Milk Alternatives Don’t Always Measure Up to Milk


Kurt Olsen

When consuming soy, oat, or almond milk, it is essential to note that these alternatives may not provide the same nutrients as cow’s milk.

A recent analysis of over 200 plant-based milk alternatives revealed that only a few contain comparable calcium, vitamin D, and protein levels in cow’s milk.

A recent study by the University of Minnesota revealed that only 12% of the plant-based milk alternatives examined contained comparable or higher levels of calcium, vitamin D, and protein when compared to cow’s milk.

Abigail Johnson, the associate director of the University’s School of Public Health Nutrition Coordinating Center, emphasized that these findings indicate that many plant-based milk alternatives are not nutritionally equivalent to cow’s milk. She suggested that consumers should seek plant-based alternatives that list calcium and vitamin D as ingredients and consider incorporating other sources of these nutrients into their diets.

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans have identified calcium and vitamin D as nutrients of public health concern due to underconsumption.

The researchers aimed to expand the database of milk alternatives in the Nutrition Coordinating Center, which currently includes approximately 19,000 foods.

The study analyzed nutrition and ingredient information from labels of 233 plant-based milk alternative products from 23 manufacturers. A nutrient calculation program was used to estimate the complete nutrient profile and compare the nutritional content of different products within categories and against cow’s milk.

The study found that only 28 plant-based alternatives had similar or higher calcium, vitamin D, and protein levels than dairy milk.

Nearly two-thirds of the products studied were made from almonds, oats, or soy.

About 170 plant-based milk alternatives were fortified with calcium and vitamin D, similar to the fortification levels found in dairy milk.

The median protein content was 2 grams per 240 milliliters of liquid, ranging from 0 to 12 grams. Approximately 16% of the milk alternatives had protein levels equal to or greater than the 8 grams per 240 milliliters found in cow’s milk. Milk made from soybeans or peas tended to have higher protein content.

The researchers plan to investigate and compare other nutrients between cow’s milk and plant-based milk, such as fiber.

It is important to note that these findings were presented at a meeting of the American Society for Nutrition and should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Contact Us

For more information or to make comments and suggestions, please contact:
Kurt Olsen
Dairy Development Coordinator, Missouri Department of Agriculture
Phone: (573) 291-5704
E-mail: [email protected]