Are Plant-Based Milks Healthier Than Dairy Milk?

By Hannah de Gruchy / Nutrition / January 30th, 2023

Nutrition – dairy milks vs plant-based milks

Nutrition - dairy milks vs plant-based milks

Nutritionally-speaking, there are some important differences between dairy and non-dairy milks. On a macronutrient level, cow’s milk contains around 3.6g of protein per 100ml. Most plant-based milks contain considerably less than this, with the exception of soya and pea milks, coming in at around 3.3g per 100ml.

If you’re only having a splash of milk in your coffee each day, you’re unlikely to be getting significant protein from milk anyway. But if you’re using dairy-free milk in a protein smoothie or on cereal and you’re concerned about a low protein intake, opt for protein-rich soya or pea milk, preferably unsweetened.

The other macronutrient to consider is fat. Cow’s milk, like most animal-based products, contains saturated fat. Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk contains less but on the whole, plant-based milks contain far less saturated fat and are therefore healthier in that respect.

Cow’s milk is rich in micronutrients too, including calcium and vitamin D that are required for healthy teeth and bones, as well as phosphorous, zinc and vitamin B12. Again, if you’re only have a splash of milk a day, then it’s unlikely to be a good source of these vitamins and minerals for you anyway.

However, many plant-based milks are fortified, meaning that they’ve had important micronutrients added to them, such as calcium, iodine and vitamins B12 and D. A healthy, balanced diet is likely to provide all of the micronutrients you need. Be mindful that if you’re choosing plant-based milks as part of a fully vegan diet, it’s recommended that you take a vitamin B12 supplement as it’s difficult to obtain from plants alone, unless you eat a lot of fortified foods.


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