Milk and dairy products are great sources of nutrition. They provide nutrients like protein, calcium, Vitamin D and potassium. Dairy can help build strong bones and prevent osteoporosis. It may help with keeping a healthy blood pressure too. It is recommended that adults have equal to 3 cups of dairy every day!
Milk is great, but not for babies under one year old, since they do not have the right digestive system to breakdown and use cow’s milk. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants have breast milk or infant formula until they are one year old. Some infant formulas are made from cow’s milk, but they have been changed so baby can handle them. Once they become a year old, it is recommended to drink whole milk up until their second birthday. It is important that they have whole milk because it has extra fat to help baby’s brain develop.
Children and Adults
Anyone, two years and older is recommended to have skim milk since it does not have any fat. Whole milk, reduced fat (2%), low fat (1%), and fat free (skim) milk, have the same amount of calcium, vitamin D, protein and carbohydrates. However, they differ in the amount of fat and calories. Whole milk has the most fat and calories, skim milk has the least.
Cow’s milk is not right for everyone. There are many reasons why people do not drink cow’s milk. This could be due to a milk allergy, lactose intolerance, they may dislike the taste, and some do not drink cow’s milk for personal reasons. People that do not drink milk, may choose to buy alternative milks such as; almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, soymilk, rice milk, coconut milk, and hemp milk. Milk alternatives are all different and have different nutrients in them, so it is very important to look at food labels.
The chart below shows nutrient information for unsweetened milk alternatives. If you choose a product that has been sweetened, it will likely have more calories. Some alternative milks have added calcium and Vitamin D, while others do not. It is important to remember that homemade alternative milks do not contain the same amount of vitamins and minerals because they have not been added in.
For instance, coconut milk is low in calories, but it does not have any protein. Cashew milk is low in calories, but is also low in protein, carbohydrates and calcium. Most of the alternative milks have very little protein. Soymilk is the most similar to cow’s milk. Look for a product that has calcium added in; it can be difficult for people to get enough calcium in their diet. It is good to know what is important to you and look at your goals when choosing a milk product or a milk substitute. Not everyone chooses to drink cow’s milk, and that’s okay! When choosing a milk product/milk substitute just remember to read the food label.