Sat
Apr
16
2011

The Pros and Cons of 8 Different Milk Varieties

different milk

From soy milk, almond milk and rice milk to coconut milk, goat’s milk, organic milk and raw milk, a quick trip through the dairy aisle will reveal plenty of milk varieties that go well beyond the standard 2%, 1% and skim milk options that you probably grew up with and, are familiar with.

However, with so many milk choices available to consumers, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each type of milk, the differences in nutritional value, taste and how your body digests the calcium-rich thirst quencher.

First, it’s important to point out what might be obvious: plenty of milk varieties are not really “milk” at all, since they don’t come from an animal. Milks falling under this category including the coconut, rice, almond and soy varieties.

However, just because certain types of milk break from what is considered to be tradition, it does not necessarily mean that they should be immediately discarded as a healthy addition to your overall dietary intake regime. Here are several of the advantages and disadvantages of 8 different varieties of milk:

The Good and Bad of the Different Milk Varieties

Cow’s Milk

  • + More calcium than any other milk.

  • + Double the protein of any other milk.

  • + Several options available, including fat-free, 1%, 2% and whole milk.


  • - Many individuals are lactose intolerant – their stomachs are unable to digest the natural sugars (lactose) contained in milk, resulting in diarrhea, bloating, gas, abdominal pain and various other unpleasantries.

  • - The chocolate, strawberry and other flavored varieties can be extremely high in sugar, offsetting many of the health benefits.

Raw Milk

  • + Highly natural form of nutrition without pasteurization.

  • + Can come from cows, sheep and goats.


  • - May include harmful bacteria such as listeria, E. coli and salmonella.

  • - Over the past 13 years, approximately 800 Americans have fallen ill after consuming raw cheeses and milk.

Organic Milk

  • + Produced without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.


  • - Twice as expensive as non-organic milk.

  • - No clear health benefits beyond that of regular milk.

Goat’s Milk

  • + Easier to digest for many people than cow’s milk because of the size of its protein molecules.

  • + Just as much calcium as the whole milk variety of cow’s milk.

  • + More tryptophan than cow’s milk. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid.


  • - Contains lactose, giving it the same disadvantage as cow’s milk.

  • - The sweet/salty flavor isn’t for everyone.

Soy Milk

  • + High in calcium and protein.

  • + Free of saturated fat.

  • + Strong alternative for those who are lactose intolerant.


  • - May inhibit mineral and protein absorption, which offsets its health benefits.

  • - Some studies show that soy consumption can increase the risk of breast cancer.

Coconut Milk

  • + Rich, creamy and highly flavorful thanks to its composition: the juices and meat of the coconut, ground to a smooth texture.

  • + Highly popular in Thai and Indian cooking.

  • + Easily digestible fats.

  • + Low in cholesterol.


  • - Extremely high in calories (467 calories per 8 fl. oz.).

  • - Low in protein and calcium.

  • - High in saturated fat.

Rice Milk

  • + Low in calories and fat.

  • + Comes in soy-free and lactose-free varieties.

  • + Comes in various favors, such as vanilla and plain.


  • - No vitamin A or C.

  • - Very limited protein content.

  • - Lacks nutrition overall.

Almond Milk

  • + Pleasant, rich taste thanks to composition: water, sweeteners and ground almonds.

  • + Similar nutritional profile to dairy milk.

  • + Several available flavors.

  • + Several vitamins and minerals.


  • - Very little protein compared to cow’s milk.

  • - Lacks vitamin B.

  • - Some varieties have lots of added sugar.

Pros and Cons of Milk: The Bottom Line

So, all things considered, which milk product should you reach for the next time you’re in the refrigerated section of your favorite grocery store? Ultimately, the pros and cons of milk come down to your health and fitness goals, your overall dietary regimen, and of course, your personal tastes and preferences.

Despite a bevy of worthwhile alternatives, cow’s milk remains one of the best choices for those who enjoy the flavor and are tolerant to lactose, so long as the consumption of sweetened varieties is kept to a minimum. Goat’s milk has all the nutrition of cow’s milk and then some, but the flavor may be an acquired taste, and it might be difficult to find in some stores. Raw milk is too risky of a choice for most, and organic milk is only worthwhile if you’re a hardcore supporter of the organic movement and you can afford the added expense.

Of the non-animal-derived milk varieties, almond milk may be the best choice so long as you get sufficient amounts of protein and vitamin B elsewhere in your diet. Rice milk lacks nutrition, coconut milk is loaded with saturated fat and calories, and soy milk requires more research before its health impact is fully known.

6 Responses to The Pros and Cons of 8 Different Milk Varieties

  1. Dang, thank you very much for posting this! It is gonna help me when I get Coconut Milk at the store! So Extraordinary!

  2. Good heavens, thanks very much for posting this! It is gonna help when I buy Coconut Milk at the grocery store! Awesome!

  3. Suzanna keats says:

    It’s rather obvious who the source of this is — someone working for a dairy co., etc. But that’s ok, you need to make money too. Please just make sure it’s all truth………thank you.

    • TJ Anderson says:

      Hi Suzanna,

      Thank you so much for reading :) I can assure you that this post was not written by a milk industry rep. FitnessHealth101 employs a team of health professionals that always strive to write the most truthful, objective content possible. That’s why we list both the pros and cons of each type. I hope this adequately addresses your concern!

  4. AM says:

    I find it amusing that organic milk stated it had “no clear benefits than regular milk ” when it also stated it’s made without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones, as though those are not harmful.

  5. Debra says:

    The great informations!!! I can’t drink Cow’s Milk. As you said: I’m lactose intolerant – I often been diarrhea, bloating, gas, abdominal pain…
    Debra recently posted..Polaris 9550 Sport Robotic In-Ground Pool Cleaner ReviewMy Profile

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