Got Milk: What’s the Difference?

There’s an interesting debate going on right now between cow’s milk producers and makers of plant based milk alternatives like soy, almond and coconut. Dairy milk producers want the FDA to crack down, ensuring only cow’s milk can be labeled ‘milk’.  That may be because dairy milk sales are down almost 50% compared to a decade ago, while sales of nut milks like almond are sky rocketing. I thought I’d show a little nutrition comparison between some of the more popular milks on shelves today, plus some staggering stats on what it takes to produce your favorite coffee companion. First, here’s the nutrition label of 8oz serving of cow’s milk.


By some estimates, it takes 2,000 gallons of water to produce just one gallon of milk. But just as alarming, it can take up to 1,000 gallons of water to make one gallon of almond milk. Here’s how unsweetened almond milk compares in nutrition. It has very little fat, calories and no sugar, but also no protein and virtually no calcium, as do other nut milks like cashew and pecan milk (yup, that’s a new one!).


Soy milk has been around for decades, and was the original ‘non-dairy’ milk for the lactose intolerant. But while it is high in protein, Vitamins A, b12, D and Calcium, many people have soy allergies as well. And with water resources scarce, it’s no surprise companies like Ripple are turning to plant proteins like peas to create a dairy free milk that’s almost identical to milk, without the allergies associated with both nuts and soy. I found the nutrition and water conservation of Ripple to be staggering, and the taste is mild and creamy. Here is some interesting info about their label.

ripple_nutritionphoto courtesy Ripple

Regardless of which ‘milk’, dairy or non dairy you prefer, look at the labels. Even from one box to another you could see a huge variation like added sugar and funky ingredients like thickeners and binders. I always look for plain, unsweetened varieties and I’m always on the hunt for the next food wave to hit shelves!


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