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Deciphering Dairy: A Look at the Various Milk Types and their Health Benefits - Arbor Vitamins

Deciphering Dairy: A Look at the Various Milk Types and their Health Benefits

Milk, once a staple synonymous with traditional dairy, has expanded its horizon in contemporary times. From plant-based alternatives to fortified options, the range of available milks is vast. Let look into the science and nutrition of different types of milk, highlighting their health benefits and potential concerns.

1. Cow's Milk Traditional and UbiquitousCows Milk

  • Benefits: A source of essential nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, protein, and B vitamins1. Available in whole, skim, and semi-skimmed varieties, it caters to varying dietary needs.

  • Concerns: Lactose intolerance and cow's milk protein allergy can be concerns. High saturated fat in whole milk has been a cardiovascular health consideration2.

2. Goat's Milk Less Common but Nutrient-PackedGoats Milk

  • Benefits: Easier to digest for some, it's rich in beneficial fatty acids, and slightly higher in certain minerals compared to cow’s milk3.

  • Concerns: Still contains lactose, and some individuals allergic to cow's milk might react to goat's milk too.

3. Almond Milk Popular Plant-Based AlternativeAlmond Milk

  • Benefits: Low in calories and naturally lactose-free. Often fortified with vitamins and minerals4.

  • Concerns: Lower in protein compared to dairy milk. Homemade versions might lack fortification.

4. Soy Milk Long-standing Dairy-Free ChoiceSoy Milk

  • Benefits: Contains similar protein content to cow's milk and is a source of isoflavones, potentially beneficial phytochemicals5.

  • Concerns: Contains phytates which can bind minerals. Concerns about isoflavones mimicking oestrogen are largely debunked but persist in some discussions6.

5. Oat Milk Emerging FavouriteOat Milk

  • Benefits: Creamy texture and naturally sweet taste. Contains beta-glucans which may help reduce cholesterol7.

  • Concerns: Typically lower in protein and can be high in added sugars.

6. Rice Milk Allergen-Friendly OptionRice Milk

  • Benefits: Lactose and nut-free, suitable for those with multiple allergies.

  • Concerns: Low in protein and often high in carbohydrates. Concerns about arsenic content in rice have been raised8.

7. Coconut Milk Tropical Dairy AlternativeCoconut Milk

  • Benefits: High in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which can be used for quick energy9.

  • Concerns: Low in protein and high in saturated fats.

8. Hemp Milk Alternative with Omega-3sHemp Milk

  • Benefits: Contains omega-3 fatty acids and is typically fortified with vitamins and minerals10.

  • Concerns: Can have a beany or grassy taste, and is lower in protein than dairy milk.

Choosing milk today isn't merely about whole or skim; it's about aligning with dietary needs, ethical beliefs, and taste preferences. While cow’s milk remains a nutritional powerhouse, alternatives provide options for vegan diets, lactose intolerance, and other dietary restrictions. When selecting an alternative milk, considering fortification and checking for added sugars is key. As always, personal needs and consultation with a dietitian can guide the optimal choice.



  1. National Dairy Council. "Nutrients in Milk". 

  2. "Saturated Fats". 

  3. [Haenlein GFW. Goat milk in human nutrition. Small Ruminant Research. 2004;51:155-163.] 

  4. [Singhal S et al. Fortification of foods with vitamin D in India. Nutrients. 2017;9(4):330.] 

  5. [Messina M. Soy and Health Update: Evaluation of the Clinical and Epidemiologic Literature. Nutrients. 2016;8(12):754.] 

  6. [Jefferson WN. Adult Ovary Transcriptomics After Developmental Exposure to 17α-Ethinyl Estradiol in Rats. Endocrinology. 2018;159(1):160-173.] 

  7. [Whitehead A et al. Cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan. Nutr Rev. 2016;74(6):344-352.] 

  8. [Meharg AA et al. Inorganic arsenic levels in rice milk exceed EU and US drinking water standards. J Environ Monit. 2008;10(4):428-431.] 

  9. [Babayan VK. Medium chain triglycerides and structured lipids. Lipids. 1987;22(6):417-420.] 

  10. [House JD et al. Evaluating the quality of protein from hemp seed (Cannabis sativa L.) products through the use of the protein digestibility-corrected amino acid score method. J Agric Food Chem. 2010;58(22):11801-11807.] 

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