NATIONAL - How many gallons of milk do you think you drink a year? The average American drinks 21 gallons. Some people opt for milk alternatives, but those alternatives are not created equal.
If you're allergic to cow's milk or have trouble digesting it, there are milk alternatives. But with choices like soy, almond, or rice milk, which one is best?
It's only organic and soy milk for Amy Padgett's family. Fifteen-month-old Abby gets organic whole milk, while five-year-old Tommy drinks chocolate soy milk.
Padgett says, "I'm not crazy about all the things that are in regular cow's milk - the pesticides, the growth hormones, all those things they give those poor baby cows to make them get big really fast."
Experts say fear has fed the trend toward milk alternatives. But dieticians caution that not all non-dairy choices contain the nutrients our bodies need. Some are "calcium enriched," but still may fall short.
Dr. Janessa Slatky says, "Research has shown that the calcium might not be as absorbable by our bodies as in normal cow's milk."
Soy milk is high in protein and especially popular among people who are lactose intolerant or allergic to casein. Casein is the main protein found in cow's milk.
Some believe soy has other benefits,too. Dr. Slatky says, "Soy does contain isoflavones which are phytoestrogens. The jury's still out on phytoestrogens, but people believe that it does mimic estrogen and can reduce bone loss."
Almond and rice milk are sweeter milk alternatives. Both are "enriched" with calcium but may not provide all the essential nutrients.
For now, organic and milk alternatives work best for Padgett's family and they have no plans to move back to cow's milk anytime soon.
Experts say while there are healthy milk alternatives, both children and adults still need the recommended amount of calcium in their diet and say alternative calcium sources may be needed.
Reported by Dawndy Mercer
Posted by Chantelle Janelle