Dairy Imitators

Dairy: The Real Deal

Dairy FoodsThere are many imitation “milks” out there, including rice, coconut, almond and nut, hemp, and soy beverages. However, these drinks are not technically milk, are heavily processed and are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk. Here are some of the reasons why imitation milks are no match for the real deal:

  • Sometimes what you leave out is just as important as what you keep in. Imitation milk, such as almond and soy, contains 10 or more added ingredients, including salt, stabilizers, syrups, thickeners and sugar. Dairy milk, on the other hand, is pure and simple. Wholesome, nutritious milk is the result of the tremendous care that America’s dairy farmers provide their animals.
  • Cow’s milk products are the richest source of well-absorbed calcium. According to researchers from Creighton University, the calcium in cow’s milk is absorbed 25% better than that found in soy milk. An 8-oz serving of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. By comparison, it would take 500 mg of calcium in an 8-oz serving of fortified soy milk to equal that amount of calcium.
  • It only takes about 48 hours for milk to get from your local dairy farm to your grocery store’s dairy case.
  • The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee identified low- and non-fat dairy as part of a healthy dietary pattern. The same cannot be said for milk imitators which lack the quantity and quality of nutrients milk has, including vitamin D, calcium and potassium.

Many milk alternatives use fortification to mimic the nutrient profile of cow’s milk and there is no standard nutrient profile across brands. Here’s how some of the most common dairy alternatives stack up:

  • Soy beverages are made from soybeans and are a good source of protein. However, according to the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS), soy protein is a lower quality protein than the whey protein found in dairy products.
  • Rice-based beverages are generally processed from brown rice and are fortified with nutrients such as calcium and vitamin D. Rice beverages typically contain only one gram of protein compared to eight grams in cow’s milk.
  • Nut-based beverages can be ground from any nut and the most popular is almond. Almond beverages only supply one gram of protein per serving and lack many of the natural benefits found in almonds.
  • Seed-based beverages, such as hemp, are newer to the marketplace. Their nutritional benefit is touted to be their omega fatty acid content. Similar to the other beverages, they also fall short on protein.


Dollar for Dollar

When compared to other beverage choices — such as dairy imitators, soda and fortified juices — milk far surpasses these items in terms of nutritional value for the money. At about 25 cents per 8-ounce serving, milk is a bargain, especially when you consider all the liquid assets inside — protein, calcium, potassium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and more.

Want further proof of dairy’s nutritional superiority? Check out these tasty facts:

  • Dairy foods help build and maintain strong bones, control blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Dairy foods have been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, osteoporosis and obesity.
  • Dairy is one of the most economical sources of the following key vitamins/nutrients — calcium (30% DV), vitamin D (25% DV) and protein (16%).

Is My Milk Safe?

Midwest Dairy ID2649 - Hegeman Dairy_scrIt’s not just dairy alternatives that can be confusing. Even within the dairy case, there are countless choices with claims, such as organic and antibiotic-free. The good news is that all milk, as long as it is pasteurized, is wholesome, safe and nutritious. Any additional claims seen in the supermarket are a result of milk companies’ response to consumer requests for choices in the dairy aisle. Learn more about these claims: