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May 18, 2010

What's the Best Milk?

The Hood Answer Mom, Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D.

I can't live without milk, and neither can my kids.  We always have Hood 2% Reduced Fat Milk and Hood 1% Lowfat Milk  on hand. I like the richness of the 2% milk in coffee and tea, and my youngest loves to drink it. The rest of us guzzle the 1% lowfat, and use it on our cereal.

My mother, on the other hand, is a die-hard Simply Smart Milk fan and uses it for drinking, on cereal, and in cooking. 

Some people think it's annoying to buy different types of milk to suit the needs of family members, but I think it's a luxury, especially since cow's milk is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D.  Drinking milk as part of balanced diet helps you meet your daily nutrient quotas for calcium, vitamin D, protein, and several other nutrients.

In general, children ages 4-8 and adults ages 18-50 need about three, eight-ounce glasses of milk daily, or the equivalent. Children ages 9-18 and people over the age of 50 should drink about four glasses of milk every day.

With all the milk types on the market, there's something for everyone. Which milk is best for you? That depends.

When to start kids on reduced fat milk

Children can start drinking cow's milk after their first birthday. Serve them whole milk; they need the fat and cholesterol it provides for proper brain development and overall growth.

After age two, kids can have lower-fat milks, such as 2% reduced fat, 1% lowfat, and fat free varieties. Switching to milk with less fat helps to limit total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol  intake while providing the same amount of protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.

Simply Smart: Milk with added benefits

Simply Smart Milk offers a creamier taste for less fat. As an added bonus, 8 ounces of Simply Smart Milk supplies 50 milligrams more calcium and two more grams of protein compared to regular milk. In addition to being delicious, Simply Smart is great for kids and others who the extra nutrients. 

Flavored milk

Flavored milks offer the same amount of protein, vitamins, and minerals, and fat as plain milk. Hood Premium Chocolate Milk is an exception: it supplies 20% more of your daily need for calcium in an eight-ounce serving, for a total of 500 milligrams of calcium, and it comes in a low fat and full fat varieties. Simply Smart Chocolate Fat Free Milk supplies more calcium and vitamin D than regular milk and most flavored milks.

Lactose-free milk

Some people have trouble breaking down lactose, the carbohydrate found naturally in cow's milk.  There's no reason to avoid milk when you have lactose intolerance, however.  Lactaid Milk is cow's milk that's been treated with lactase, the same substance that digests lactose in your body.  Lactaid is 100% lactose-free, and comes in fat-free, low-fat, 2% reduced-fat, full-fat, and chocolate low-fat varieties.  Lactaid Milk has the same nutrients as regular milk.

Vegetarian options

Soy "milk" is among the most popular beverage choices of people who want a plant-based drink, who have a milk allergy, and who are lactose-intolerant.  It's cholesterol-free, but not fat-free: 8 ounces of soy beverage contains about four grams of fat.  Soy "milk" is not naturally rich in calcium, vitamins A and D, and the B vitamins so look for brands that are fortified with these, and other, nutrients.

Almond milk is made from ground almonds, water, and sugar.  It has far less protein than cow's milk, but it also has fewer calories, and it's an excellent, natural source of vitamin E, needed to protect your cells from damage. Look for brands that are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients.

Rice milk is a good choice for people with allergies. However, it's very low in protein and does not naturally contain the vitamins and minerals found in cow's milk. Buy fortified brands.

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward

Elizabeth M. Ward, M.S., R.D., is a writer, nutrition consultant, and mother of three. She is the author of several books, including MyPlate for Moms, How to Feed Yourself & Your Family Better and Expect the Best, Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy . Ward is also a contributing writer for Muscle & Fitness Hers and Men's Fitness magazines.

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