Looking behind the milk label

Opting for plant-based milk options can decrease one’s environmental impact by avoiding cow milk, which requires a production process that releases methane gas, increases water pollution and uses large amounts of water and land. Fortification, which is the addition of various nutrients not naturally found in milk, can increase the health benefits of plant-based options. Below is general nutritional information for cow, soy, almond and oat milk provided by registered dietitian nutritionist Rachel Dyckman and evidence-based nutritionist Bridget Arriaza.

Cow milk

Cow milk has essential amino acids important for the brain and overall health. Cow milk is a great source of calcium, which can protect gut lining, and is full of protein. Both calcium and protein are important for those still growing.

Oat milk

Oat milk contains soluble fiber which promotes gut and colon health. Oats contain Beta-Glucan, a fiber which promotes a healthy gut microbiome. Oat milk contains more carbohydrates than other cow milk alternatives and has zero cholesterol unlike cow milk. 

Soy milk

Soy milk contains a similar amount of protein to cow milk. Soy itself is a complete protein, which means it contains all of the essential amino acids the body needs. Soy milk also contains fiber, which cow milk lacks, and is a great source of calcium and vitamin D. 

Almond milk

Almond milk is a great source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that combats inflammation in the body. This type of milk contains less phosphorus and potassium than cow milk, making it better for kidney health. While it is good for bone and eye health, it contains less protein than other plant-based milks.