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Milks

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Whether it’s with our morning cereal, in a child's lunchbox carton, or a quick splash in a cup of tea, for many of us, milk is an important part of our diet.

Recent research shows that 93% of people in the UK regularly consume fresh milk, and it’s now available in a wide variety of forms to suit different needs.

But, what’s the difference between them? We've taken a look at how the various milks compare, so you can make an individual choice.

Milk and nutrition

Cow’s milk naturally contains calcium, which we all know helps to keep our bones and teeth strong - especially in our younger and older years. It also contains the naturally-occurring sugar, lactose, which you will be pleased to know isn’t one of the ‘free’ sugars we are advised to cut down on.

As well as this, cow’s milk contains protein, vitamins, and varying amounts of saturated fat depending on the one you choose.

Skimmed milk contains the least amount of fat at 0.1g/100ml. However, you can also buy 1%, semi-skimmed, and whole milk. 

For heart health we're advised to reduce our intake of saturated fat, and total fat intake can contribute to weight gain as fat is dense in calories. So, try to choose semi-skimmed or skimmed milk as much as possible. Remember, young children (under 2 years) need whole milk as they may not get the calories and nutrients they need from lower-fat versions. 

Skimmed milk should only be introduced to children over 5 years.

Pasteurised milk

This is when the milk is heat-treated to kill harmful bacteria. Children, pregnant women and older people are particularly vulnerable to food poisoning and should avoid ‘raw’, or unpasteurised milk. 

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Cow vs. goat milk

Goat’s milk has a similar composition to cow’s milk, with only a small difference in the sugar content.

It’s worth noting that it’s also slightly lower in calcium compared to cow’s milk, and contains significantly less folic acid.

Because of this, certain brands of goat’s milk may advertise that they are fortified with folic acid. 

More about folic acid

Folic acid helps to form red blood cells and deficiency can lead to a type of anaemia. It also plays an essential role in the formation of DNA, allowing cells to replicate properly. This is crucial during the formation of a baby’s spine, and inadequate blood levels of folic acid during pregnancy can lead to neural tube defects such as spina bifida. 

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Dairy alternatives

Dairy alternatives differ from cow’s milk in that most of them contain very little natural calcium – this means that buying the fortified versions is very important.

They also don’t contain lactose as this is only found naturally in dairy products.

As they're non-dairy, this makes them a good substitute if you follow a vegan diet, or have lactose intolerance. 

Read more about lactose intolerance.

Choosing the right milk for you

So, how do you choose between the vast array of milks? We’ve put a selection of different types of milk under the spotlight to see how they compare, including cow's milk, goat's milk, dairy alternatives and related products so you can gain a better overview of the breadth of choice on offer.

Each one has been colour-coded for fat, sat fat, sugars and salt per 200ml (1/3 pint) serving. 

*These nutritional values were accurate at the time of publication, but some of these values may have changed. Please check the food labels for the latest nutritional information.

Oatly Oat Drink

This product has been fortified with calcium

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories9045
Carbs13g6.5g
Sugar8g4g
Fat3g1.5g
Saturated fat0.4g0.2g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein2g1g
Fibre1.6g0.8g
Calcium240mg120mg

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Rice Dream - Original

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories10050
Carbs19.8g9.9g
Sugar14.2g7.1g
Fat2.2g1.1g
Saturated fat0.2g0.1g
Salt0.14g0.07g
Protein0.2g0.1g
FibreN/AN/A
CalciumN/AN/A

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Alpro Soya - Original

This product has been fortified with calcium

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories7839
Carbs5g2.5g
Sugar5g2.5g
Fat3.6g1.8g
Saturated fat0.6g0.3g
Salt0.12g0.06g
Protein6g3g
Fibre1g0.5g
Calcium240mg120mg

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Alpro Soya - Light

This product has been fortified with calcium

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories4422
Carbs0.2g0.1g
Sugar0.2g0.1g
Fat2.4g1.2g
Saturated fat0.4g0.2g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein4g2g
Fibre2.4g1.2g
Calcium240mg120mg

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Almond Breeze - Unsweetened

This product has been fortified with calcium

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories2613
Carbs0.4g0.2g
Sugar0.2g0.1g
Fat2.2g1.1g
Saturated fat0.2g0.1g
Salt0.3g0.15g
Protein0.9g0.5g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium240mg120mg

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Alpro Almond - Original

This product has been fortified with calcium

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories4824
Carbs6g3g
Sugar6g3g
Fat2.2g1.1g
Saturated fat0.2g0.1g
Salt0.26g0.13g
Protein0.9g0.5g
Fibre0.4g0.2g
Calcium240mg120mg

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Arla Lacto-free Long-life - Whole

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories11457
Carbs5.6g2.8g
Sugar5.6g2.8g
Fat7g3.5g
Saturated fat4.4g2.2g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein6.8g3.4g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium252mg126mg

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St Helen's Semi-skimmed Goat's Milk

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories8844
Carbs8.6g4.3g
Sugar8.6g4.3g
Fat3.2g1.6g
Saturated fat2.2g1.1g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein6g3g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium240mg120mg

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Chi Coconut Milk

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories6231
Carbs5.6g2.8g
Sugar5.2g2.6g
Fat4.2g2.1g
Saturated fat3.6g1.8g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein0.6g0.3g
FibreN/AN/A
CalciumN/AN/A

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Coffee-Mate - Original

Per 100ml (3g + 100ml water) and per 200ml (6g + 200ml water)

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories3719
Carbs3.8g1.9g
Sugar0.7g0.3g
Fat2.2g1.1g
Saturated fat1.7g0.8g
Salt0.07g0.03g
Protein0.3g0.1g
Fibre0.6g0.3g
CalciumN/AN/A

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Coffee-mate - Light

Per 100ml (3g + 100ml water) and per 200ml (6g + 200ml water)

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories2814
Carbs5.5g2.8g
Sugar1g0.5g
Fat0.4g0.2g
Saturated fat0.3g0.2g
Salt0.01g0.01g
Protein0.3g0.1g
Fibre0.6g0.3g
CalciumN/AN/A

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Waitrose Duchy Organic Skimmed Milk

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories7437
Carbs10g5g
Sugar10g5g
Fat0.6g0.3g
Saturated fat0.2g0.1g
Salt0.24g0.12g
Protein7.2g3.6g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium260mg130mg

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Essential Waitrose Skimmed Milk

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories6935
Carbs10g5g
Sugar10g5g
Fat0.2g0.1g
Saturated fat0.2g0.1g
Salt0.3g0.15g
Protein6.8g3.4g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium248mg124mg

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Cravendale Semi-skimmed milk

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories9849
Carbs9.6g4.8g
Sugar9.6g4.8g
Fat3.4g1.7g
Saturated fat2.0g1.0g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein7.2g3.6g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium248mg124mg

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Rachel's Organic Whole Milk

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories13467
Carbs9.6g4.8g
Sugar9.6g4.8g
Fat7.8g3.9g
Saturated fat3.2g2.6g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein6.2g3.1g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium238mg119mg

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The One 1% Milk

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories8643
Carbs9.8g4.9g
Sugar9.8g4.9g
Fat2g1g
Saturated fat1.4g0.7g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein7.2g3.6g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium254mg127mg

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Marvel Dried Skimmed Milk - Original

*A pint of 568ml is made with 57g of the powder and water.

 Per 200ml* Per 100g
Calories71357
Carbs10.150.3
Sugar10g49.8g
Fat0.1g0.6g
Saturated fat<0.1g0.4g
Salt0.2g1g
Protein7.2g35.9g
Fibre0.2g1.3g
Calcium256mg1280mg

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Nestle Carnation Evaporated Milk

 Per 50ml servingPer 100ml
Calories80160
Carbs6g12g
Sugar6g12g
Fat4.5g9g
Saturated fat3.1g6.1g
Salt0.16g0.33g
Protein3.9g7.7g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium135mg270mg

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Nestle Carnation Light Condensed Milk

 Per 50g servingPer 100g
Calories140279
Carbs30.2g60.4g
Sugar30.2g60.4g
Fat0.1g0.2g
Saturated fat0.1g0.1g
Salt0.15g0.3g
Protein4.5g8.9g
FibreN/AN/A
Calcium156mg312mg

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So, what does the nutritional breakdown tell us?

Dairy milk

It's good to know that, as the calcium is water soluble, reducing the fat content does not mean you get less calcium. There is little difference between organic and regular cow's milk in terms of the nutrition. Some organic milks have slightly different amounts of fat and vitamins depending on what the animal has eaten. People may choose organic milk as a lifestyle choice rather than a dietary one.

Soya milk

Looking at the colour coding for all of the milks, some of the information may, or may not, surprise you. The ingredients list reveals more about the nutritional composition - quality, quantity, and range of nutrients. For example, (4% vs 8%). This affects how much protein there is in the milk and also some vitamins and minerals.

Lactose-free milk

You might think that lactose-free milk contains no sugar, however, the lactose is partially broken down into two simple sugars. It's due to these that lactose-free milk tastes sweeter.

Oat and rice milk

The oat and rice milks we chose here contain no added sugars. Any sugars present are naturally occurring from the starches present in rice and oats. It is worth checking the ingredients list if you are choosing a different brand.

Have you thought about salt?

It's worth noting the salt content of milk, even though the amount didn't cause any to be graded red or amber for salt. But, we know that 75% of the salt we consume is within foods produced outside the home - if you are an avid milk drinker, this could soon add up.

Powdered creamers

Coffee Mate is not derived from dried milk in the same way as dried milk powder, and therefore does not contain lactose. It's worth noting that it does contain some milk protein. It also contains free sugars and corn or palm oil.

Condensed and evaporated milk

These milks are used to sweeten hot and cold drinks, and have traditionally been added to desserts instead of cream or custard. Where 50ml of semi-skimmed milk would contain only 25kcal and 0.85g fat, regular condensed milk offers 161kcal and 4g fat. Choosing a semi-skimmed version could therefore provide an impressive saving. 

Both are high in calories, and the original versions are high in fat. 

Lactose intolerance

Lactose intolerance is a medical condition and you should speak to your healthcare team if you think this is a problem for you. Symptoms include bloating, stomach cramps and flatulence. You can self-diagnose by eliminating lactose-containing products from your diet and checking whether symptoms improve.

It is important that when eliminating dairy foods, the nutrients are replaced to avoid deficiencies. For example, a lack of calcium can lead to osteoporosis. Therefore, seeing a dietitian can ensure your diet is nutritionally balanced. Lactose intolerance is not the same as cow’s milk protein allergy. This is an immune response, most commonly occurring in young children or babies. There are different forms of allergy and, if you suspect this, talking to your GP or healthcare team is really important. 

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Searching for a snack?

Before reaching for the nearest treat, consider this...

We compared a glass of semi-skimmed milk to a standard chocolate bar so you can easily see the healthier choice. By choosing the milk, you could save yourself a whopping 142 calories and 10.1g of fat.

 Per 200ml servingPer 100ml
Calories9045
Carbs13g6.5g
Sugar8g4g
Fat3g1.5g
Saturated fat0.4g0.2g
Salt0.2g0.1g
Protein2g1g
Fibre1.6g0.8g
Calcium240mg120mg

 

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