Does milk really do a body good?

The answer depends on which milk— and whose body. Use this chart to find which one is right for you.

 

WHOLE MILK

What it is: a product of the cow’s mammary gland

thumbsupIt’s a complete protein and is rich in calcium, B12 and riboflavin. Often fortified with vitamin D to help you absorb calcium and vitamin A. Conjugated linoleic acid in whole milk can reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass; several recent studies indicate that kids who drink whole milk are slimmer than kids who drink skim or low-fat milk.

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High in saturated fat and cholesterol. Also, some people have trouble digesting lactose, the primary carb in cow’s milk, so it can cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.

 

SKIM MILK

What it is: whole cow’s milk from which the fat/cream has been separated and removed

thumbsupDairy calcium is generally easier to absorb than vegetable calcium, especially when the fat has been removed. Skim milk is best for elderly people and postmenopausal women who are at higher risk for calcium deficiency.

thumbsdownRemoving fat strips milk of its fat-soluble vitamins, so skim milk must be fortified with vitamins A and D. Also, a 2006 study suggests high intake of low-fat or skim milk can impair ovulation, while high-fat dairy foods improve female fertility. Not good for people who can’t digest lactose.

 

ALMOND MILK

What it is: The liquid that remains after almonds are soaked, finely ground and strained.

thumbsupFree of soy, lactose, gluten, cholesterol and saturated fat. It’s low in calories and carbs. Almonds contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, selenium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron, fiber and phosphorus. Almond milk has as much calcium and vitamin D as dairy milk. Its flavonoids may help prevent cancer and slow the signs of aging.

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Nutrients may not be as easily absorbed as with dairy products. Not good for people with nut allergies.

 

RICE MILK

What it is: Dairy-free, nut-free, soy-free beverage made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup and brown rice starch.

thumbsupCholesterol-free and nearly fat-free. Contains the most manganese and selenium—powerful antioxidants that protect you from infections and cancers—of any milk. High in all B vitamins, which are essential to metabolism, circulation and nerve function. Provides magnesium, which helps control blood pressure; also contains iron and copper, which increase red blood cell production, improving oxygenation and vitality.

thumbsdownOne cup of rice milk contains 33 grams of carbohydrates. For diabetics, rice milk can cause sudden sugar overload. And it’s low in protein, which means it’s not useful for appetite control. Low in calcium unless fortified.

 

SOY MILK

What it is: The liquid that remains after soybeans are soaked, finely ground and strained.

thumbsupHigh in protein, dietary fiber, vitamin E and B vitamins, which raise your basal metabolic rate so that you burn fat and calories more efficiently. Soy has essential minerals—iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper and manganese—that control blood pressure, improve blood oxygenation and protect against diseases. May relieve postmenopausal  symptoms in women and prevent prostate cancer in men.

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Soy milk has sugars called oligosaccharides, that can be difficult to digest and may cause excessive gas in some people. It also contains phytic acid, which, in high doses, can inhibit calcium absorbtion.

 

COCONUT MILK

What it is: The liquid that comes from the grated meat of a coconut.

thumbsupIt’s packed with vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6, as well as iron, selenium, calcium and bone-building phosphorus. Contains potassium, sodium and chloride— electrolytes that keep the body hydrated and properly functioning—as well as high doses of magnesium, which can calm nerves and stabilize blood pressure. Lauric acid fights infections and viruses. The fiber in coconut milk makes you feel fuller longer, which can help control weight.

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Highest saturated fat of any milk alternative, low in protein and not good for people with nut allergies.