It’s the age-old dilemma – should you stick with cow’s milk or make the switch to plant-based? Let’s dive right in and talk all things milk, unpacking the benefits and debunking some myths.

When it comes to making a healthier pick, there are three main things to consider.

1. Following your taste buds

Taste is the first and probably most important checkpoint. Why? Because if you can’t stand the taste of something, chances are, you won’t be drinking it either. 

Dairy milk has that natural creaminess that many adore. On the other hand, plant-based options can be a bit of a hit or miss, especially when added to coffee, where it may taste chalky.

But taste is a personal matter. For some, almond milk works wonders in smoothies, while oat milk is the go-to for its balanced flavour.


2. The nutritional lowdown

Dairy is a go-to source for calcium, a mineral essential for bone health. In fact, it’s the best source of calcium in our diet!

To meet your daily calcium requirements, there are three different types of dairy you should consider; milk, yoghurt and cheese. There are also a number of naturally occurring nutrients in dairy including vitamin A, D, E and K, B group vitamins, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and selenium. 

Shockingly, 73% of females and 51% of males in Australia over the age of 2 fall short in meeting their calcium needs from food. This shortfall can increase the risk of osteoporosis, especially as we age. It’s big stuff!

So, if you go for the plant-based alternatives, always check to see if it’s calcium fortified. And if you add milk to your coffee, keep in mind that caffeine and calcium don’t mix well, so taste should be the key deciding factor here. 

Cow’s milk protein content is also top-notch. wWhich is crucial for muscle health, tissue repair and helps keep you fuller for longer. Most plant based milks have a much lower protein content in comparison to cow’s milk. So that’s another thing to keep in mind if you’re making the switch.

“I can’t drink cow’s milk without getting bloated”

This might be more to do with the type of cow’s milk you drink, not the milk itself. Let me explain..

Cow’s milk’s main protein is casein, with two types being A1 and A2. The main difference between A1 protein and A2 protein is how easy it is to digest. The A1 protein may lead to digestive issues including wind, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation and all the un-fun side effects. And so you might be thinking- ” I have a lactose intolerance”. But studies actually suggest that sensitivity to milk may be more related to milk proteins than lactose. 

What are milk proteins?

Most cows’ milk in grocery stores contain a combination of A1 and A2 beta-casein proteins. And A2 milk comes from cows that only produce the A2 protein. 

A2 milk is natural and nothing is done to the cows or milk during the milking process. The cows are tested and selected by those who naturally produce only the A2 protein type and not A1. It’s based on genetics – similar to having brown vs blue eyes.

So, before you decide to ditch cow’s milk and the amazing benefits it offers, it’s worth giving A2 milk a try!

Is cow’s milk really that important for everyone? Including adults?

Bone health is a lifelong journey. And calcium is crucial for building and maintaining bone health. The more calcium we have in our younger years, the better for our older selves.

Getting enough calcium can be a challenge for those who can’t tolerate milk, as regular foods don’t offer much of it. A single cup of milk covers about half to one-third of the recommended daily calcium intake for kids (1-11 years) and one-third to a quarter for adults.

The habits we develop in childhood and adolescence contribute to slowing down the bone mass process. But this doesn’t mean we should give up on milk as we age.

As we get older, we naturally lose bone mass, especially from 40-50 years onward. Women experiencing this even more during menopause. This increases the risk of bone-related issues like osteoporosis. Which is why it’s so important to get enough calcium to support bone density.

With age, muscle loss also becomes a concern. Consuming enough protein is crucial for overall muscle health. And cow’s milk stands out as an excellent protein source. Dairy in general, is an underrated protein source, containing essential nutrients we discussed earlier. It’s also a much more cost-effective alternative to meat and pricey protein supplements.

OK. So dairy has some great benefits, but what about saturated fat?

Full-fat dairy had its fair share of drama back in the ’90s. But it’s time to move on. Cow’s milk comes in various fat content levels, from full-fat to skim. 

Here’s the scoop: full-fat isn’t the villain. And low fat doesn’t contain added sugars. Naturally, as the fat content decreases, there will be a slight increase in sugar content. So, choosing between full-fat or skim should be more about finding your taste and dietary preference balance.

Despite containing saturated fat, dairy seems to play by its own rules when it comes to the impact it has on our health, thanks to something called the ‘food matrix.’ This concept highlights the unique way nutrients in dairy work together when it’s in its natural form, like milk or yogurt. When you consume dairy, it doesn’t react the same as other saturated fats.

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and the same goes for food. Don’t judge a food by one small part. The whole picture matters more than a single detail.

The earth-friendly choice

Cows are in the spotlight due to their methane emissions, and that’s why some people are leaning towards plant-based milks. However, it’s important to consider the environmental footprint of these alternatives. Almonds are water-guzzlers, while oats offer a more sustainable choice with less water usage.

Oat milk is often considered one of the more environmentally friendly plant-based options because oats tend to require less water and land compared to almonds. Additionally, oat milk is often produced locally, which can reduce transportation-related emissions.

Ultimately, the choice between dairy and plant-based milk from an environmental perspective depends on different factors including; your location, the specific product, and the production practices involved. If you’re looking to make an environmentally conscious choice, it’s a good idea to research the specific options available in your area and their production methods to make an informed decision.

So which is the best milk for me to drink?

The dairy vs. plant-based milk debate doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all answer. If dairy suits you, it’s definitely a delicious and healthy choice to go for. But if you have a lactose intolerance or dairy allergy, plant-based offers a great alternative. 

Whether you prefer dairy or plant-based milk, knowing what different options are out there can help you pick what’s right for you. So, grab a glass and enjoy the goodness that milk adds to your life!

Want more guidance with healthy eating? Check out my Back to Basics app. It will help take the guesswork out of planning, shopping and cooking to help make your life easier.

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