6 Types of Milk and Their Benefits

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6 Types of Milk and Their Benefits

May 21, 2015 //

Got milk? At one time, that was an easy question to answer. Of course, we had milk! Cow’s milk is an excellent source of calcium, protein and vitamin D. It kept us healthy and our bones strong. (Plus, it was the perfect accompaniment for cookies.) But with the increase of incidences of allergies, lactose intolerances and sensitivities, the popularity of elimination diets, vegan lifestyles and a growing market in milk alternatives, the “Got milk?” question is sometimes met with the reply no. But there’s really a type of milk (or milk-like drink) for everyone. Here are six varieties, including one cow’s milk, and their benefits.

1. Chocolate Milk

Chocolate milk is loaded with protein, vitamin D, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus. It has all the benefits of regular cow’s milk, with an added sweet benefit of chocolate. You might think this to be a kid’s beverage, but research suggests that it’s a great post-workout recovery snack. A study in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness compared muscle soreness, endurance and strength levels in male sport-climbers who either drank water or chocolate milk after physical activity to exhaustion. The chocolate milk group were able to climb farther and for a longer period of time, and they also had lower scores of muscle soreness the days after exercise. That’s news we can raise a glass to!

2. Soy Milk

Soy milk could be a good choice for those looking for something low in cholesterol. Plus, it’s a good source of copper and vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12 and calcium. And the latest health benefit: probiotics for healthy bacteria in the gut, which can help boost the immune system, reduce infections and improve digestive issues. A recent animal study in Beneficial Microbes found that soy milk fortified with Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria may help athletes not only with digestive issues but with cell proliferation.

3. Almond Milk

Almonds alone have a very good nutritional profile, so it makes sense that drinking almond milk would be good for us too. It’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and it’s also a good source of vitamin A, zinc and copper, and a very good source of vitamin D, B12 and E, as well as riboflavin and calcium. According to the Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, almonds could help lower some risk factors women have for cardiovascular disease. Two groups of female subjects were followed for three months, including almond-enriched balanced diet and nut-free balanced diet, and were tracked for body weight, waist circumference, body mass index ratings, blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, systolic and diastolic blood pressure and fasting blood sugar outcomes. Those on the almond diet showed better overall improvements, lowering the risk for cardiovascular disease.

4. Rice Milk

For those with allergies and sensitivities to nuts and dairy, rice milk has been a godsend. It’s low in calories and is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Compared to other milk varieties, rice milk isn’t as nutritious, but it does have some merit for those unable to drink cow’s milk or other alternatives. Research published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that it is easily tolerated. The double-blind, randomized, parallel study found that rice milk was able to improve weight gain and gastrointestinal tolerance in babies, as well as reduce spit-up and improve bowel movements. And, in fact, the babies consumed more rice milk than traditional milk-based infant formula.

5. Goat’s Milk

When thinking of milk choices, we often go the almond or rice route in place of cow’s milk, but goat’s milk is a good source of protein, riboflavin, calcium and phosphorus. And as long as you don’t have allergy or lactose concerns, goat’s milk is a great choice. In research from the Department of Physiology at the University of Granada, consuming goat’s milk lead to lower chance of iron deficiency and weakening of bones. And compared to cow’s milk, the nutrients iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium in goat’s milk have higher bioavailability.

6. Coconut Milk

Move over coconut oil and coconut water! Sweet dairy alternative coconut milk is very low in cholesterol and sodium, and is also a good source of manganese. Coconuts are high in saturated fat, which can be a concern for some people. But you shouldn’t worry, according to a case-controlled study in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Since a diet high in saturated fats has been linked to heart disease, the researchers compared the 12-month outcomes of saturated-fat diets of subjects from West Sumatra, Indonesia. They found that diets containing saturated fat from coconut was not a predictor of heart disease, but that intake of animal-sourced foods and eating less plant-based foods were.

So have you “got milk?” With all these choices, we’re guessing you do! Add any of these to your morning cereal or post-workout shake, or just enjoy a tall, cold glass of your favorite.

Lisa Hannam

Lisa Hannam is an award-winning health journalist, writer, editor and blogger. Her work has been published in Glow Magazine, Best Health, Oxygen, Clean Eating, Reader's Digest and more.

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