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Plant-Based Milk vs. Dairy Milk

Plant-Based Milk vs. Dairy Milk

Wondering if plant-based milk is a better option for you than animal milk? Let’s find out.

With so many choices of milk available in the market—coupled with various opinions in the wellness industry—it can be difficult to decide which milk is best for you. The three most popular plant-based milks are almond, soy and oat, while the most common animal milk is cow—broken down into skim and whole. While plant-based milks are typically lower in fat and calories and a great option for those who have are lactose intolerant or have a dairy sensitivity, dairy milk is nutrient dense in many vitamins and minerals and can be a suitable option in moderation for some. To better understand the pros and cons of each, we are going to compare four key components: the calories, protein, calcium and vitamin D content, as well as the sugar, fat and carbohydrate content of each. Let’s delve into plant based milk vs. dairy milk.

Cow’s milk

(Serving size 8 ounces, shown in grams)

  • Skim

    • Calories: 80
    • Protein: 8.5
    • Calcium: 31% D.V., also known as daily value)
    • Vitamin D: 25% DV
    • Sugar: 12
    • Fat: 0
    • Carbohydrate: 12
  • Whole

    • Calories: 152
    • Protein: 8
    • Calcium: 31% D.V.
    • Vitamin D: 25% D.V.
    • Sugar: 12
    • Fat: 8
    • Carbohydrate: 11.5

As you can see, the only main differences between skim and whole milk are the calories and fat. If you opt for 2% milk, remember most nutritional content is the same except lower calories and fat compared to whole milk. This can be a good alternative to lower fat and calorie intake if you are used to whole milk.

Plant-based milk 

(all shown unsweetened)

  • Almond

    • Calories: 30
    • Protein: 1
    • Calcium: 30% D.V.
    • Vitamin D: 13% D.V.
    • Sugar: 0
    • Fat: 0
    • Carbohydrate: 1.4
  • Soy

    • Calories: 80
    • Protein: 7
    • Calcium: 30%
    • Vitamin D: 15%
    • Sugar: 1
    • Fat: 4
    • Carbohydrate: 4
  • Oat

    • Calories: 45
    • Protein: 1
    • Calcium: 25%
    • Vitamin D: 20%
    • Sugar: 0
    • Fat: 0.5
    • Carbohydrate: 8

As for plant-based milk options, you can see that almond milk is a healthy option based on the total factors, if you aren't looking at protein. If you need a protein-rich milk, opt for soy.

The conclusion

While there is no correct answer for plant based milk vs. dairy milk, if you're looking for a low calorie, low fat option of milk, plant-based milks have more options and are lower in both. If you want a high protein, low calorie option, you can opt for soy or skim dairy milk. 

For overall gut health, studies have shown that eating a mainly plant-based diet, including non-dairy or fermented milk, promotes overall lower inflammation in the body and promotes easier digestion. The decision to have cows milk products rides on your personal nutritional needs, your tolerance and your preferences. Most people will benefit from taking out cows milk and dairy products in general from their diet for 3-4 days as part of an elimination diet. Then add back in to see if it’s an intolerance. Personally, I do not drink cows milk but can tolerate small amounts of fermented dairy. It’s the new era of personalized nutrition and dairy falls right into that category.

The top five plant-based milk options that you may consider trying:

(*According to consumer reports)

  1. Silk Organic Soy Milk Unsweet


It is a smooth and easy swap for people who want to choose healthier alternatives and still get protein in through their milk consumption.

  1. Oatly Oat-Milk Original


The froth is thick, it is perfect for cereal and frothy lattes.

  1. Califia Farms Oat-Milk Unsweetened


It is gluten-free, soy free and has zero sugar.

  1. Pacific Foods Organic Coconut Plant-Based Beverage

It is gluten free, wheat free, has less sodium and is a little mild and creamy in taste.

  1. Elmhurst Milked Almonds Unsweetened

This is made without any gums or emulsifiers and has a long shelf life as well. This is a great dairy milk alternative not only because of its nutritional profile but also because of its cost.

The top five rated dairy milk options that you can consider trying are:

  1. Organic Valley Low Fat Milk

It has no antibiotics or synthetic hormones and is high in vitamin A and vitamin D-3.

  1. Fa!rlife Ultra Filtered Milk

It has 13g protein and has less sugar content than the regular cow milk, making it a perfect option for someone who does not want to switch to plant-based milk.

  1. Straus Family Creamery Organic Milk

This just has 160 calories per cup and has 9g of protein which makes it a very wholesome option. 

  1. Horizon Organic Milk

Each serving contains a moderate amount of 32mg of DHA-Omega 3, is rich and smooth in flavor and perfect for kids who may need whole milk.

  1. Shamrock Farms Milk

This has no artificial hormones and is rich and creamy in taste.