Best type of milk to drink for gut, heart and bone health

There are lots of vegan or non-dairy milk options in the supermarkets in 2024
-Credit: (Image: Getty / Helen Camacaro)

The variety of milk on supermarket shelves is wider than ever, making the choice for the healthiest option a bit of a puzzle.

Classic cow's milk is nutrient-rich, offering a solid source of protein, calcium, potassium, and various vitamins. It comes in whole, reduced-fat, low-fat, and fat-free versions, often with added vitamin D from producers.

However, cow's milk can be tough to digest for those with lactose intolerance or recovering from a stomach bug. Whole milk and 2% milk are also high in saturated fat - potentially leading to cholesterol issues.

Those following a vegan lifestyle will need to choose an alternative that aligns with their beliefs and nutritional needs. The reality is there isn't one type of milk that can be crowned as the 'healthiest'. Instead, the best pick depends on your metabolic rate, dietary needs, and current diet, reports the Mirror.

Health gurus at ZOE analysed the nutritional content of nine of the most popular types of milk - from traditional cow milk to a range of alternatives and their respective health benefits. Some of these milks can boost your gut health and cardiovascular health, so it might be worth considering a change.

Traditional cow's milk is packed with nutrients - but could be unsuitable for millions
Female hand taking bottle of milk from a fridge close up -Credit:Getty

Goat's milk is typically easier to digest than cow's milk, boasting a higher nutritional density and being a rich source of vitamin A. However, its strong flavour may not be to everyone's taste.

One research review suggests that soy milk is the closest plant-based alternative to cow's milk in terms of nutritional value. Like cow's milk, it's a good source of protein but has less fat and potassium.

Oat milk, popular among coffee lovers due to its froth potential, boasts more fibre than most plant-based milks. A spokesperson from Oatly added: "The majority of plant-based dairy alternatives - including oat versions - are fortified with nutrients such as calcium up to the levels found in cow’s milk."

Almond milk, produced by soaking almonds and straining the liquid, unfortunately loses most of the nut's health benefits during this process. Some almond milk brands also include added salt, vitamins, minerals, stabilisers, and preservatives.

Hemp milk, made by soaking hemp seeds and grinding them, is low in carbs and has fewer calories than cow's milk and most other plant-based milks.

Coconut milk, increasingly popular as a cow's milk substitute, has significantly less protein. Some versions also contain stabilisers, salt, flavourings, and added vitamins.

Soy milk is the closest match to cow's milk
Soy milk is the closest match to cow's milk -Credit:Getty

Rice milk, on the other hand, has less protein than many other plant-based milks. However, it typically boasts higher levels of manganese and selenium.

ZOE research suggests that while many plant-based milks may be lower in saturated fat and calories than traditional cow's milk, the manufacturing process can often eliminate the nutritious parts of the plant and introduce a host of new ingredients.

When it comes to nutritional value, dairy milks usually take the top spot. Among the plant-based alternatives, soy milk is the closest match to the nutritional profile of cow's and goat's milks.