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Battle of the milks

The nutritional difference between regular and lower fat milk has become a popular talking point amongst my patients and friends recently. This is definitely an argument I would like to put to rest. All dairy coming from animal sources will have predominantly saturated fat as its fat source. While it is true that many yoghurt brands will compensate a lower fat content by increasing the sugar content, this is certainly not true of milks.

Skim (0.1% fat), low fat(1-2% fat) and full cream (3-4% fat ) all contain the same amount of sugar (5-6 grams per 100ml). You may notice that the entire carbohydrate count is sugars. This is due to all carbs in milk being derived from lactose (a combination of 2 sugars; glucose and galactose).

With the obvious exception of different fat and calorie contents, there are no nutritional differences between the lower fat and full fat cows milk varieties with similar amounts of both protein and calcium.

Whatever your dairy preference, it can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. If you are in good health, you may prefer the higher-fat versions of milk because you feel they’re more natural. However, if you notice your weight and cholesterol levels creep up, you may want to consider switching to a lower fat version.

My personal approach and recommendation is to consume low-fat versions of milk.

Soy milk is a good lactose free/vegan option to replace cows milk. Coming from a plant base, soy milk will have predominantly unsaturated fats and is often fortified with essential vitamins which are naturally present in cows milk (calcium, Vit A and Vit D). Because of low lactose content, the sugar content of soy milk is far lower than cow’s milk.

Almond milk is similar to soy in the fact that it is a plant based milk and therefore has a better fat ratio. Almond milk will also have no lactose and this is the reason for its lower sugar content (not by much as it does contain fibre ~3.5g per 100ml). Almond milk has a very low protein content and the type of calcium coming from almonds is not as easily absorbed as dairy (look for calcium fortified varieties). Look for higher almond content in ingredients and beware the cheaper versions that are often loaded with sugar.

Rice milk comes in quite low in the nutrition dept. It is high in carbohydrates and low in protein, containing approximately 6g sugar per 100ml, little to no protein and very low calcium. Rice milk is also lactose free and will also have a lower saturated fat content and provided it is fortified may be a good alternative to soy/almond for those with allergies. It will also have a much higher GI and will contribute little to ones satiety.

Stay tuned for the next battle where I will dissect the evidence and differences between regular and A2 milk. I’m going to milk this topic for all its worth.

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