While March Madness might be on hold this year, you might be one of the many people who stand in front of the dairy aisle with a mental bracket of your own trying to figure out which milk is the winner for your health.
Much like the Final Four, people often put different types of milk in brackets and then steadfastly defend their favorite: whole, low-fat, skim, or even chocolate milk. But this always results in a tie game. All versions of real cow’s milk are nutrient powerhouses, full of high-quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and more.
People may make the choice based on taste or calories. Skim and low-fat milk may be the preferred choice for someone counting calories. Whole milk is a great choice for growing babies, infants, and anyone who needs a few more calories in their diet or loves the creamy texture and taste of whole milk. Whole milk also has heart health benefits including vitamin K2 and heptadecanoic acid, which may lower the risk of death from heart disease. Chocolate milk is a favorite for many of my athletes because it provides high-quality protein, electrolytes, and carbohydrates after a tough workout.
Though there is no clear winner in the dairy category, cow’s milk always beats milk alternatives. Most dairy alternatives are low in protein and they don’t provide the number of nutrients found in milk. Plus, the calcium in dairy alternatives tends to settle to the bottom of the container like chalk, which means you aren’t guaranteed as much in your glass or your body. Water plus a few almonds or rice squeezed in just can’t compete against the package of nutrients found naturally in cow’s milk.
If you want to win your bracket and fuel your body well, stop the
madness and stick with real dairy.
Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD is a sports nutritionist who loves helping athletes achieve peak performance and optimal health.