Whole milk or fat free? Lactose-free milk? Almond, soy or rice milk? Learn more about the different types of milk and what to consider, so you can choose the best type of milk for you and your family to drink.

It used to be that the main type of milk available was whole milk or full cream milk. Now there are many different versions of milk such as, whole milk, reduced fat 2%, light 1%, skim or fat-free milk 0%, and even lactose-free milk. There are also a variety of alternatives to cow’s milk with almond, soy and rice milk as some of the leading choices. Other newer types of milks are oat and hemp milk.
Here we compare the different calories, fats, protein, carbohydrates, cholesterol and major vitamins and minerals in these different types of milk:

Whole milk is cow’s milk with none of the fat removed, so it is high in saturated fat and in calories. Whole milk is defined as milk that contains 3.5% fat, 8.5% nonfat milk solids, and 88% water. Whole milk is a good source of protein, calcium, several vitamins and minerals.

Skim or fat free milk is cow’s milk with the fat removed, reducing the number of calories in a 1 cup serving from 150 in whole milk to just 90 calories. Fat free milk has all of the benefits of whole milk, a good source of protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals, without the saturated fat and calories.

Lactose-free milk is processed so the lactose, the natural sugar found in milk products, is broken down. Lactose-free milk is a good source of protein, calcium, vitamins and minerals. The fat and cholesterol contents vary depending on whether the lactose-free milk is 2% fat, 1% fat or fat-free. Lactose-free milk allows those who are lactose intolerant to still drink dairy products.

Almond milk is made from ground almonds. It is free of cholesterol, saturated fat and naturally lactose free. Even though almonds are a good source of protein, almond milk is not. Almond milk is also not a good source of calcium. Almond milk is lower in calories than other milks.

Soy milk is made from soybeans. It is free of cholesterol, contains minimal amounts of saturated fat and no lactose. Soybeans and soy milk are a good source of protein, calcium and potassium. Soy milk contains a similar amount of protein as cow’s milk. It is lower in calories than whole milk.

Rice milk is made from rice. It is free of cholesterol, saturated fat and is naturally lactose free, but is very low in protein. Rice milk has a milder flavour than almond or soy milk. Rice milk manufacturers promote their product as being safe for people with milk allergies, soy and nut allergies and lactose intolerance.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a type of milk to drink. One key factor is age or stage in life; another is whether or not there are health reasons or personal reasons for drinking a specific type of milk or avoiding other types of milk.
There are certain phases in life in which getting the nutrients found in milk is essential. For children over two years, teens, pregnant women and elderly, the recommended milk is skim milk. For children under the age of two, whole milk is recommended because their brains are still growing and developing.
Other factors that influence the type of milk one may choose to drink include whether someone has high cholesterol levels, is lactose intolerant, has a milk allergy or is following a vegetarian diet. Avoiding whole milk with high saturated fats is important for someone trying to reduce cholesterol levels. Someone with lactose intolerance will want to choose lactose-free milk. Vegetarians choose alternative milks like almond, soy or rice milk to avoid animal milk products.

When deciding on what milk to drink, consider the nutritional composition of the milk that you want to use, along with any specific health and personal reasons for choosing a particular type of milk; these factors will help you make the most educated milk choice.