Many of us have grown up knowing and drinking only cow’s milk. Whether it came in a bottle, packet, or straight from the farm, it was usually from a cow, or in some cases, goat or camel milk, depending on where you live; not a plant, seed, or some nuts.
Milk contains enough nutrients and energy to promote proper growth and development that is important in forming bone masses (1). Apart from that, milk, if consumed in moderate amounts, can prevent chronic diseases like cardiovascular disorders, cancer, and obesity (2).
However, today, when you walk in your local grocery store’s aisles, multiple dairy alternatives claim to be the secret to weight loss. Trying to figure out which milk is best for weight loss can be quite daunting if you do not know the health benefits of these alternatives.
Isn’t Milk Associated with Weight Gain?
Taking milk for weight loss seems to be contrary to popular belief. Milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals that provide the body with help in reaching optimal health. However, much of the fat in milk and other dairy products like yogurt or butter is of the saturated kind.
Saturated fat is the type of fat that increases low-density lipoproteins or LDL cholesterol level. When this happens, you become at risk of developing cardiovascular problems and other health issues. To be on the safe side of things, only about 5 to 10% of saturated fat intake is allowed depending on your health status (3).
But in terms of weight gain, it all depends on your intake. If you stick to no more than 3 grams of saturated fat a day, including your milk intake, then you will not gain any additional weight. In fact, more and more studies have been in support of the idea that milk is a good way to lose weight.
How Does Milk Promote Weight Loss?
According to a study, dairy products have several components that lead to less weight gain and decrease the chances of becoming obese, let alone overweight. Thanks to the proteins, vitamin D, phosphorus, and calcium it contains. Calcium, a mineral most associated with milk, plays an important role in the metabolism of energy. It has the ability to form insoluble soaps or bind bile acids (4).
A previous study also showed that people who become obese are more likely suffering insufficiency of vitamin D (5). Consequently, vitamin D levels have increased for those who have lost weight. The more levels of vitamin D, the more successful the weight loss journey becomes.
Also, weight loss with milk consumption is made possible because of something as simple as a change in diet. It is possible that by including milk in your diet, soda will no longer be very tempting for you. It might also be helpful in keeping your belly feel full long enough for the next meal. So, you might start skipping snack time.
The Case of the Cow’s Milk
For as long as anyone can remember, fresh milk has always been considered a healthy breakfast staple. Unfortunately, over the years it has drawn flak for its effects on one’s health. A lot of studies poked around with the idea that it is linked to numerous problems ranging from superficial acne all the way to a much more threatening health condition like heart disease. Blaming it all on the saturated fat that a cow’s milk contains, more and more people have been discouraged to purchase full-fat milk.
This is why a lot of manufacturers have come up with low-fat and nonfat versions. Non-fat milk is one of the best milk types for weight loss as it contains fewer calories than its original counterpart. Despite the minimal calories, it still contains the necessary protein amount that you need to build lean muscles. This is especially helpful if you are a regular at the gym. It also did not lose any of the nutrients that can help you lose weight, such as calcium and vitamin D. But you need to understand that non-fat milk does not contain additional fat-burning nutrients. It is ideal to incorporate with a healthy diet. You will not get satisfying results if you leave it at that.
Eating fewer calories is a good start. The number of calories you need to consume per day will depend on your gender, age, and level of activity. Generally, women will need 1,600 to 2,400 calories daily and men’s intake starts from 2,000 to 3,000 calories (6). Skimmed or fat-free milk might be able to keep your calorie intake down by serving as a filler in between meals. A cup of fat-free milk contains only 90 calories and 8 grams of protein. This amount of protein is enough to pacify your hunger and will help you eat less (7).
Unfortunately, not everyone is able to process dairy properly. One study mentioned that there are about 30 to 50 million people in America that have lactose intolerance symptoms (8). Lactose is present in both cow’s milk and breast milk. Children and infants have the ability to break down lactose through a specific enzyme. However, some people lose this ability as they grow up. Some of the symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, cramping, flatulence, abdominal pain, and other gastrointestinal issues that occur readily upon intake (9).
Lactose intolerance is a dominant issue without too many available treatment options. The only thing that can be done is to manage it. To avoid experiencing a deficiency of the nutrients found in milk, plant-based alternatives have been made available to the public.
How Can Plant-based Milk Products Help in Weight Loss?
With a large number of people experiencing issues like milk allergies and lactose intolerance, plant-based milk products were produced. Below are some of the best milk products for weight loss.
The Non-Dairy Alternatives
1. Soy Milk
Soy is very rich in fat and proteins. The seeds are made of 20% fat and 35 to 45% protein (10). It has been an ancient ingredient for Asians but has only been introduced to the western hemisphere only about a century ago. Soy products like tempeh and miso serve as great sources of protein for vegan people. Soy milk, apart from being a milk alternative, is considered to contain anti-cancer properties with isoflavones called genistein and daidzein (10).
A review based on the results of eight human studies showed that all the people who got thinner seemed to have lost equivalent amounts and had trimmed down similar inches of fat around the waist just by incorporating soy protein, beef or pork, and dairy milk replacements in their diet (11). Furthermore, the isoflavones in soy can deter fat-tissue build up while enhancing the breakdown of fat.
Another possible reason why soy is considered the best milk for weight loss by some people is the interaction of Leptin and soy peptides and protein hydrolysates. Leptin is found in our adipose tissues. It is a hormone that has direct interaction with receptors, signaling the brain that you are full and it is time to stop eating. According to a study, the soy peptides have something to do with the mechanisms and hormones involved but not as assumed. It does not reduce food intake by meddling with Leptin. Instead, it helps in lipid degradation to reduce body weight and develop a boosted metabolism (12).
2. Cashew Milk
One cup of unsweetened commercial cashew milk has just 25 calories. This is the lowest number in the above list. Due to its low-calorie count, you can consume this dairy alternative every day to help you shed those extra pounds. However, you must ensure not to overdo it. After all, even healthy calories count, and having them in excess will lead to weight gain.
3. Almond Milk
Some people do not appreciate the beany taste that goes with soy milk. This is one of the reasons why there is a sudden increase in people replacing cow’s milk with almond milk, instead. There are also issues of anti-nutritional substances in soy that consumers find unfavorable for them.
Almond milk is prepared by soaking and grinding the almonds and adding excess water. After that, the solids are filtered. This procedure is just the gist of it. There are several measures after that to ensure longevity for commercial products.
Beverages made from almond has been around for ages. However, it is only in recent years that almond milk became popular to health-conscious individuals. Their primary selling point is that it’s the perfect alternative to cow’s milk for those who have lactose intolerance and milk allergy. Almonds contain the right kind of fat, Monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that helps in weight loss and management (10). Also, MUFA helps decrease LDLs which is good for the cardiovascular system and overall body health.
In one study, it is mentioned that almond consumption will not lead to weight gain despite additional calories. This makes it a great snack in between meals. Almonds can curb hunger, so when there is an invite to a big dinner, you will not feel tempted to eat a large meal (13). Also, in the same study, it is said that while the majority of fats in almond milk are MUFAs, the remainder is polyunsaturated fats. A lot of studies have proven that this type of fat is also ideal for weight loss.
4. Coconut Milk
Grated coconut white meat extracts are rich in saturated fats. You can find coconut milk in various Indian or Southeast Asian diet. Since the 1960s, coconut milk has been subject to different research for their unique properties. Lauric acid found in coconut fats helps in increasing HDL cholesterol levels and reducing LDL levels at the same time. Because of this, coconut milk consumption has increased a lot over the years. Unfortunately, with the selected few countries that can export coconuts, manufacturers need to employ a method to extend its shelf life. It is possible that the increased storage time might have an effect on the nutritional value of the milk.
Coconut milk has medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are related to weight loss by stimulating energy through heat production method called thermogenesis. MCTs promote lipid catabolism and eventual weight loss. It reduces waist size and body weight. The gut microbiota, according to one study, is a factor in the pathogenesis of unhealthy obese individuals. MCT-enriched diets can manage metabolic diseases by modifying gut microbiota (14).
One study suggested that men who consumed MCTs during breakfast had less food intake for the rest of the day (15). MCTs also increase sensitivity to insulin. Insulin is a hormone which is in charge of the blood sugar controls. This suggested that increase in insulin sensitivity can lead to weight loss (16).
5. Oat Milk
Oat milk is made by letting steel cut oats soak well in water. Afterward, they are blended thoroughly and filtered to remove the remaining solids. Oat milk has a slightly sweet taste.
Each cup contains vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, vitamin D, and iron. It has more nutrients to offer than coconut or almond milk. However, soy milk offers more protein. When it comes to calcium, oat milk wins even with cow’s milk on the running. Additionally, it contains only 2.5 grams of fat and absolutely no cholesterol.
It helps satiate hunger levels with its high water and soluble fiber content. Beta-glucan fiber has the ability to attract water. In turn, the thickness or viscosity of the digested food is increased. This results in a feeling of fullness due to the volume of food existing in the gut. The slowing down of digestion is not a bad thing because it only affects the rate of absorption of nutrients. Additionally, the short-chain fatty acids that are products of bacteria responsible for beta-glucan fermentation also add to the increased satiety by indirectly regulating appetite hormones (17).
With low calories, sugar, and fat and high in protein, this type of milk is a good way to shed a few pounds while enjoying many milk benefits.
6. Hemp Milk
This alternative is made from hemp seeds that are low in calories and high in polyunsaturated fats. When it comes to losing weight, the amount and type of fat you consume is just as crucial as your calorie intake. Foods high in polyunsaturated fats are better than those high in saturated fats as they are healthier for your heart and may promote weight loss.
Other Health Benefits of Drinking Milk
It Is Nutritious
You’ll surely be impressed with the nutritional profile of milk. It contains high amounts of vitamins and minerals, including B12, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, which is not present in most diets (18, 19). Though nutritional content of milk may vary depending on its source, it is an excellent source of protein and fatty acids like omega-3s and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which are linked to several health benefits like a reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes (20, 21, 22, 23, 24).
Organic and grass-fed cows produce milk with higher amounts of antioxidants like beta-carotene and vitamin E. These are effective against oxidative stress and inflammation (25).
It Improves Bone Health
Drinking milk can get you healthy bones because of its powerful mix of nutrients. Studies show that milk and dairy products can help lower risks of fractures and osteoporosis, especially in older people (26, 27, 28). Also, protein, which is a key nutrient present in milk, makes up approximately 50% of bone volume and 33% of bone mass (29). Evidence shows that eating more protein can help prevent bone loss, especially in women who do not take sufficient dietary calcium (30).
How Often Should You Drink Milk for Weight Loss?
When it comes to plant-based options, there is no set specification as to how much or how often you should drink these alternatives. Since most of these options are relatively low in calories and have little to no saturated fats, you can safely have several cups, possibly up to 3 cups, a day.
However, the most important factor to note is if your intake fits into your caloric intake for the day. Always use a reputable calorie counting app to keep track of calorie, carbs, fats, and protein intake for the day. This way, you can safely drink your plant, nut, or seed milk without jeopardizing your energy intake and weight loss goals.
Weight loss is a challenge for many people. It has been proven that proper eating habits coupled with regular exercise and healthy lifestyle choices can make a profound change. If you find it hard to incorporate milk into your diet, there are many ways you can do so than just having a glassful. Mix it with your oatmeal for breakfast, instead of using hot water. This will result in a much richer and tastier start for the day. Making smoothies with milk is also an efficient way to enrich the flavor of fruits like avocado, strawberries, and bananas. Lastly, you can use milk as a creamer for your breakfast or mid-day coffee needs.
Five milk products have been thoroughly discussed in this article to prove their effectiveness in weight loss. These are non-fat cow’s milk, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, and oat milk. All milk types have advantages over the other. Your preference will depend on the taste, the nutrients you need, and how your body reacts to it.