Milk: Which One Does Your Body Good?
It seems like there is an increasing variety of milk and nondairy milk alternatives on the market. Understanding the difference between the various options can assist in removing some of the guesswork from choosing which option is most beneficial to your nutrition regime.
The protein in milk is about 20 percent casein and 80 percent whey. Both are high-quality proteins, but whey is quickly broken down into amino acids and absorbed into the bloodstream, making it a very good protein to consume after your workout. Casein, however, is digested more slowly. It is because of this protein combination that milk is ideal for providing your body with a steady supply of smaller amounts of protein for a longer period of time. Since milk provides both, one glass gives your body an ideal combination of muscle-building proteins.
As the name suggests, this nondairy milk alternative is made from almonds and has a slightly nutty taste and a thin, velvety texture. Because of its nutty flavor, almond milk is ideal in the preparation of sweet desserts since it adds an additional layer of flavor. Almond milk tends to be somewhat harder to find, although most organic markets and health food co-ops carry some version of it. Almond milk is high in protein and an excellent source of vitamin E and calcium. Some doctors suggest that almond milk should not be given to children transitioning from formulas, as early introduction of nuts to a child’s diet may predispose the child to nut allergies.
Rice milk tends to be somewhat sweeter and thinner in consistency than the other nondairy milk alternatives. Rice milk contains very little protein, but provides carbohydrates. It is derived from brown rice syrup and starches, and is usually fortified with calcium and other essential vitamins. Rice milk contains very little natural fat, although some manufacturers compensate for this by adding natural thickeners like carrageenen and tapioca. Like almond milk, it works well in dessert recipes and is tasty with breakfast cereal. Try the chocolate and vanilla flavors as an effective way to introduce children to alternative grain milks. If switching to rice milk, be sure to incorporate other forms of calcium and protein into your diet.
This is the most popular nondairy milk substitute. This milk, which some people describe as having a bean-like taste, is made from the nutritious soybean. It’s cholesterol free, low in fat, and has more fiber than dairy milk. Soy milk is also a rich source of protein. Unfortunately, it’s not as rich in calcium as dairy milk with only about 25 percent of the amount found in dairy milk. Some soy milk manufacturers fortify their soy milks with added calcium to make up for the deficit. According to the FDA, “Twenty five grams of soy protein a day as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Soy milk is carried by most general grocery stores and supermarkets. If you’re concerned about calories, you may want to look for low fat, unsweetened soy milk.
At the coffee counter or when ordering at Sprouts, be sure to ask for the milk that best suits your needs.