The Difference Between Animal Milk and Plant-Based Milk

For years, we have been taught that milk is the best source of calcium. It helps strengthen and develop the bones. At the same time, there has been a lot of confusion surrounding cow milk. But that apart, several milk substitutes have popped up in the market that claims to be better than cow milk. So the question is should we avoid cow milk?

Types of Cow Milk

When it comes to purchasing and consuming cow milk, there are several types to choose from. To begin with, Whole Milk contains 3.25% milk fat with 150 calories and 8 grams of fat per cup. Reduced-Fat milk contains 2% milk fat with 120 calories and 5 grams of fat per cup. Skim milk contains 0% milk fat by weight with 80 calories and 0 grams of fat per cup. 

Flavored milk contains additional ingredients to make it taste different, such as chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, etc. This type of milk is high in added sugars; therefore, you should make sure to read the label of nutrition facts before purchasing.

In addition to that, organic milk comes from cows that are not treated with antibiotics. These cows are not provided drugs that trigger hormone production to increase growth or reproduction. Plus, their diets contain at least 30% pasture. 

And then there is Lactose-Free Milk. Lactose is a type of natural sugar that is broken down by an enzyme found in our bodies called lactase. Since some people do not produce enough lactase, the manufacturers will add lactase to the milk so that it is broken down outside the body. This is why lactose-free milk tastes relatively a bit sweeter due to the presence of free glucose. 

Is Milk Healthy?

Over the years, thousands of studies have been conducted to determine the health benefits of milk. Experts suggest that irrespective of the milk type you choose, your body will receive essential nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, riboflavin, and niacin, etc. These are essential compounds that are important for the normal functioning of our body. Moreover, since these compounds are not naturally produced, we have to consume them through sources such as milk.  

Milk Benefits

The benefits of milk have long been associated with the development and strengthening of the bones. Nutrients such as vitamin K, vitamin D, protein, magnesium, and phosphorus help repair and sustain strong bones. This also leads to the prevention of bone-related diseases such as osteoporosis. 

Although the same nutrients are also found in plant sources such as beans, leafy greens, and nuts. But most people do not prefer eating them. And since the consumption is far less as compared to milk products, the body does not receive a sufficient amount of essential nutrients. And then there is the variety of drinks and dishes you can prepare using milk. 

For instance, you can make protein shakes, smoothies, healthy pies and cakes, etc., within a few minutes. On the other hand, plant-based sources neither offer such variety nor taste. 

Concern with Cow’s Milk

Even though cow’s milk provides several health benefits, some people still refuse its consumption for several reasons. Allergies, lactose intolerance, antibiotics and pesticides, and hormones being the biggest concerns, the consumption of cow milk is reducing with time as people search for alternatives.

It is estimated that around 68% of the world’s population has some degree of lactose intolerance. This is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough lactase that breaks down natural lactose. As a result, people consuming cow milk happen to experience intestinal discomfort. 

On the other hand, there is no doubt that cows are given antibiotics and steroids to increase milk production. This can lead to health concerns such as cancers amongst humans. Meanwhile, many manufacturers claim that their organic milk does not contain such chemicals. But consumers still find it hard to believe.

Plant-Based Milk Alternatives

With the attention now shifting towards plant-based milk alternatives, Soy Milk and Nut Milk tend to be the most popular types. Soy milk is produced by soaking soybeans in water. It offers the same amount of proteins as cow milk and contains disease-fighting isoflavones. 

Plus, soy milk is proven to contain calcium along with other minerals and vitamins found in cow milk. Although several health concerns such as breast cancer have been associated with the consumption of soy milk, there is no proof yet. 

Nut Milk is produced by soaking nuts in water. Since there are a variety of nuts out there, you can create different types of nut milk. For instance, pecan, hazelnut, and walnut, etc. Like some cow milk manufacturers that claim their milk is organic, some nut milk producers only use nuts and do not include filler ingredients. 

As a result, analyzing the differences between organic nut milk and nut milk produced using other formulas becomes necessary. Drinking oat milk is also a great alternative.

How Is Plant-Based Milk Made?

Plant-based or organic milk is produced by grinding beans or nuts and adding water, flavors, vitamins, and minerals with other additives. Plant-based milk’s nutrients and sugar content vary greatly depending on its production and addition. Cow’s milk includes protein, calcium, riboflavin, and potassium. 

All the products contain the same nutrients, but fat varies from no fat to low fat to full fat. The one closer to cow’s milk is calcium-fortified milk, containing fewer other nutrients. Some plant-based milk is deficient in protein which can be dangerous for children and the elderly. 

Plant-based milk is gaining popularity because it’s a safer option for allergic or lactose-intolerant people. Since more than one type of milk is available, people can choose flavored milk as well for its delicious taste. Most experts advise milk drinkers to read the labels and decide based on nutrition, price, and personal preferences.

Plant Milk Benefits

Plant-based milk offers more nutritional and environmental benefits. Plant-based milk beverage alternatives require less land, water, and fertilizer than dairy cattle. Even though plant-based milk tends to offer a lot of healthy nutrients, both plant and cow milk are not nutritionally comparable. Plant milk tends to contain a lesser concentration of calories and saturated fat than cow milk, along with the benefits of plants themselves. This milk is also an excellent option for people with allergies.

Concerns with Plant-Based Milk

Plant-based milk also carries some concerns similar to cow milk. Perhaps the biggest problem is nutritional gaps. Although nut milk also features essential health benefits, only soy milk is compared to cow milk. 

The second concern is the price. Plant-based milk, as compared to cow milk, is significantly pricier. Of course, you can opt for relatively expensive ones, but at the same time, you should consider the value proposition.

Plant-based milk contains fillers, thickeners, natural flavors, and other additives. They’re not harmful per se but owing to the additives, it’s not strictly natural either, and some types might have an odd taste. 

What Type of Milk Do People Prefer For Meals?

Since there are a variety of milk and milk substitutes nowadays, one can choose from many different variations. For example, you can use cow milk for cooking and drinking, almond milk to make shakes, and eat overnight quick oats. 

Overall, most people still believe that plant-based milk isn’t really a perfect substitute for proper cow milk; hence traditional cow milk is mainly used for the most part in many recipes and meals.


Unfortunately, in the end, there is no clear winner here. The answer depends on your preferences, needs, and budget, etc. Plus, you should also consider how you incorporate milk into your diet. If you consume cow milk regularly, switching to plant-based milk is not going to offer the same nutritional benefits. If you opt for plant-based milk, make sure that they are a good source of essential nutrients.