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Weight Loss » Food For Weight Loss » Which Milk Is Best For Weight Loss: Should We Demonize This Calcium-Packed Drink?

Which Milk Is Best For Weight Loss: Should We Demonize This Calcium-Packed Drink?

best milk alternative for weight loss

Which Milk Is Best For Weight Loss

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. 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.

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What is the Best Milk Alternative for Weight Loss?

Milk alternative options are limitless, and they are often made from plants, nuts, or seeds. These alternatives are made by grinding a bean or nut, then adding water, flavors, vitamins, and minerals. The nutrients and amount of sugar in each plant-based alternative varies considerably based on how it was produced and what has been added. When picking the best foods and drinks for weight loss, it is always best to look at the nutrition label of each pack and take note of the calories per serving.

Here are calories per cup (8 oz/244 g) for some popular dairy alternatives in the market today:

      Calories Carbs         Proteins Fats       Calcium

Pea Milk 80 0.5 g 8 g 4.5 g  440 mg
Macadamia Milk (10)55 1 g  1 g0.5 g  180 mg
Unsweetened Cashew Milk25 1.2 g  0.8 g2.0 g  450 mg
Unsweetened Almond Milk (3)36.6 1.42 g  1.44 g2.68 g 481 mg 
Unsweetened Hemp Milk 700 g 2 g 6 g 300 mg 
Unsweetened Oat Milk (15)120 16 g3 g5 g 270 mg 
Rice Milk (18)115  22.4 g0.68 g  2.37 g288 mg 
Coconut Milk (4)75.6 7.12 g  0.512 g 5.08 g459 mg 
Soy Milk (19)105 12 6.34 g 3.59 g  300 mg
Low-fat 1%  10212.2 g 8.22 g 2.37 g 305 mg 
Low-fat 2% 12211.7 g  8.05 g 4.83 g293 mg 

From the above list, cashew, almond, macadamia, and hemp seed milk seem to have the lowest calories per glass (8 oz/244 ml).

best milk alternative for weight loss
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Which Milk Alternative is Best for Weight Loss?

Some of the above popular dairy alternatives have been touted as great solutions for weight loss compared to dairy. But, how true is this and how exactly do they affect your weight loss?

Soy Milk and Weight Loss

Replacing dairy with soy alternatives may help you with weight loss. It is suggested that soy is beneficial in this because once consumed soya affects your hormones and tends to mimic leptin, the body’s satiety hormone. When leptin is activated, your hunger and appetite reduce, which ensures that you consume fewer calories in the day (22).

Cashew Milk and Weight Loss

As seen above, 1 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.

Coconut Milk Benefits for Weight Loss

With just 75 calories per cup, this is a great contender for the best milk alternative for weight loss. As if this was not enough, it has been linked to having medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may stimulate your metabolism. It has also been suggested that MCTs may increase insulin sensitivity, balance gut bacteria, and help control food intake throughout the day, factors that could lead to a reduction in waist size and overall body weight (5).

which alternative milk is best for weight loss
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Hemp Milk

This alternative is made from hemp seeds that are low in calories and high in polyunsaturated fats (1). 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 (17).

Macadamia Milk

A cup of this plant-based has 55 calories which is fantastic for anyone who wants to keep their calorie intake low.

Almond Milk and Weight Loss

Many people consider this option to be the best and healthiest milk for weight loss, and they are not wrong. It is the most popular dairy alternative today. Like many cow milk alternatives, it is usually fortified with vitamin D, calcium, and protein. It is also low in calories, which aids in weight loss. For the faster weight loss results, pick the unsweetened version as it does not have any unhealthy added sugars.

When it comes to the best milk alternative for weight loss, our pick is unsweetened almond milk since it is readily available wherever you are, has a better taste than some other kinds of milk, and is relatively low in calories.

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almond milk vs whole milk for weight loss
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Oat Milk vs. Almond Milk for Weight Loss

To determine which of these two milk is best for weight loss, we must first compare the nutritional value that a cup of each provides.

Unsweetened almond milk has: calories: 36.6, fats: 3 g, proteins: 1 g, carbohydrates: 1 g, calcium: 481 mg, and dietary fiber 0 g (3). On the other hand, 244 g of oat milk contains: calories: 120, fats: 5 g, proteins: 3 g, carbohydrates: 16 g, calcium: 350 mg, and dietary fiber 2 g (14).

As seen above, the almond derivative is low in calories, but it is also low in all other nutrients compared to oat milk. In terms of calories alone, the almond option seems to be the best milk for weight loss as its competition has almost 3.3 times more than the calorie count in one cup.

When you take a look at the nutrient count, there is little difference in the amount of protein and fats, but there is a significant difference in terms of carbohydrates. While the carbs found in oats are complex carbs that are essential to your diet and health, anyone on a low-carb diet weight loss journey might want to keep an eye on their carb intake.

With these facts in mind, we suggest the latter due to its very low number of calories per serving when it comes to oat milk vs. almond milk for weight loss. You can make either of these two options for you at home if they are too expensive at the grocery store. However, remember that the pre-packaged options are usually fortified with nutrients and minerals that will not be present in your homemade version.

which milk is best for weight loss
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Almond Milk vs. Whole Milk for Weight Loss: Which is Better?

For anyone looking to cut their calorie intake for weight loss, choosing plant-based milk for their diet can be a step in the right direction. This is because when you compare the calories in these two options, whole milk has 4 times more (149 calories (13)) the amount of energy found in almond milk.

It is important to note that whole milk has more protein, which is essential in weight loss, appetite suppression, and muscle growth. However, depending on how many calories you consume and how much exercise you do each day, it might be a good idea to stick to the plant-based option.

Another factor to note is that not all almond milk is made the same; some brands have added sugars for shelf-life longevity and flavor. Make sure to always stop and read the ingredient label on your packet for nutrition facts to make sure that you pick the healthiest version available. The easiest way to do this is opting for an unsweetened almond drink, other than tastier options like chocolate or vanilla flavors.

Should You Choose Low Fat Milk?

Should you choose low-fat milk over whole milk and plant-based alternatives? If you are looking to try and shed some extra weight and are not willing to go for plant-based alternatives, then low-fat milk could be the next best thing. Giving up full-fat for a low-fat option could help you lose weight, and it lowers the risk of heart disease.

The reason behind this is that whole milk and whole fat dairy options primarily contain saturated fat (7). Saturated fats are fats that have all single bonds between their molecules. These bonds are “saturated” with hydrogen molecules, which tend to solidify at room temperature. They can be found in other foods like cheese, butter, ice-cream, and high-fat cuts of meat (8). High intakes of saturated fats are associated with risk factors for heart disease, such as increased LDL cholesterol.

Low fat is also a great way to get all the minerals and nutrients found in whole milk without extra calories. One cup of low-fat 1% milk has 102 cals: carbs: 12.2 g, fats: 2.37 g, proteins: 8.22 g, and calcium: 305 g (12). Low-fat milk is still higher in calories than most plant, nut, and seed options, but also higher in protein.

oat milk vs almond milk for weight loss
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Is Oat Milk Good for Weight Loss?

Due to its high number of calories, this might not be the best option for weight loss. Instead of this, it is best to opt for other plant-based options with a much lower calorie count. Despite its high-calorie count, oat milk has many other benefits. They include (15):

  1. It tastes better than other plants, nuts, and seed-based alternatives.
  2. It has a smaller environmental impact as compared to almond milk.
  3. Oat milk may help combat cancer.
  4. It helps lower levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol in your body.
  5. It is an excellent alternative for anyone who has a casein allergy or is lactose intolerant.
  6. Oat milk is higher in protein than many milk alternatives, which helps in muscle growth and repair while keeping your hair and nails healthy. 
  7. It has calcium which is essential for bone health and macronutrients like folate, which make red and white blood cells in the bone marrow.

When it comes to ‘Which milk is best for weight loss?’, oat milk, despite its many other health benefits, falls short due to its high calorie content. It is best to leave this option for highly active people who are not worried about losing weight or can work off all the extra calories at the gym.

milk
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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.

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Which Type of Milk is Healthiest?

Most plant-based milk, such as hemp, oat, flax, coconut, almond, and soy is considered to be among the healthiest options. That being said, this does not mean that you should ignore dairy and never drink it again. Unless you have lactose intolerance or a casein allergy, this option is quite okay for you. The trick is to mind your intake. Do not drink whole milk every day of the week. You can alternate it with other plant-based or low-fat options. 

Cow’s milk is incredibly nutritious for both children and adults, as it is naturally rich in calcium and B vitamins (20). It is also important to note that while almond milk is great for our bodies and is a fantastic low-calorie option, it is not suitable for the environment. Its production requires a lot of water and pesticide use, which is quickly causing long-lasting and devastating effects on the environment in drought-stricken California. This is where more than 80% of the world’s almonds are grown (2).

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When is the Best Time to Drink Milk for Weight Loss?

It can generally be consumed at any time of the day and even at night to help lull you to sleep. However, for maximum benefits, it is best to have a glass after a workout to help replenish your body with protein, which helps with muscle repair and growth (9).

What Are the Benefits of Drinking Milk for Weight Loss?

Most kinds of milk, plant-based or otherwise, have protein in them. When consumed, protein-rich foods affect the hunger hormone ghrelin by reducing it. When this hormone is suppressed, you are less likely to snack or overeat, thus keeping your calorie intake low. 

Protein supports muscle growth, which in turn boosts your metabolism. A pound of muscle burns six to seven calories a day at rest, which is three times more than what is burned by a pound of fat (21). You get to expend energy even when you aren’t working out.

Low-fat and plant-based options are also low in calories, which helps you stay on a calorie deficit leading to weight loss.

Is Plant-based Milk Healthier?

In terms of nutrients, this depends on what choice you make. Some alternatives contain virtually the same amount of vitamins and minerals as cow’s milk, while others fall far short (16). If your desired option does not provide you with the necessary nutrients, i.e. calcium and vitamin D, you can always get extra from fruits, vegetables, and the sun.

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The Bottom Line: Which Milk is Best for Weight Loss?

Plant-based options such as cashew, almond, hemp, flax, soy, coconut, and macadamia milk seem to be the best milk alternatives for weight loss. Not only are they dairy and lactose-free, but they are low in calories and have no saturated fats.

When searching for which alternative milk is best for weight loss, the most important thing is to always read the ingredient label and nutrition facts, as an alternative does not always mean healthy. Many brands and companies add sugars to their products to ensure that they have a longer shelf life. Added sugars will only serve to enable you to gain weight rather than lose it.

No matter what option you choose to help you with your weight loss journey, be sure to always track your calories to make sure that you are always within your recommended caloric intake for the day. Also, milk alone will not help you shed unwanted pounds. An overall healthy diet is more important than your choice of breakfast milk.

Also, be sure to exercise for at least 30 minutes, five to six times a week. If you are unsure of what alternative option will be best for you, please speak to a doctor or dietitian, and they can help you make a good decision.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Almond, hemp, oat, soy, and cow’s milk: Which is best? (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
  2. Almond Milk is Taking a Toll on the Environment (2018, sustainability.ucsf.edu)
  3. Almond milk, unsweetened (2020, ndb.nal.usda.gov)
  4. Coconut milk (2020, ndb.nal.usda.gov)
  5. Health benefits of coconut milk (2018, medicalnewstoday.com)
  6. Healthiest Milk to Drink if You Want to Lose Weight (2019, livestrong.com)
  7. Is low-fat or full-fat the better choice for dairy products? (2018, health.harvard.edu)
  8. Is saturated or unsaturated fat better for health? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
  9. Is There a Best Time to Drink Milk? (2019, healthline.com)             
  10. MACADAMIA MILK (2019, ndb.nal.usda.gov)
  11. Milk Mysteries: What’s in Your Glass? (2018, webd.com)
  12. Milk, low fat (1%) (2020, ndb.nal.usda.gov)
  13. Milk, whole (2020, ndb.nal.usda.gov)
  14. Oat Milk: Nutrition, Benefits, and How to Make It (2019, healthline.com)
  15. Oat Milk Nutrition Facts (2020, verywellfit.com)
  16. Plant milk or cow’s milk: Which is better for you? (2020, health.harvard.edu)
  17. Polyunsaturated Fat Health Benefits (2019, verywellfit.com)
  18. Rice milk (2020, ndb.nal.usda.gov)
  19. Soy milk (2020, ndb.nal.usda.gov)
  20. The 7 Healthiest Milk Options (2019, healthline.com)
  21. The Amount of Calories Muscles Burn (2020, verywellfit.com)
  22. Weight Gain and Soy Milk (n.d, livestrong.com)
Clare Kamau

Clare Kamau

Clare is an excellent and experienced writer who has a great interest in nutrition, weight loss, and working out. She believes that everyone should take an interest in health and fitness, as not only do they improve your way of life, but they can also have a significant impact on your health.
As a writer, her goal is to educate her readers about the ways they can reprogram themselves to enjoy exercise, as well as break free from bad eating habits. In her articles, Clare tries to give advice which is backed by scientific research and is also easy to follow on a day-to-day basis. She believes that everyone, no matter their age, gender, or fitness level, can always learn something new that can benefit their health.

Kristen Fleming

Kristen Fleming

I am a U.S. educated and trained Registered Dietitian (MS, RD, CNSC) with clinical and international development experience. I have experience conducting systematic reviews and evaluating the scientific literature both as a graduate student and later to inform my own evidence-based practice as an RD. I am currently based in Lusaka, Zambia after my Peace Corps service was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and looking for some meaningful work to do as I figure out next steps. This would be my first freelance project, but I am a diligent worker and quite used to independent and self-motivated work.

Kristen Fleming, MS, RD, CNSC

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