What your preferred milk says about your health and what you could be lacking

Nutritionist Jacqueline Alwill weighs up the dietary pros and cons of each of our fave milk types so you don’t have to.

Milk and plant based ‘milks’ have become one of the most diversified drinks on our supermarket shelves.

There’s oat, almond, coconut, hemp, pea, macadamia and soy, to goat, sheep, A2, organic, full fat, lite, skim and more but let’s sip on those just for a moment.

The question is, how does the milk you choose affect your nutrition?

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Oat milk

Oat milk has become hugely popular most recently as a dairy, soy, lactose and nut free milk alternative that still maintains that milky, creamy flavour.

It’s a great alternative for those with nut or dairy allergies and intolerances, but not advisable for coeliacs or gluten intolerant. Oat milk does contribute a small amount of fibre to your daily intake, more so than other plant or dairy milks.

However, oat milk, until fortified (which you can’t achieve if making at home), lacks certain nutrients you’ll find in a soy or dairy milk such as protein, vitamin B12 and calcium.

If you’re drinking oat milk then ensure you choose a fortified option and / or pump up these key nutrients which oat milk lacks through other dietary sources and supplementation.

If your diet is having a makeover and calcium rich sources of food and vitamin D are low then consider a calcium and vitamin D combination supplement such as Healthy Care Ultra Calcium Plus Vitamin D 150 Tablets Online at Chemist Warehouse® made with high quality ingredients, locally, on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.

Almond milk

Almond milk now sits prime in most fridges and barista’s bench tops ready for those with low carb, low calorie, low fat, dairy, soy and gluten-free preferences. And with that…almond milk ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of people.

However, I’d suggest that if almond milk has been your only choice of milk in the fridge to date, it’s time to get some variety in there with a few other plant based options. Whilst it’s great to have so much ‘low/ free’ in your milk, you’ll miss key nutrients that are important for your health.

Consider adding a good quality soy milk (unsweetened and without additives) for protein. And, if you aren’t on top of your calcium rich foods (sesame, tahini, leafy greens, broccoli, dried figs) then considering a calcium supplement such as Healthy Care’s Super Calcium Complex which contains high quality calcium, Vitamin D3 and Vitamin K may be well worth your while.

Soy milk

If soy milk is your jam you’re likely old school (like me…) and love the nutty flavour of the original plant based alternative to dairy milk. Soy milk trumps other plant based milks for its amino acid profile (protein) which is similar to that delivered by cows and other dairy milk.

Likely where people are more wary of soy however is due to the presence of phytoestrogens, which in some instances can mimic the action of oestrogen and weaken the body’s natural oestrogenic activity. This is however dependent on a number of factors, as well as the individual, and of course the actual quantity of soy you’re consuming.

My recommendation is always to keep things in balance by including but not over-doing it. If you love soy in your latte then enjoy it, but change your milk choice or opt for a long black on your next coffee. Soy can be a great milk option but like with all things, a moderate intake is best.

Dairy milk : Cow, goat, sheep

Dairy milk from cows, goat and sheep has a diverse range of nutrients including protein, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and vitamin K, which are all beneficial to our health. However, dairy doesn’t always fit within people’s ethical or dietary philosophies or cannot be consumed due to intolerance and allergies.

Fortunately we do have a number of non-dairy options to choose from now, so there is plenty of choice. However, whether dairy or plant based, calcium which is what milk is most touted for lacks Vitamin D. The key role of vitamin D is to support the absorption and conversion of calcium into its active form in the body.

Unfortunately these days with people consuming less dairy and less sunlight (working extended hours and staying indoors with digital media entertainment) Vitamin D deficiency is becoming increasingly common. This puts us at risk of developing age related diseases such as osteoporosis.

I’ll always recommend first doing blood tests to determine your Vitamin D status and if deficient look at your lifestyle ( a little bit more sunshine please!), diet and consider a high quality and dose of Vitamin D such as Healthy Care’s Vitamin D3 1000IU to replete your Vitamin D stores, promote calcium absorption, improve bone density and support your endocrine system too.

Disclaimer: Vitamin supplements can only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate. To determine what is right for your specific needs consult a health care practitioner.

Jacqueline Alwill is a nutritionist, author and founder of Brown Paper Nutrition. Follow her on Instagram.