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This weekend I made a fish and pasta dish involving caramelized onions, tomatoes, garlic, salmon filet, and other spices. At the end I wanted to give it a touch of lightness, and instead of opting for cow's milk I put in some coconut milk. The added sweetness helped the flavor, but I was wondering if it was a healthier move.

In other words, other than one being vegan and the other not, what pros and cons are there when comparing cow's milk and coconut milk? Was it really a healthier move?

Big Dave from SLN asked this
March 12, 2012 at 11:50 AM



Good question and funny you should mention that because I actually decided to try a new offering from my favorite brand of almond milk - a mix of almond and coconut milk! I got the unsweetened kind and it's REALLY yummy. I checked it against their unsweetened almond milk and it had the same nutrition offerings so I picked it up. That said, it tastes much less like cows milk than almond milk does by itself so I'm not sure it will be my go-to milk choice. Still, I'm sure I'll get it again!

Erin Froehlich answered
March 12, 2012 at 12:03 PM

Coconut milk is really good in drinks too. I had some chai tea latte mix that you're supposed to mix half and half with milk, so I tried it this weekend with 1/2 Chai mix, 1/4 cow's milk, and 1/4 coconut milk. It added a nice sweet and tropical note to the Chai.

Big Dave from SLN answered
March 12, 2012 at 12:06 PM

That DOES sound good! I made a sauce with the almond/coconut milk and red curry paste last night and used it to top a dish of whole grain rice, garlic spinach, sprouted tofu and sauteed eggplant. I was YUM. :)

Erin Froehlich answered
March 12, 2012 at 12:11 PM

I love that you are mixing things up in your diet, Dave! The biggest differences between coconut and almond milk compared with cow's are sugar and protein.

SUGAR Cow's milk does not contain added sugars (with the exception of flavored milks), therefore it has lower sugar content when compared with vanilla almond, coconut, or soy milk. However if you are sticking with the plain/unflavored version you should not have any added sugars and even the light versions will be lower in added sugars if you are going for a flavored option. As you mentioned it had a sweet flavor, i imagine you chose the vanilla flavor. There is actually a plain almond milk that is only 35 calories per cup! Though this brings me to my next point...

PROTEIN Although almond milk sounds like it should be high in protein, it's actually quite the opposite. 1 cup of almond milk or coconut milk has a mere 1 gram of protein. Soy milk is far more comparable to cow's milk and is a good source of protein in your diet. But if you are eating plenty of protein in the other foods in your diet (meat, poultry, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, cheese, yogurt, eggs) as are most Americans, then you have nothing to worry about.

Just make sure that whichever milk you are choosing has been fortified with calcium (at least 25%) and vitamin D. Silk brands are fortified...

Cheers to good health and good food!

Jessica Corwin MPH RDN Health Coach answered
March 12, 2012 at 8:36 PM
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