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The Healthier Choice: Almond Milk vs. Milk


Almond milk and cow's milk are both packed with nutrients, but pros and cons may exist for each. Many different types of cow's and almond milks are available commercially, so it's often difficult to determine which is the healthiest. The best choice for you depends on a variety of factors.

Calorie Content

Almond milk generally contains fewer calories than cow's milk, but it depends on the type of milk you buy. Unsweetened almond milk provides just 30 calories per cup, vs. 90 calories in a cup of skim cow's milk. One-percent low-fat milk contains 110 calories, two-percent milk provides 130 calories, and whole cow's milk contains 150 calories per cup. Sweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk generally contains 90 calories in each cup.

What about Protein?

Cow's milk is much higher in protein than almond milk. Protein is beneficial because it boosts satiety, helps your body burn extra calories, aids in healthy weight management, and allows you to maintain lean muscle mass -- even during periods of weight loss. Skim, low-fat, and whole cow's milk each provide 8 grams of protein per cup, but a cup of almond milk contains just 1 gram of protein. Even protein-fortified almond milk generally provides just 5 grams of protein. Some brands of high-protein cow's milk contain up to 13 grams of protein per cup.

Carb Comparison

Cow's milk is naturally higher in carbohydrates than almond milk, unless the almond milk is sweetened with added sugar. Cow's milk contains about 12 grams of carbohydrates -- mainly from a natural sugar called lactose -- in each cup. Unsweetened almond milk provides less than 1 gram of carbohydrates and no sugar, but sweetened almond milk may contain up to 16 grams of added sugar per cup.

Types of Fat

Almond milk is rich in heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats, while the fat in cow's milk is primarily saturated fat. But, skim milk is fat-free and low-fat milk contains very little saturated fat. While some studies show that getting too much saturated fat in your diet may boost your risk for heart disease, other research indicates otherwise, according to a study published in 2013 in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care. Researchers who conducted this study report that a high dairy fat intake is actually associated with a lower obesity risk.

Which Milk is Healthier?

Cow's milk and almond milk are both packed with essential nutrients and generally healthy for you. Both are rich in calcium, vitamin A, vitamin D, and B vitamins. Cow's milk is a good source of phosphorous, but almond milk is rich in vitamin E. Cow's milk is high in protein, which is the main advantage of cow's milk over almond milk. But almond milk is naturally lactose-free, so likely won't cause problems if you're lactose intolerant. If you're seeking a plant-based milk that's rich in high-quality protein like cow's milk, soy milk is a good option. If you enjoy cow's milk but want to steer clear from hormones and antibiotics, try organic brands of cow's milk.


An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as and

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