New York: “Milk is simply not necessary in the diet. Every nutrient in milk can be found in whole plant foods, and some nutrients needed for healthy bones, like vitamin K and manganese, are not in milk, but are in whole plant foods.
Milk is highly insulinogenic, which means it spikes blood sugar levels. It also has inflammatory properties, so is a common offender of acne, sinus congestion, and digestive distress.
Deciding what to put on your cornflakes used to be a cinch. Now there’s soy, almond, coconut, rice, oat, hemp, goat, even camel milk. But do you really know what you’re drinking? And is dairy milk bad for you? Ruth Tierney has the lowdown.
Let’s face it, it’s on trend to give dairy a wide berth. Nutritionist Amelia Freer advises ditching dairy for nut or coconut milk; Gwyneth Paltrow is all over almond milk – Kourtney Kardashian even makes her own (we kid you not). Last year, Waitrose sold more almond milk than soya milk; Starbucks will make your cappuccino with coconut milk… and now there’s a new milk in town. Well, kind of. A2 milk looks and tastes the same as “normal” milk, but is easier to digest as it doesn’t contain the A1 proteins which can cause gut discomfort in some people.
Our brains are boggling. We need to divide the dairy from the hemp. Or something.
“Although calcium is added to non-dairy milks, the levels are similar and it’s just as easily absorbed,” says GP Dr Ellie Cannon. Here are the facts.
Calories 100 (semi-skimmed)
Sugar 9.6g Fat 3.6g
Is it healthy? Very, if you go for skimmed or semi-skimmed. “It’s an excellent source of calcium, zinc and vitamins B, D and C – with more protein than any dairy substitute,” says registered dietician Helen Bond.
Good for…energy. A US study* found that cyclists who drank milk before a race cycled for 50% longer than those who’d had an energy drink. Milk has the best carbohydrate-to-protein ratio to refuel muscles.
Not so good… in shop-bought coffee. The standard is to use whole milk, which can mean 8g fat in just a small latte. Asking for a ‘skinny’ version can help lower it to 0.2g.
Calories 100 Sugar 11.2g Fat 2.2g
What is it? While coconut water is made from the juice, coconut milk comes from the flesh – which is then mixed with rice and water.
Is it healthy? Not really. “It’s the sugariest milk, and is higher in saturated fat than
most dairy substitutes,” says Bond.
Good for… if you fancy the sugar hit of a soft drink, but not the additives.
Not so good… for vegans, as it’s low in protein.
Calories 48 Sugar 6g Fat 2.2g
What is it? Spring water with 2% pressed almonds.
Is it healthy? Very. “It’s low calorie, contains no saturated fat, and has lots of nutrients (both naturally occurring and added). One serving contains 30% of your RDA of vitamin E, good for healthy skin,” explains Bond.
Good for… splashing on muesli because of its roasted nut taste.
Not so good… if you have IBS or Crohn’s disease. Some almond milks contain an
additive called carrageenan, which may cause gastrointestinal inflammation.
Calories 94 Sugar 8g Fat 2g
What is it? Milled rice with water and sunflower oil.
Is it healthy? It’s a mixed bag. “Yes, in that it has less fat than the other milks. No, in that it has less naturally occurring nutrients and very little protein – so go for a wholegrain variety,” says Bond. The Food Standards Agency found traces of arsenic in 60 rice milks; the levels are safe for adults, but it’s not advised for infants.
Good for… the allergy-prone as it isn’t dairy, soy or nut-based.
Not so good… if you’re carb conscious – it’s high GI and has twice as many
carbs as cow’s milk.
Soy milk (unsweetened)
Calories 88 Sugar 5.8g Fat 3.8g
What is it? Water with 6% soy beans.
Is it healthy? Yep. “It’s bursting with plant protein, low in saturated fat and has almost half the sugar of cow’s milk – plus added vitamin D and B12,” says Bond. But be aware that organic varieties have no added calcium – so eat eggs, oily fish and leafy greens to top up.
Good for… vegans, because it contains more protein than any other non-dairy.
Not so good… if you are dairy-intolerant. “Soy products may cause symptoms to flare up,” says Dr Cannon. If you have a lactose intolerance, try Lactofree – cow’s milk without the lactose; if it’s an allergy, try one of the other milks on this page.
All stats are per 200ml serving.Some dairy alternatives are not suitable for babies or infants – check with your GP.