The Nutritional Content of Animal and Plant Milks and Their Health Implications
Dairy product consumption is promoted through a variety of governmental and private programs. However, plant-based options have attracted an increasing market, in part due to health issues associated with dairy ingestion. This review compares the nutrient content of dairy and non-dairy milks and discusses potential health implications. Nutrient data were obtained from the USDA’s FoodData Central website. Cow’s milk is higher in fat (including saturated fat) and sugar than most plant milks. Both cow’s
milk and soymilk are higher in protein than almond, oat, rice, or coconut milk. Regarding micronutrients, cow’s milk is high in calcium, and, in some countries, is often fortified with vitamin D and vitamin A. Many plant milks are fortified with similar amounts of these micronutrients. Cow’s milk contains estradiol, which may be implicated in the risk of certain cancers and reduced fertility. Soymilk contains isoflavones, which are associated with reductions in prostate and breast cancer risk, menopausal symptoms, and plasma cholesterol concentrations. There is no apparent health rationale for recommending cow’s milk over plant-based milks.