With over 20% growth in sales and $2.5 billion spent in 2020, it is clear that plant-based milks are soaring in popularity. Finding nondairy alternatives in the store is even easier than before, with all kinds of options—from oat and almond to banana and even potato milk. But how do these milk alternatives nutritionally compare to a glass of regular cow’s milk, and do nondairy milks lack the essential nutrients that dairy milk provides?
Curated analyzed the nutritional information for four common nondairy milks based on 8-ounce servings. Calcium daily values are based on a 1,000mg recommendation for adults aged 19-50 from the National Institutes for Health. Data is from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and compares unflavored varieties to 1% fat dairy milk. Exact nutrition and fortifications may vary based on individual brands.
Cow’s milk is known for being a decent source of all three major macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Each macronutrient gives you energy and keeps the body functioning. Protein is needed to repair and build body cells. Carbs provide the body with glucose, which is used for energy during physical activities and other bodily functions. Dietary fats help absorb certain vitamins, reducing glycemic (i.e. blood sugar) impact after a meal, and keeping you full.
An 8-ounce serving of 1% cow’s milk contains 2 grams of fat, 13 grams of carbs, and 8 grams of protein. Dairy milk is also known for being a go-to source of calcium, a mineral that works to keep bones and teeth strong and slows the degree of bone loss over time.
However, contrary to popular belief, many nondairy milks contain significantly more calcium than cow’s milk per cup, proving a reliable source of a much-needed nutrient in the diet. And yet, while these milk alternatives do provide calcium, their macronutrient profiles do vary, with some containing more fat and less protein and carbs than the regular 1% milk.
See how four dairy-free milk substitutes nutritionally measure up to their dairy competitors below.