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All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café

Spoon University logo Spoon University 1/6/2021 Kylie Arsenault

 All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café 

a hand holding a cup of coffee: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café coffee espresso © Kelsey Emery All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café coffee espresso

Walking into your favorite café, you're destined to come face to face with a menu offering a variety of beverages.  Whether you're a tea drinker or a coffee drinker, or even an advocate of  hot chocolate, you have the choice of picking which (if any) milk you'd like in your beverage.  Granted, if you don't go out to cafés frequently, what you order once in a blue moon won't be all that detrimental to your health or your wallet.  However, if you are an avid drinker of homemade teas, coffees, or hot cocoas, this article may be of use to your regular shopping list.  Without further ado, here's all of the benefits of different milks at your café.

2% Milk  

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This really is just your average cup of joe.  Ok, the word average carries some negative weight, but it's a classic for a reason. Lattes and other basic craft beverages tend to come with two-percent milk as the default.  Whenever your coffee shop introduces a "new" beverage with almond or oat milk etc, it is generally for promotional purposes.  This milk is lower in calories and fat than in whole milk, but more nutritious than skim.  Two-percent also contains more than 18% of RDA loaded with calcium, riboflavin, vitamin B-12, and phosphorus.   All of two-percent milk's components combine to provide you protection against osteoporosis and from bone fractures upon it's regular consumption. 

Almond Milk

food on a table: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café milk coffee © Jasmine Tang All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café milk coffee

This is most popular alternative milk, being about 63% of the entire plant-based milks market.  This reliable plant-based milk is typically the first to come to mind when thinking of switching off of dairy.  It's also the easiest to find at grocery stores and cafés, with so many different brands for you to try.  Some of the most enticing health benefits of almond milk are that it's relatively low in calories, sugar, and fat.  The nut itself is known to be high in healthy fats and calories, but the processes of producing this naturally lactose free milk results in a low calorie, nutritious milk.  One of the more prevalent concerns of reducing, or cutting out dairy is the reduced intake of vitamin D and calcium.  Luckily, all almond milks contain calcium, and most are enriched with vitamin D.  Calcium is known to help build strong bones, but did you know that it also is necessary for proper functioning of the heart, as well as muscles and nerves?  As for the essential vitamin D, 30-50% of people are deficient for varying reasons like climate, lifestyle, among other things.  Lack of vitamin D may result in increased risk of cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, infertility, depression, infectious and autoimmune diseases, as well as muscle weakness.  Make sure to read the nutrition label on your almond milk, so you pick one out that has around 25% of your RDI of vitamin D.  

Cashew Milk

a close up of a bowl of fruit: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café nut cashew © Kristine Mahan All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café nut cashew

Cashews are one of the most commonly used nuts in plant-based diets.  Their higher fat content allows them to add a creamy richness to many vegan dishes.  Cashews are more nutrient dense, and rather caloric.  However, cashew milks are the lowest in calories of all the milks that I've come across in my research.  I most commonly find cashew milks at 25 calories per 8oz serving at my nearby grocery stores.  Because it is so low in calories, one can assume that it would be lower in other things as well.  Per serving, store-bought cashew milk contains 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbs, and less than a gram of protein.  It is, however,  typically fortified with vitamin D and calcium.  This can be good for weight loss, as long as you're getting nourishment elsewhere.  However, if you were to make your own cashew milk at home, there would be an entirely different nutrient content, as homemade cashew milk goes undergoes fewer processes.  One 8oz serving is 160 calories, with 9 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of protein, and 14 grams of fat.  It also contains more potassium, fiber, iron, and magnesium than store bought cashew milk.  Pretty different, huh?  Which cashew milk you should get really depends on whether or not you are looking to gain calories from liquids in your diet.  Both types of cashew milk contain zinc, helping with your sense of taste and smell, as well as keeping your immune system strong.  The iron content in cashew milk also helps prevent anemia and promote a healthy cardiovascular system.  Cashews are also known to contain a decent amount of copper- and no, this doesn't make them taste like pennies.  Copper is surprisingly amazing for your skin, as it regulates the production of collagen and elastin.  Consuming this mineral is like a magical youth elixir that wards off wrinkles. 

Coconut Milk

a pile of hay: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café nut coconut © Jessica Yeh All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café nut coconut

Just to clarify, coconut milk is not the same as coconut water;  The water is literally just the liquid you find inside of a green coconut.  Coconut milk, however, is made of the white flesh inside of the coconut.  It is finely pureed and pushed through a cheese cloth to produce a thick and creamy consistency.  Thick coconut milk is generally used for cooking and baking, as it is a  great replacement for heavy whipping cream.  Thinner coconut milks are simmered with water and then pushed through the cheese cloth for a second time, to insure smoothness.  Thinner coconut milk is usually used for things like lattes or cereals.  As far as the nutrient content goes, one cup of thick coconut milk amounts to a whopping 552 calories.  93% of these calories come from fats, but 12% of the total fat content is made up of MCTs.  MCTs found in coconut milk are believed to combat weight gain, speed up metabolism, and burn belly fat.  Coconut milk beverage has only 9 to 15% as many calories as thick coconut milk.  This consequently makes it less nutritious, but it is typically fortified with calcium as well as vitamin D.  To sum things up, thick coconut milk is great for thickening recipes such as desserts, soups, or pasta sauces.  Thin coconut milk would be the better option of the two as far as lattes and other beverages go.

Half & Half

a cup of coffee and a glass of beer on a table: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café ice coffee © Alex Frank All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café ice coffee

Anyone who has ever had brewed coffee has more than likely consumed half & half at some point in their life.  In fact, if you've ever heard someone order a breve latte, that's just fancy talk for steamed half & half with espresso shots.  Sounds decadent, right?  You bet your sweet bippy it is; a cup of half & half is 315 calories, 28 grams of fat, 10.4 grams of carbohydrates, and 7 grams of protein.  Unless you're looking to significantly increase your caloric intake, it is recommended that you consume about 2 tablespoons per serving.  Half & half is essentially the boring version of the infamous flavored coffee creamers.  However, it is less processed than the sugary, flavored creamers, which are typically dowsed with all sorts of additives.  So adding a tablespoon or two of half & half, along with natural sugars, and your favorite spices could make you a cozy cup.

Heavy Whipping Cream

All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café pasta homemade © Tess Citron All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café pasta homemade

You might be surprised to hear that you can order a latte with this dense milk.  This sort of concoction is quite popular for those partaking in the keto diet due to its high fat content.  I regret to inform you that consuming this milk regularly is only recommended for those who are underweight or malnourished.  Half a cup of heavy cream will cost you 400 calories, 3 grams of protein, 3 grams of carbs, and 43 grams of fat.  Allow me to prove that this paragraph isn't biased against heavy cream by stating some of the benefits.  Consuming a tablespoon or two of heavy cream in your brew will provide you with fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, & K.  Furthermore, there have been studies proving that moderately consuming this milk will reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.  Essentially, it is best not to tip the scales (literally and figuratively) by consuming the majority of your calories from fat.  Enjoy this product in moderation, and make sure to include all the macronutrients in your diet.

Oat Milk

a hand holding a piece of meat on a cutting board: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café cereal wheat © Jocelyn Hsu All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café cereal wheat

Unless you've been under a rock for the past 3 years, you're probably highly aware of the popularity of this trendy plant-based milk.  Oat milk is made by soaking oats in water, and then straining them through a cheese cloth.  As a result of this process, not all the nutrients are transferred directly over into the milk.  However, most oat milks are further fortified with all sorts of vitamins and minerals.  On average, you can expect oat milk to be about 120 calories per cup.  Just over half of these calories come from carbohydrates, about 37.5% of them come from healthy fats, and 10% comes from protein.  Oat milk is also a significant source of vitamins A and D, B-12, riboflavin, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron.  As far as benefits go, this long list of vitamins and minerals provide quite an array.  Beginning with the obvious, this milk is naturally free of gluten, dairy, nuts, and soy (disclaimer: some oat milks are processed in the same factories as gluten or nut containing products).  Another positive about this milk is that it may boost your mood due to its high B-12 content; studies have lead health specialists to deduce that depression and fatigue are lessened in those who increase their B-12 intake.  B vitamins are also great for promoting strong hair, skin, and nails.  Contrary to dairy products, oat milk does not contain cholesterol.  In fact, it may go as far as lowering your cholesterol if consumed regularly.  One more important benefit worth mentioning is that it is great for building strong bones.  The number one reason why dietitians and nutritionists recommend the regular consumption of milk is for osteoporosis prevention, and for overall bone health.  Vitamin D and calcium play major roles in bone health and maintenance;  Lucky for those who don't include dairy in their diet, oat milk has plenty to spare.  

Nonfat Milk

a hand holding a cup of coffee: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café coffee milk © Kristine Mahan All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café coffee milk

If skinny lattes are your thing, pay extra attention to this section of this article about all of the benefits of different milks at your café.  A typical skinny latte comes with nonfat milk, but can be replaced with almond milk or whatever your pick may be.  Does nonfat milk really promote weight loss?  Simply put, there isn't anything special in skim milk that will help your body melt fat away.  The main reason dieters choose non-fat milk is due to its lower calorie content of about 84 calories per 8oz serving, as compared to 150 calories in a glass of whole milk.  However, with reduced calories comes reduced nutrients.  Fat needs to be included in your diet, so it you're not getting it from milk, be sure to get it elsewhere.  Your body needs to absorb proper amounts of nutrients in order to maintain homeostasis.  Failure to do so may result in the retardation of your metabolism, leading to weight gain.  So unless you're drinking milk by the gallon, it's suggested by RDNs that you drink milks that do contain good fats; such as whole milk.  There are, however, more pros of nonfat milk than its lower calorie content.  The two most prominent things being that 33% of the calorie content is made up of protein, and that skim is one of the richest sources of calcium out there.  The overall take home message is that nonfat milk shouldn't be consumed habitually as a replacement of other milk options.  If you're looking to cut back on calories, there are tons of better alternative milks to choose from (that also happen to have an even lower caloric content).

Soy Milk

a white plate topped with a vase of flowers on a table: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café Breakfast Morning © Sierra Orsak All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café Breakfast Morning

Soy milk is one of the higher calorie alternative milks, ranging from around 70 calories up to 140.  This nutrient dense milk has been sort of controversial because of some rumors that've been going around.  Some of the more talked about concerns include feminizing effects on men, reduction in thyroid gland functions, and even cancer risks; Time to put those concerns to rest.  All of these claims fall flat when searching for evidence to back up these claims.  Men that drink soy milk don't need to worry about it causing them to undergo feminization.  As for soy's effects on thyroid glands, there have been many lab tests done, and there's no correlation between thyroid function and soy milk consumption.  Of all the possible health concerns a product could have, cancer is probably the biggest red flag. However, studies have proven that there's absolutely no increased cancer risk for those who consume soy milk regularly.  In fact, there have been findings that soy milk actually reduces the likelihood of contracting some cancers.  Now that these myths have been debunked, we can get to the good stuff.  There's an infinitely long list of benefits.  As far as the macronutrients go, soy milk is the best source of protein of all the alternative milks.  It contains an equal amount of protein to dairy milks, yet it has lower calories and fat than all but skim.  Additionally, it is lower in carbs than any dairy milk.  As for vitamins and minerals, soy milk is a great source of potassium, calcium, vitamin A, phosphorus, and vitamin D.  All these components lower your risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, prostate cancer, breast cancer, as well as reducing the symptoms of menopause.  

Whole Milk

a plate of food and a cup of coffee: All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café coffee espresso © Michele Hu All of The Benefits of Different Milks at Your Café coffee espresso

As a child, one of the first things your parent(s) or guardian(s) teach you about nutrition is that milk builds strong bones.  For starters, it's one of the best sources of vitamin D and calcium.  A lesser known benefit of this duo is that they help regulate cell growth- thereby reducing the risk of cancers.  Vitamin D also supports the production of serotonin, thus reducing depression symptoms.  Another Spoon University member has written about the benefits of whole milk.  Topanga McBride's article states that Michigan State University's assistant professor Adam Lock, Ph.D., has claimed that whole fat dairy foods contain over 400 different fatty acids, as well as calcium, protein, and other nutrients that work with fat in milk.  Not only that, but it contains riboflavin;  which is needed for overall functions of the body.  Just one glass of whole milk will provide you with 20% of the RDI for this B vitamin.  Another B vitamin found in whole milk is B-12.  This B vitamin aids against anemia as well as providing protection against heart diseases.  At first glance, many people believe that this milk's higher fat content automatically correlates with health issues and obesity.  However, there have been studies proving that whole milk consumption, coupled with a reduced calorie diet and an active lifestyle actually aids against weight gain.  So long story short, a latte with whole milk may be the perfect addition to your morning routine.

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