Cow’s milk is full of amazing nutrients: The childhood favorite boasts a healthy dose of protein, calcium, and vitamin D in one 8-ounce glass, all for a small price of roughly 150 calories.
Yet sales of non-dairy milk have surged by 61 percent since 2012, according to research from Mintel. One in five Americans say they’re consuming less dairy for health reasons, the report found. For instance, if you have a hard time digesting lactose or believe that dairy products might trigger your acne, you might be better off trying a dairy alternative.
But when you break down the nutrition facts, dairy-free milks have a hard time competing with traditional cow’s milk, mainly due to their difference in protein.
And with all the plant-based milks on the market, how do you choose the best one? That’s what researchers from McGill University wanted to find out. In their recent review published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, they compared the pros and cons of a 240-milliliter serving (about one 8-ounce glass) of unsweetened soy milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and almond milk.
They found that soy milk came out on top. That’s because soy milk packs in the most protein of the non-dairy bunch, coming in at 8 grams (roughly the same as cow’s milk) for only 95 calories on average. What’s more, soy milk contains isoflavones, a plant compound that may fight the growth of cancer cells, the researchers say.
Phytoestrogens (the family of plant-based hormones that isoflavones belong to) have also been linked to a dip in testosterone when you down too much — but before you freak out, know that up to four servings a day isn’t a big deal, Men’s Health nutrition advisor Alan Aragaon, M.S. explained to us previously.
The downside? Soy milk has a “beany” flavor that may be a turn off to some people, the researchers say. Plus, soy is one of the most common food allergens, especially in kids.
Here’s how the three other milks studied fared in comparison.
Pros: Almond milk is low in calories (about 35 calories per average serving), has a great taste, and contains monounsaturated fatty acids, making it a great option if you’re looking to lose weight, according to the review.
Cons: Almond milk contains very little protein, coming in at just 1 gram per serving.
Pros: Coconut milk tastes very sweet and offers very few calories at just 45 per average serving.
Cons: Coconut milk contains no protein and most of its calories come from fat.
Pro: Rice milk is a great option if you’re allergic to soy, dairy, or nuts and has a similar amount of calories compared to cow’s milk.
Con: Rice milk contains just 1 gram of protein per serving and contains more sugar than cow’s milk.
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