Canada’s Food Guide dedicates an entire section out of the four essential food groups to milk and alternatives. This colossal emphasis on milk products is reflected in much of the fundamental nutrients that milk provides. However, modern forms of milk have departed from the traditional animals sources to alternatives, most notably nut milks, including derivatives of almond, cashew, and coconut.

It is important to recognize that these variety of milk products can differ significantly based on their company and ergo the manufacturing process and additives. Sara Haas, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, states that she “encourages people to be label readers.” This is the most reliable method to know exactly what the product contains. However, traditional milk is differentiated from nut milk in a few fundamental ways.

Cow milk provides a plethora of important nutrients including important natural proteins. In fact, protein is a crucial constituent of traditional milk that nut milk simply cannot provide to the same extent. Although almond and cashew milk are rich in proteins, it is mostly lost when they’re processed. Another advantage for traditional milk is its ability to provide a considerable amount of calcium, compared to nut milk that lacks one of these major benefits. These alternatives moreover also cannot provide vitamin A and D to the same degree as traditional milk.

Sina Gallo, an assistant professor of nutrition and food studies, states that cow’s milk “contains lactose and casein, which help increase the absorption of calcium, and calcium helps absorb vitamin D.” According to Gallo, cow’s milk has “synergy between all the nutrients; they all work together”.

Another important consideration is that many brands of nut milk are processed with added sugars. This is often an unhealthy addition because doctors recommend minimizing the intake of sugar within one’s daily diet. Traditional milk contains the natural sugar lactose, but is usually then broken down by the body into glucose.

Almond milk is processed from ground almonds and filtered water. This nut milk is lower in calories when unsweetened, free of saturated fat, and naturally lactose-free. Due to the absence of lactose, a natural sugar, almond milk is usually mixed with cane sugar. Almond milk’s key attraction is the addition of almonds, which are nutritious. However, depending on the brand, it is important to consider the actual number of almonds inside the product. In some cases, it can be as low as two per cent. Almond milk can provide a good source of antioxidants such as vitamin E, and can be a great alternative for individuals with lactose intolerance. Its low number of calories can also be advantageous for weight-watchers. Cashew milk is similarly low in saturated fat, calories, and is cholesterol-free. This variant can be a great option for vegans and individuals with a lactose intolerance.

Coconut milk may be the least nutritious out of all. It contains more saturated fat, lacks proteins considerably, and is usually processed with sugar. However, coconut milk can be a good source of calcium, vitamin B, vitamin D, and serves as a great ingredient for cooking.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends around three daily servings of milk and alternatives. However, among the many alternatives the supermarket offers, traditional cow milk is a more superior option for our daily intake of milk. Cow milk is recommended for much of its necessary nutrients, especially to young children and infants. Milk plays a monumental role in our diets and based on its presence throughout civilization, it is indeed, a legendairy part of our agricultural history.