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July 12, 2023

What you need to know about milk (from dairy to almond to soy to A2)

Filed under: Fitness — Tags: — admin @ 6:07 am

Milk, like just about everything, only gets more complicated the more you think about it.

The most stressful thing about buying milk isn’t having to trek across the whole supermarket to find it – it’s having to choose between full-fat or skim or A2 or almond or soy or…

This is all you need to know about milk.

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What milk is considered the healthiest?

Is cow’s milk bad for you?

No, assuming you’re otherwise healthy and don’t have an intolerance to it. Cow’s milk is high in essentials like protein, calcium, vitamin D and iodine.

“Cows milk doesn’t agree with a lot of people, but it’s a great milk, it’s a single ingredient, has no fillers or acidity regulators,” health coach Sharon Selby told Today Extra.

Low fat and skim aren’t any less nutritious than full-fat – the only difference is that they’re much lower in calories because of the reduced fat content.

Full-fat milk is the better tasting variety (because fat is delicious), and there’s probably no need for you to swap it for skim – full-fat is still pretty low in fat overall, at only about 3-4 percent.

Close up of a man's hand picking up a bottle of organic fresh milk from the dairy aisle in supermarket. Healthy eating lifestyle and routine.
Full cream milk is still low in fat overall. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

What’s the difference between A2 milk and regular milk?

Probably less than it’s made out to be.

Cow’s milk carries a ton of different proteins. One of these is called A1 beta-casein, or simply A1, and another is A2 beta-casein, or A2. Regular milk contains both A1 and A2, while A2 milk contains only A2.

These milks are nutritionally identical, but some – particularly those who report intolerance to milk or lactose intolerance – blame A1 for upsetting their stomachs and causing bloating. Which is why we have A2-only milk, which sells for about twice the price of its A1-containing cousin.

However, as documented by Fuller at The Conversation, there aren’t yet enough studies large enough to conclusively say A2 milk is really any better than regular milk. A 2016 paper in Nutrition Journal did link A1 protein to poorer gastrointestinal health – but it was funded by The a2 Milk Company, which basically owns the patent on a2 milk, so.

Which non-dairy milk is best?

Not so long ago you might be lucky to find a few cartons of soy milk at the bottom of a supermarket shelf. Now they sag under the weight of soy, rice, almond, coconut and oat milks.

“Soy has been very popular for many years and thats because of its great nutrient dense content,” Selby said.

“We’re dealing with a lot of allergies these days, so there are so many different milks out there now.”

Soy milk
Needless to say, these aren’t true milks. (iStock)

Needless to say, these aren’t true milks – they’re essentially plant juice. But is there one non-dairy milk to rule them all?

As we’ve written on Coach before: not really. These milk alternatives do have some benefits – they’re often lower in calories and lower in saturated fat than cow’s milk, and obviously vegans can drink them – but they’re not the nutrition wonder potions they’re touted as. Pick whichever one you think tastes best.

But be warned: Swapping dairy milk for a non-dairy alternative can mean you’ll miss essential minerals like calcium and iodine, as well as protein – so you need to ensure you’re getting these from somewhere else in your diet (such as bread, seaweed or fish, in the case of iodine).

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Selby added non-dairy milks might also be loaded up with stabilisers, emulsifiers, vegetable oils and added sugar, which kind of quashes the fantasy that drinking one will turn you into some blessedly nourished hippie.

FYI, a study published a few years ago decreed soy is the most nutritious alternative to cow’s milk, matching it for protein and calcium (if you purchase a calcium-fortified brand).

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