Dietitians share the differences between 10 types of milk, and which variety you should be drinking

·4 min read
Dietitians share the differences between 10 types of milk, and which variety you should be drinking
pouring milk
There are a lot of milk options to choose from.Shutterstock
  • Insider asked dietitians which dairy or nondairy milk varieties are best for different lifestyles.

  • Cow's milk is a great source of protein and calcium if you can tolerate lactose.

  • Pea, soy, and hemp milks are higher in protein than some other nondairy alternatives.

Cow's milk has a lot of benefits if you can tolerate lactose and dairy.

glass milk bottles
Cow's milk is packed with calcium and vitamins.S_E/Shutterstock

Cow's milk is a good source of important proteins, vitamins, and minerals, licensed and registered dietitian Lauren Smith told Insider.

One cup of cow's milk provides around 8 grams of protein in addition to high amounts of calcium and vitamin D.

But, of course, it also contains lactose, so if you're sensitive to it, it's best to look for an alternative.

Almond milk is a decent option for those on the keto diet.

Portion Sizes 1 Almonds
Almond milk is generally low in fat.Hollis Johnson

Unsweetened almond milk is a great choice for anyone following a low-carb or ketogenic (keto) diet, according to Smith.

It's usually low in calories, sugar, and fat, and it's fortified with antioxidants.

But almond milk is also low in protein.

Oat milk gives you an added boost of fiber.

Oat milk
Oat milk is high in carbohydrates.Shutterstock

Oat milk has become a popular plant-based dairy alternative.

It's high in fiber and beta-glucan — a type of soluble fiber that can lower cholesterol and aid in gut healing — Dahlia Marin, plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist and cofounder of Married to Health, told Insider.

But oat milk is higher in carbohydrates and natural sugars than most nut-based milk varieties.

Pea-protein milk has a smooth and creamy taste.

peas
It's a great source of plant-based protein.Flickr / Kari Söderholm

Pea milk can have just as much protein as cow's milk, and it has a creamy texture that other nondairy options often lack. It's also typically fairly high in potassium.

But whether or not you choose pea milk might have something to do with your taste buds.

As registered dietitian Matthew Ruscigno wrote for Today's Dietitian, it sometimes has "a beany or grassy flavor."

In terms of nutrients, soy milk is the closest equivalent to cow's milk.

soy
Soy milk is a good post-workout option.Shutterstock

Soy milk is the closest equivalent to cow's milk, Sylvia North, New Zealand-based registered dietitian, told Insider.

It's high in protein, contains essential amino acids, and is often fortified with calcium for bone health.

Soy milk is also a good post-workout option because of its protein content, according to Smith. It contains 8 grams per cup — the same as cow's milk — and is considered a heart-healthy food for those at risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Coconut milk is a low-calorie, nondairy option.

coconut milk
Coconut milk is low in calories but high in fat.Shutterstock

For those with nut allergies or sensitivities, coconut milk is a great low-calorie, nondairy option.

It's high in MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) which support brain function and is usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D, registered dietitian Amanda Barnes told Insider.

But coconut milk lacks protein and is high in fat and simple carbs.

Hemp milk is rich in nutrients.

hemp seeds
It's high in omega-3 fatty acids.Teri Virbickis/Shutterstock

Hemp milk is higher in calories than other nondairy alternatives, but it's rich in nutrients.

It's high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in brain and heart health.

Hemp milk is also a complete plant-based protein source, Marin told Insider, because it contains all nine essential amino acids.

Macadamia-nut milk is close in taste to cow's milk.

macadamia nut
It's one of the more expensive nondairy milk varieties.Shutterstock

If you're looking for a nondairy milk that tastes like cow's milk, macadamia-nut milk could be your best option — as long as you're not allergic to tree nuts.

Though it's a bit pricier than most other varieties, it has a subtle buttery, nutty flavor.

It's also high in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, according to Marin.

Rice milk is good for those with multiple allergies or sensitivities.

brown rice white rice
Rice milk may raise your blood-sugar levels.4kodiak/Getty Images

Rice milk is a good option for people with multiple food sensitivities, such as those allergic to nuts, dairy, and soy.

But it offers little nutritional value, since it is mainly rice starch mixed with water, and it may raise blood-sugar levels, according to Marin.

Cashew milk is a great low-calorie, dairy-free alternative.

cashews
Cashew milk is low in carbs.iStock

Cashew milk is low in calories, carbs, and sugar, and it's usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D. But store-bought varieties are often low in protein.

According to Marin, it's a good option for those with blood-sugar imbalances or anyone looking for a low-calorie dairy alternative.

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