In the milk aisle today there is a growing choice of different milks—but which milk is best? Cows, goats, sheep, rice, soya or one of the many different grain and nut milks? Many alternative milks are touted as being a healthier than cows milk—but which milk is best for you?
Whole, Semi or Skimmed? The most popular milk in the UK is semi-skimmed which has had half the natural fat, in the form of cream, skimmed off the milk. Nutritionally though, whole milk may be a better choice. Why? When the cream goes so does half of the vitamins A and D found in the fat. With less fat content, proportionally semi-skimmed milk has a higher sugar content too. Skimmed milk has an even higher sugar content and is so watery that dried skimmed milk powder is sometimes added to give it more substance making this milk far from natural. If you currently use skimmed because you believe it’s a better health and weight-loss choice, consider switching as it really isn’t the best choice for you.
Raw (unpasteurised) and organic milk is nutritionally far superior to the commercially available milks as pasteurisation destroys milk’s natural probiotics as well as some vitamins and minerals. It’s not widely available, but you can find your nearest farm licenced to sell this, via Natural Food Finder website
Lactose Free Milk actually hasn’t had the Lactose (the natural sugar that occurs in milk) removed but instead has had the enzyme Lactase, which breaks down sugar, added to it. The lactase predigests the lactose.
GOAT & SHEEP MILKS
These milks have a lower lactose level than cows milk and nutritionally it is closer to breast milk than cows milk making it easier to digest. If you like the taste, go for it as this is a good option for you.
Widely marketed as a healthy option to ward off osteoporosis and lower cholesterol, it can though be problematic for many people. Soya milk contains phyto-osetrogens which mimic the role of the female hormone oestrogen. In men this can decrease the health of sperm and, if drunk regularly, it can impact on women’s menstrual cycle. Over the 80% of the USA crop of soya is genetically modified (GMO). Knowing just how global the food supply chain is, I personally have concerns about whether ALL soya milk in the UK is GMO free and I believe there are better non-dairy options available.
GRAIN MILKS: RICE & OAT MILKS
These are the most popular of the grain milks. Both are good substitutes for dairy milk if you are vegetarian or lactose intolerant – but please be aware that the protein and calcium content is lower than dairy milks. The quality of these grain milks varies tremendously. It’s really important to check the ingredients list. I personally use Rice Dream Organic which contains rice, sunflower oil and salt and nothing else. I also like Provamel Rice-and Coconut milk which has a thicker consistency—useful in cooking or in smoothies. Alpro Rice Milk by contrast contains Maltodextrin (a sugar), Gellan Gum (a stabiliser) and Dipotassium Phosphate (an acidity regulator). Avoid grain milks with additives: there are better, more natural alternatives.
NUT MILKS: COCONUT, ALMOND & HAZELNUT
There are a growing variety of nut milks too. Some good options and some not. Most of these milks do not go well in your tea! Please also be aware that some of these milks have very little of the actual of the nut in them – again Alpro is one of the worst offenders: their unsweetened milk has loads of gums and emulsifiers but only 2% almonds compared to Eco Mil which has 7% almonds.
Most coconut milk comes in a tin rather than a carton as it has a thick, almost paste-like consistency. I often water it down a little. Nutritionally coconut milk is very good for you – high in good fats, good protein and masses of phyto-nutrients. However, I’ve yet to find one that is completely additive free. The brands from Thailand are the least adulterated with just citric acid added which is a natural preservative. Find Thai coconut milk in your Asian food shops or health food shops. All of the brands that I’ve looked at found in my local supermarkets have gums, stabilisers, preservatives and antioxidants in them. Give these a wide berth. Fairly new to the market is coconut water which in some instances can be used where you would have used milk – for example in smoothies and overnight oats. The best coconut water is just that 100% of the natural water found in ripe coconuts. It’s incredibly hydrating to your body – useful as a drink if you do a lot of sports.