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Real Milk Vs. Plant-Based Milk: What’s The Difference?

Real Milk Vs. Plant-Based Milk: What's The Difference?
February09/ 2018

Soya milk, almond milk, and rice milk. The dairy aisle is changing. You’ve no doubt noticed a number of drinks offered as plant-based milk alternatives. While traditional cow’s still dominating the market, research shows U.S. non-dairy milk sales are expanding while cow’s milk sales have dropped.

One need only look at the refrigerator case at a supermarket to see that retailers are increasingly stocking more plant-based dairy alternatives.

Consumers shopping for healthy alternatives have a lot of inquiries.

How would you get milk from a nut, bean or seed? Is almond milk healthy? Is soya milk dairy? What is the nutrient profile of plant-based dairy alternatives compared with cow’s drain? Are the plant-based alternatives certainly milk?

Plant-based milk is made by grinding a bean or nut, then adding water, flavors, vitamins, and minerals. The nutrients and amount of sugar in plant-based milk varies remarkably based on how it was produced and what has been included.

Cow’s milk contains protein, calcium, potassium, and riboflavin. The nutrients are consistent in all products, however, the amount of fat changes from no fat, low-fat and full-fat. Calcium-fortified soya milk is the closest to cow’s milk, however, it is lower in other nutrients than cow’s milk.


Some plant-based milk is low in protein, which can be a matter of concern for children and elderly. Plant-based milk is becoming more popular because some people prefer the taste and the variety of flavors. It is also preferred by individuals who are allergic or intolerant to milk.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind as you help people navigate their beverage choices:

  • Cow’s milk typically delivers a higher quality of protein than some plant-based alternatives. For instance, almond, cashew, coconut and rice drinks offer little no protein per 8-ounce serving (0-1 grams), while cow’s milk gives 8 grams of high-quality protein for a similar serving size.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) suggests three servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy foods every day as a part of the Healthy U.S. Style Eating Pattern for people nine years and older. Alternative drinks, other than soya drinks fortified with calcium, vitamin A, and D, are excluded in the dairy group because “their overall nutritional content isn’t similar to dairy milk and fortified soy drinks,” the DGA states.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests 16-24 fl oz. of plain whole milk for children starting at one year.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggests two servings of low-fat or without fat milk, or fortified soy drinks for children aged 2 to 3 years, and 2 1/2 servings for kids 4 to 8 years.
  • Plant-based choices should not be the fundamental drink for youthful children, as indicated by a joint statement by Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society. These drinks may do not have the nutrients children need, including protein and fat.
  • Children 1-2 years of age should drink whole cow’s milk.
  • For children 2-8 years: Cow’s milk or fortified soy drink will go far in supporting children’s protein needs.
  • “On account of allergies, or other concerns, I recommend parents speak with a dietitian to ensure all nutrient needs, including protein, fat, and calories are being met with an age-appropriate diet,” says Dr. Catherine Pound, a pediatrician and representative for the Canadian Pediatric Society.
  • An article by the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests guardians check the labels of plant-based milk alternatives since the amount of protein and calories vary by brand. A chart compares the nutritional content of whole cow’s milk and several plant-based alternatives.
  • In adults, healthy eating patterns, which include low-fat and without fat-free dairy foods, are linked to consumption risks of certain chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes. Dairy consumption is also linked to improved bone health, particularly in children and adolescents.
  • The experts urge milk drinkers to read the labels and make the choice based on nutrition, price, and preferences.


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