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Got which milk?


Soy milk and almond milk are two of
several popular alternatives to cow’s milk.

Illustration credit: Click here

If you prefer milk as part of your daily diet but you are lactose intolerant, have milk allergies, or simply do not like the taste of cow’s milk, you have options. There are several dairy milk alternatives on the market today, which include soy milk and almond milk among several others. These popular milk alternatives offer flavorful, nutritional value and notable health benefits.

Soy Milk [1][2][3]
Soy milk is an extract of soya beans. The taste varies between brands (some call it bean-like, vegetable-like, chalky) and it is available in flavors such as plain, chocolate, and nog. The surge of soy milk products in the last decade has brought with it many health benefits, but there is also controversy as to whether or not soy milk is actually good for you.

The Pros: Soy milk has isoflavones, protein, vitamins and minerals, and is cholesterol free.
•    Isoflavones (naturally occurring organic compounds) are rich in antioxidants and help to reduce the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, menopause and osteoporosis.
•    Half of the soy bean is made up of protein, which makes it the only complete plant-based protein source; it is equal to the quality of the protein in meat, milk, and eggs.
•    Rich in Vitamin B12, low in carbohydrates, with lecithin, iron, essential minerals and a lower proportion of saturated fat compared to cow’s milk; it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats ("good fats") including omega-6 and omega-3.
•    In 1999, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the health claims of soy milk stating "Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease….four daily soy servings can reduce levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the so-called "bad cholesterol" that builds up in blood vessels, by as much as 10 percent."
•    The American Heart Association recommends that soy products be included in a diet along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and lean meats.

Soy milk offers nutritional
benefits but is also controversial.

Illustration credit: Click her

The Cons: Soy milk has soy estrogens, high sugar content, and correlates with cognitive decline.
•    Soy contains phytoestrogens that are produced by plants and so has estrogenic properties. They mimic the action of estrogens at the body's estrogen receptors. Although weaker than the estrogens that your body produces, they compete with estrogens at the estrogen receptor sites. When bound to the estrogen receptor, they block the effects of the stronger estrogens and so can wreak havoc on hormones.
•    If you feel better after drinking soy milk, it is probably due to the high quantity of sugar added to it. Check the ingredient list on the label: cane sugar, barley malt, rice sugar, fructose, corn syrup.
•    Another reason you may feel better after drinking soy milk is that soy estrogens are stimulating your thyroid. This results in a mildly hyperactive thyroid with short-term energy gain. In the long run, your thyroid activity may reduce into hypothyroidism. This equates to loss of energy and cognitive decline.
•    There is limited scientific research on the effect of soy isoflavones on cognitive function. One study found that Hawaiian men who reported consuming tofu (made from coagulated soy milk) twice weekly during midlife were more likely to have poor cognitive test scores 20-25 years later compared with those who consumed tofu less than twice a week. A study done in Indonesia on elderly men and women found that consumption of tofu was associated with worse memory in comparison with consumption of tempeh (a less processed soy product than tofu—higher in protein and fiber content—fermentation process binds soybeans into cake form), which was associated with improved memory. The results of several small clinical trials in postmenopausal women, however, indicate that soy isoflavone intake results in modest improvements in performance on some cognitive tests for up to six months.

Almond milk is rich
in nutrients.

Illustration credit: Click here

Almond Milk [4]
Almond milk is made from ground almonds and water. It has a light, nutty flavor and is available in plain or vanilla flavors. Historically, almond milk was also called amygdalate and was used in the Middle Ages in part of the Islamic world and Christendom. Because it is a nut that is the seed of a fruit of a plant, this made it suitable for consumption during Lent. It was also a staple of medieval kitchens because it kept longer than cow's milk without spoiling. Almond milk is a highly nutritious milk alternative with relatively little health concerns.

The Pros: Almond milk offers numerous health benefits.
•    Selenium and high levels of Vitamin E (an anti-oxidant) contribute to a healthy circulatory system and reduce the risk of some cancers.
•    High levels of unsaturated fats (omega fatty acids), no saturated fat, and no cholesterol lower risk of heart attack.
•    Lactose-free makes it easily digestible.
•    Rich in protein and high mineral content: zinc, magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper, calcium and iron contribute to important structural components and chemical reactions in the body.

The Cons:
Almond milk cannot be made with bitter almonds.
•    Avoid using bitter almonds in homemade almond milk recipes because the combination of bitter almonds and water releases hydrogen cyanide (this chemical is poisonous and can be fatal).

Like cow’s milk, milk
alternatives are fortified
with vitamins and minerals
to ensure nutritional quality.

Illustration credit: Click here

Comparison of milk alternatives with cow’s milk [1]

Soy and almond milk are among the most popular dairy milk alternatives on the market today. They come in assorted flavors and offer nutritional value and health benefits. Compared with cow’s milk, they are lower in calories and fat. Milk alternatives are typically fortified with calcium and vitamin D to bring their nutritional quality more on a level with fortified cow's milk. Whatever your choice, plant and nut milks are a flavorful and popular substitute for cow’s milk and play an important role as an essential part of a well-balanced diet.

What You Need To Know About Milk
Video credit: Click here

Copyright ©2010 Joyce E.M. Wall


  • Pearl7 5 years ago

    Good article. Personally, I love soy and almond milk. Chocolate soy milk--wow--it reminds me of my school days when we used to get the little container cartons of chocolate milk---so delicious! I am conservative about drinking soy milk, however, due to the soy estrogen content. Almond milk is highly nutritious and more beneficial health wise.

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