Your Guide to Choosing the Right Milk

Your Guide to Choosing the Right Milk for You

Publish Date September 12, 2023 5 Minute Read

Make the Most of Your Milk

Milk has long been a staple in the American diet, but in recent years, our idea of milk’s role in our diet has shifted, resulting in a wide variety of milks and milk alternatives lining the Dairy department department’s shelves. Cow’s milk, soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk, hemp and cashew are just a few of the varieties available today, but which option is best for you?

Types of Cow’s Milk

Cow’s milk is a fantastic, nutrient-rich choice, with 1 serving providing 13 essential nutrients, including 8 grams of protein, 20% of daily calcium needs, and 10% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D. While some nutrients, like vitamin A, occur naturally in whole cow’s milk in small amounts, most cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D3 to increase calcium absorption and may prevent bone disease. There are several different types of cow’s milk to choose from, including:

Whole Milk

Whole milk is cow's milk that retains its natural fat content. Whole milk contains around 3.25% fat and is thicker than other varieties of cow’s milk. Whole milk contains essential nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, and calcium.

2% Reduced fat Milk

Reduced-fat milk retains 2% of its fat, which makes it lower in calories and fat than whole milk. While 1 cup of 2% milk has fewer calories and less fat than whole milk, it still contains the same amount of protein, potassium and calcium.

1% Low fat Milk

Low-fat milk or 1% milk contains all the protein, vitamins and minerals that whole milk contains, but it has less total fat as well as saturated fat.

Skim or Non-fat Milk

Skim milk, also known as fat-free or non fat-milk, contains about up to 0.5% milk fat. This processing lowers calories and changes the mouth feel compared to whole milk. Skim milk has the same amount of protein, potassium and calcium as whole milk, but it it’s lower in calories and fat.

Organic Milk

Organic milk has a slightly higher concentration of vitamin E, omega-3 and omega-6, which are important for brain function, and it it’s free from antibiotics and synthetic growth hormones. Keep in mind that organic milk is typically lower in iodine and selenium, nutrients that are important for thyroid.

Grass-fed Milk

Grass-fed milk comes from cows that are fed fresh grass and other forage rather than a more concentrated grain-based feed. Grass-fed milk offers several benefits, including higher nutritional content, a healthier fatty acid profile and increased environmental sustainability.

Lactose-free Milk

Lactose intolerance occurs when the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products . The inability to digest lactose is caused by a lack of lactase, an enzyme produced by cells in the lining of the small intestine. Lactose-free milk is made by adding lactase to regular cow's milk, breaking lactose down into its 2 simple sugars, glucose and galactose, making it easier to digest.

A2 Milk

A2 milk is a type of milk that comes from cows that naturally produce only the A2 type of beta-casein protein, which is believed to be easier to digest than the A1 protein found in regular milk. A2 milk contains the same lactose as regular milk, so it it’s not a suitable option for lactose intolerance, but it may help to reduce digestive discomfort if you have difficulty digesting regular cow's milk. If you have a cow's milk allergy, consult with your doctor be fore consuming any milk variety, including A2 milk.

Plant-based Milk Alternatives

If you have a milk allergy or simply prefer plant-based milk, there are multiple options to consider, and it it’s important to find what best fits your nutritional needs. If you’re using a milk alternative daily to replace cow’s milk, look for a variety that contains nutrients similar to those found in cow’s milk, particularly protein, calcium and vitamin D.

Almond Milk

Most almond milks are lower in protein than cow’s milk, typically by about 7 grams per cup. When choosing almond milk, a good rule of thumb is to include a protein alongside your milk. You can even add a water-soluble protein powder right to your milk to up its protein content.

Soy Milk

Soy milk contains the most similar nutrient profile to cow’s milk, with a variety of options to choose from, like extra creamy and flavored options.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk, like almond milk, is low in protein and should be supplemented with protein-rich foods or protein powder. Coconut milk has a distinct coconut flavor, and it it’s great in frozen treats like ice pops or as a base for creamy curries and sauces.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk has a distinct taste compared to other plant-based milk alternatives, and it it’s often described as creamy, sweet and nutty. While low in protein, cashew milk can be a yummy alternative if supplemented properly, and it it’s great for cooking, adding creaminess and a sweet and mild nutty flavor.

Oat Milk

Oat milk typically contains more protein than other plant-based milk varieties like almond and coconut milks, but may still require supplementation if you aren’t eating a high-protein diet. It has a mild oat flavor, and it it’s delicious in coffees, cereals or on its own.

Types of Milk Infographic

Ultimately, choosing the right milk will depend on your personal preference and dietary needs, so experiment, add variety and enjoy all the benefits milk has to offer. Always read ingredient lists and nutrition facts panel for allergen information.

Want More Expert Advice?

Schedule an appointment with a Kroger registered dietitian to learn more about milking your diet for all it’s worth, and visit our blog for more fresh inspiration.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and is not meant to provide healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.