Milk from nuts, beans or udders -- which does your body best?
If you opt for soy milk or almond milk instead of cow's milk, are you getting comparable nutrition value to what moo juice delivers?
This week's "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column looks at the ongoing controversy surrounding cows' milk: Is the white stuff an essential, nutrition-packed building block of the human diet, as has long been believed, or are there better ways to get the calcium and other nutrients that milk delivers?
For reasons ranging from lactose intolerance and adherence to a vegetarian diet to simple taste preference, people are increasingly turning to such products as soy and almond milks. But not all milks are created equal. Here's a quick look at the nutritional profiles of the three.
- Blue Diamond brand's unsweetened almond milk logs in at 40 calories per 8-ounce cup, 30 of them from fat. But none of that fat is of the unhealthful saturated or trans variety; nor is there any cholesterol. Same goes for the sweetened kind, which has 60 calories per cup, 25 of them from fat. Though both have added sea salt, the sweetened milk has 6 percent of the Daily Value for sodium; unsweetened has 8 percent of the DV. Each delivers 5 percent of the DV for potassium, a gram of protein, 10 percent of the DV for both Vitamin A and phosphorus, 20 percent of the DV for calcium, 25 percent of the DV for Vitamin D and 50 percent of the Vitamin E you need in a day. The sweet version's second ingredient (after purified water and just before almonds) is evaporated cane juice. Other notable ingredients include soy lecithin and carrageenan, a seaweed extract that helps processed foods stay fresh and shelf-stable. The vitamins A, D and E are there largely by virtue of fortification, though almonds do contain their own Vitamin E.
- Most experts recommend against drinking whole cow's milk because it's so full of saturated fat; I looked at skim milk (because that's what I drink); in the absence of a major national brand, I examined the label for the local brand I buy. For the most part, the nutrients remain about the same regardless of fat content -- except the fat and calorie counts, that is. A cup of skim milk has 80 calories, none of them from fat, though there is a trace amount of cholesterol. Milk contains 5 percent of the sodium DV, no fiber, 8 grams of protein plus 30 percent of the calcium DV; it's also got 11 percent of the DV for potassium, 26 percent of your daily riboflavin needs and 25 percent of the phosphorus DV, along with 10 percent of the DV for niacin. Because it's fortified, it supplies 25 percent of the DV for Vitamin D and 10 percent of the DV for Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Depending on the brand you buy, chocolate milk may have as many as twice the calories and grams of sugar of plain skim, a bit more fat (including some saturated fat and cholesterol). Some are super-fortified with calcium, with a single serving delivering about two-thirds of the daily value for that mineral.
- Silk brand plain and vanilla soy milks each have 100 calories per cup, about a third of that from fat, including half a gram of saturated fat; the remaining fats are better-for-you polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Neither contains any cholesterol. The vanilla-flavored kind has 4 percent of the DV for sodium; the plain 5 percent. Each has 300 mg of potassium and a gram of fiber; the vanilla has 6 grams of protein, the plain 7 grams. Their vitamin and mineral profiles are identical to one another: 10 percent of the Vitamin A DV, 30 percent of the calcium DV, 6 percent of the iron DV, 30 percent of the DV for Vitamin D and riboflavin, 6 percent of the folate DV, 50 percent of the DV for Vitamin B12, 10 percent of the DV for magnesium, 4 percent of the DV for zinc and 8 percent of the DV for selenium. Both are sweetened with evaporated cane juice, and both contain sea salt and carrageenan. The calcium, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, riboflavin and B2 come via fortification, as does the Vitamin B12, which is naturally found only in animal-, not plant-based products.
Of course there are all kinds of variations on these basic milks. But having the numbers in hand for these basic types should help you figure out which kind best meets your dietary needs.
As for which goes best with cookies, you're on your own.
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