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Dairy Milk vs Almond Milk: Which is Better?

By Alyssa Baird, Meredith College Dietetic Intern

More and more people are ditching cow’s milk for the milk alternatives, especially almond milk because it has been marketed as being healthier and low in carbohydrates. While almond milk is lower in carbohydrates than cow’s milk, it also differs in value of other nutrients. Let’s take a look:

Cow’s milk is one of the few beverages that contains protein, carbohydrates, and fat naturally and can be satiating. An 8 oz cup of cow’s milk contains 12 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein and 0-8 grams of fat depending on whether you choose whole, 2%, 1% or skim varieties. It also contains important micronutrients: Calcium and Vitamin D, which protect bones and teeth; potassium, which helps maintain body’s fluid balance; and Riboflavin and Vitamin B12.

Dairy Milk vs. Almond Milk


How does almond milk compare?

Almond milk is made by blending almonds and water together and straining out the solids left over. Some people are drawn to the creamy texture that is similar to cow’s milk but with fewer calories. Commercial brands will often add sugar and flavoring to them.  An 8 oz cup of original unsweetened almond milk contains 40 calories, 3 grams of fat, 0 grams of sugar and only 1 gram of protein. Almond milk does not naturally contain calcium, but it is usually fortified. Some varieties may contain more calcium than cow’s milk while others fall short, so be sure to read your labels! Some almond milk varieties are fortified with a little extra protein.

Especially be wary of sweetened almond milks, which can help you rack up the empty sugar calories in a hurry - 8 oz of sweetened almond milk may contain 90-120 calories and 15-20 grams of added sugar (still with only 1 gram of protein)!

Despite the influx of information saying that dairy is bad for you, it can be a great nutritional beverage to include in your diet. On the other hand, for those people who are lactose intolerant or follow a plant-based diet, milk alternatives may be a good option.

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