Americans are trying to eat healthier, and in the process, dairy choices also multiply. In addition to traditional whole milk, a myriad of dairy and non-dairy alternatives can make things a little confusing. Soy milk and organic cow’s milk are two of the many options on the market now, but is one really healthier than the other? Read on to find out.
What Is Organic Cow’s Milk?
Eating organic produce is becoming more and more popular, but is it possible to have organic milk, since milk is a byproduct of a live animal? The U.S. Department of Agriculture has four guidelines that certify a cow’s milk as being USDA organic (versus regular milk). They are:
- Hormone-free cows.Only milk from cows that have not been treated with bovine growth hormones (BGH) can be considered organic.
- Antibiotic-free cows. Milk from so-called organic cows are routinely tested to verify that there is no antibiotics in the cow it came from. If an “organic” cow needs antibiotic treatment for whatever reason, it is removed from the rest of the herd for a year before it can be certified as an organic milk producer once more.
- Pesticide-free cow feed. Whether the cow eats grain or grass, its food need to be all free of pesticides, as low levels of pesticide can be detected in non-organic milk.
- Cows have access to pasture. The last requirement states that “organic” cows need to have access to free range pasture and graze to their content, versus cooped up in a cow pen. So far, there is no standard of how long a cow can have access to pasture to produce organic milk.
The texture and taste of organic milk is no different from traditional milk, but you can rest assured that the cow the milk came from is hormone-free, antibiotic-free, had healthy feed, and had a chance to roam freely.
(To learn more about organic foods, be sure to read Organic Vs. Inorganic Foods: Which One Is Better?)
What Is Soy Milk?
Is soy milk even a dairy product? The answer is no. Soy milk is a milk alternative made from mature soybeans, which are pressed and mixed with water. The color is more of a beige, creamy color rather than pure white, and it has grown to become a popular milk substitute for vegans, vegetarians, and those who are lactose intolerant. It is traditionally consumed unsweetened in Asian cultures, but modern versions have added flavors and sugars for those who are not used to the plant-like taste of soy. Enriched versions of soy milk are also commercially available to match the nutrient content of regular milk, since it has become a popular milk alternative.
Since it is plant-based, soy milk is naturally low in saturated fat and is cholesterol free. Since soy has been touted as an excellent source of omega 3 fats, which benefits the cardiovascular system, soy milk is no exception. It has become a popular and tasty choice for those who want something different from their usual milk in their coffee or cereal.
Pros And Cons Of Organic Milk
Some pros of drinking organic milk include:
- Guarantee that no hormones, pesticides, or antibiotics are being consumed (some studies suggest that consumption of such may interfere with endocrine functions in young children)
- Guarantee that the milk come from “happier” cows who had time to graze
- Excellent source of calcium (compared to milk alternatives)
- Excellent source of vitamin D (compared to milk alternatives)
- Good source of protein
Some cons may include:
- More expensive prices (compared to traditional milk)
- Not good for individuals who are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products
Pros And Cons Of Soy Milk
Now that we know what soy milk is, here are some pros and cons of drinking soy milk. Some pros include:
- Low saturated fat content
- Cholesterol free milk alternative
- Has heart healthy omega 3 fats
- A source of vegetarian protein
Cons, compared to milk, include:
- Less grams in protein, compared to milk
- Less calcium content (unless it has been fortified)
- Less vitamin D content (unless it has been fortified)
- May have more calories than skim milk per cup
Another negative aspect of soy milk is the possible effects it might have on the hormone levels in men. To learn more, check out The Negative Effects Of Soy Milk On Men.)
Which Milk Should You Choose?
Both organic milk and soy milk are healthy options, and one is not necessarily better than the other. Mostly, it is a matter of personal taste or allergens. If soy milk is the product of choice, be sure to reach for enriched versions so the calcium content is comparable to normal milk. In terms of calcium intake, it is recommended that about three glasses of milk’s worth of calcium should be taken daily. For infants, it is best to consult a doctor on whether milk alternatives are appropriate in place of breast milk.
Try both organic milk and soy milk and see which one you like better!