serving.
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Cow milk is one of the main sources of calcium, according to Harvard School of Public Health. Unlike soymilk, cow milk contains vitamin D. Cornell University noted that cow milk contains 3.3 percent protein and all nine essential amino acids required by humans. The protein casein provides 82 percent of the total amount of protein, and whey protein contributes to the other 18 percent. Whole milk provides 10 percent of the maximum daily recommended intake for cholesterol or 35 mg and 5 g of saturated fat, which is about 25 percent of your maximum daily intake.
Lactaid is the brand name of lactose-free milk. Lactaid is made from cow's milk with lactose removed with the addition of the lactase enzyme. Lactose is a sugar contained mostly in milk products. If you have an intolerance to lactose, your body likely lacks the enzyme needed to break down this type of sugar. Drinking Lactaid instead of regular cow milk prevents the symptoms of lactose intolerance, including cramping, bloating, gas and diarrhea. Lactaid also makes ice cream and some cheese products, according to its website.
Osteoporosis and Calcium
One common reason for drinking milk is the calcium it provides. If asked to provide a high-calcium product, many people would immediately answer milk. Harvard School of Public health noted that calcium is important for bone health, blood clotting, healthy nerve impulses and heart rhythm. Calcium is naturally contained in cow milk, including lactose-free Lactaid. Soymilk users should carefully read the label of their favorite soymilk beverage and discuss calcium supplementation with their physician to ensure they are receiving an adequate amount of this important mineral.