Should you REALLY ditch dairy? Experts compare the traditional pint of milk to trendy alternatives – and warn plant-based options are lower in carbs and sugar, but are ultra-processed and lack calcium

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  • Trevithane Dairy in Cornwall to launch a carbon-neutral product called Earth Milk
  • Dr. Macarena Staudenmeier compares the health benefits of plant and dairy milk
  • It’s hard to beat the nutritional content of cow’s milk, says nutritionist Kyle Crowley

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Trendy plant milks have seen a boom in recent years, with many opting to forgo cow’s milk and buy non-dairy alternatives for environmental or ethical reasons.

It is estimated that one in three people in the UK are now buying milk substitutes – mainly due to cow’s milk’s huge carbon footprint – producing almost three times the greenhouse gas emissions of any plant-based alternative.


But recently Cornwall’s Trevithane Dairy launched Earth Milk, Britain’s first carbon-neutral milk, to encourage Britons to abandon plant milk and bring back the UK dairy industry.

So if you’re stuck between a traditional dairy milk and a plant-based alternative, which one should you choose?

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Nutritionally speaking, how do vegan-friendly options like oat, coconut, soy and almond milk stack up?

Speaking to FEMAIL, Dr Macarena Staudenmeier revealed how the vitamin and mineral content of dairy and non-dairy milk are ‘totally different’ and what consumers should be aware of the additives in non-plant milk.

Meanwhile, nutritionist Kyle Crowley said that in terms of actual nutritional content, ‘cow’s milk is hard to beat’ and each option should be chosen based on individual needs.

Speaking to FEMAIL, Dr Macarena Staudenmeier revealed how the vitamin and mineral content of dairy and non-dairy milk are ‘totally different’ and what consumers should be aware of the additives in non-plant milk.

nutritional value

Dr Macarena Staudenmeier, MSc Clinical Innovation Manager at Thriva, said: ‘The nutrients found in dairy and plant-based milks are different.

‘Evidence suggests that there are significant differences between dairy and non-dairy products for many nutrients. For example, a study comparing the nutritional composition of dairy versus non-dairy milk in the UK showed that dairy milk contained more calories, protein, saturated fat, vitamins B2 and B12, calcium than its alternatives. and iodine, while there are usually plant-based alternatives. A high fiber content.’

Dairy UK chief executive says plant milks ‘won’t automatically lead to healthier lifestyles’

Judith Bryan, who is also a nutritionist, said: ‘It is important that consumers are aware that swapping out dairy in favor of alternatives will not in itself lead to a healthier diet.

Even with fortification, none of these products can provide the same nutrition as dairy and many will also contain added sugars. Milk, cheese and yogurt are affordable, tasty and accessible ways for us to meet our recommended daily intake for a range of nutrients.

Milk, cheese and yogurt naturally contain high-quality protein, calcium, iodine, B vitamins, vitamin A, zinc and phosphorous – all in one serving. It is also important to note that there are some vitamins and minerals found in dairy that are lacking in the UK, such as iodine.

There may be reasons why some people choose not to consume dairy and it is their decision. Many people who buy substitutes also buy dairy, and they use these products for a variety of reasons. There is always a place in the market for consumer choice but it should not be a place to pretend that the nutrition in the substitutes is similar to that found in naturally occurring dairy.


He explained that the main nutrients missing from non-dairy milk are calcium and iodine — revealing the high fat content in dairy milk isn’t necessarily good for overall health.

‘We know that dairy is one of the richest sources of calcium in a non-plant-based diet, and while most non-dairy milks are fortified to contain additional calcium and vitamins, fortification of these is not standardized in the UK.

Milk substitutes may also be missing iodine for the same reason – iodine is essential for brain development, so it’s especially important for children to consume the right amount.

‘The lack of standardization of fortification practices on plant-based milks makes it so that vitamin and mineral content varies between brands and types of dairy substitutes.

‘The high energy and fat content of dairy milk does not mean it is an unhealthy choice. In fact, evidence has shown that consumption of milk and dairy products is associated with a lower risk of childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease in adults with colorectal, bladder, gastric and breast cancers.

‘As noted above, there is still not enough evidence to assess the effect of plant-based milk consumption on long-term chronic conditions.’

Kyle Crowley, Professional Nutritionist and Product Development Manager at Uncommon, said: ‘In recent years there has been an influx of milk substitutes such as oat milk, soy milk or rice milk. There are pros and cons to both dairy and non-dairy based milks, but ultimately, it depends on what works for you and your body.

‘In terms of actual nutritional content, it’s hard to beat cow’s milk. It contains higher levels of protein, calcium and amino acids than plant-based alternatives.

‘However, when it comes to saturated fat, there’s no hiding that cow’s milk contains much higher levels than most alternatives such as rice milk (which contains almost none). Plant-based milks often contain very little carbohydrates as well as low sugar content.

Antibiotics, hormones and additives

Dr Staudenmeier said growth hormone is not used for livestock in the UK, but some antibiotics are used to prevent and treat disease in non-organic dairy products.

‘Due to the growing global issue of antimicrobial resistance, dairy producers and the animal health industry are working to seek alternative treatments…


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