People have been drinking cow’s milk for hundreds of years, usually from their own cows that they milked by hand. After the industrial revolution, however, cow’s milk began to be produced by dairy farms and purchased in supermarkets. As people transitioned to purchasing milk in the store, milk companies also transitioned to selling multiple types of milk. No longer do people only drink whole milk. Now, they prefer milk with 2%, 1%, or even no fat. To complicate matters even more, factors such as lactose intolerance and plant-based diets have led to seeing many other milk options on the shelves.
Perhaps the favorite alternative to cow’s milk is almond milk. Almond milk is a great option for those who can’t drink cow’s milk or have chosen a plant-based diet. But as it rises in popularity, many people want to know: What are the differences between almond milk and cow’s milk, and is one better than the other? As it turns out, when comparing cow’s milk to almond milk, the differences go far beyond the milk source.
Nutrients in Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk often gets a bad rap because of its fat content. Whole milk, which hasn’t had its fat content adjusted, has 149 calories per cup, which seems like quite a lot compared to most natural beverages. However, whole milk isn’t the only option. The high-fat content is why most people choose milk with lower fat content. 1% milk, with its reduced fat content, has 110 calories a cup, and skim milk, with no fat, is only 80 calories.
High-fat content in whole milk is one of its only downsides. Cow’s milk is actually a minimally processed, true farm-to-table product that provides significant amounts of many important nutrients.
These nutrients include the minerals Calcium and Phosphorus, and the vitamins Riboflavin, Vitamin B-12, Vitamin D (which is added to milk in the U.S.), and Vitamin A. Non-skim milk is also a good source of vitamins E and K.
Another benefit? Cow’s milk is a surprisingly good source of protein. A cup of milk contains eight grams of protein, making it easy to add protein to your breakfast every morning.
While it also contains sugar, which gives cow’s milk its sweet flavor, there’s actually no added sugar in milk. Cow’s milk has 12 grams of naturally occurring carbs, all in the form of the sugar Lactose. That’s good news for people looking to reduce their added sugar intake.
Nutrients in Almond Milk
Unlike cow’s milk, which is minimally processed, almond milk is created through an extensive process. The almonds are actually processed in a way similar to coffee beans, and a lot of water is used to create the liquid texture. The almonds are soaked in water, blended up, and run through a strainer to remove any residual solid pieces. The remaining liquid is almond milk and is often flavored with vanilla or chocolate before being packaged and sent to the supermarket.
Unfortunately, many of the nutrients found in almonds aren’t found in high amounts in almond milk because the water used to create the milk dilutes the nutrient concentration. Most almond milk has added Calcium and Vitamin D, but almond milk doesn’t contain much fiber or protein, especially when compared to cow’s milk.
However, the advantage of almond milk is that it’s lactose-free. The smaller amounts of other nutrients don’t matter to people who can’t digest lactose. For anyone who’s lactose intolerant, almond milk is a great option, especially because there are so many varieties. While cow’s milk varies only by milk fat, almond milk offers sweetened and unsweetened, vanilla, chocolate, and even some with a hint of honey. If you’re someone who likes to switch things up without adding too much sugar to your diet (like you get in regular chocolate milk), almond milk is a great choice.
Almond Milk vs. Milk
Ultimately, it depends on each person when determining which is healthier. For the average person, cow’s milk is the better choice if you’re looking to increase your nutrient intake and reduce your added sugar intake. However, if you prefer almond milk, don’t worry! The fat content is similar unless you’re drinking skim milk, and you can drink unsweetened almond milk if you don’t want the sugar. And of course, people who are lactose intolerant or eating a plant-based diet should drink almond milk instead of cow’s milk.
What matters just as much as the type of milk you drink is the food you eat with your milk for breakfast every morning. For a healthy, nutrient-rich diet try adding your favorite milk to whole-grain cereal or oatmeal in the morning. Oats Overnight offers healthy, delicious overnight oats that you can pair with milk for a wholesome breakfast.