What is the healthiest milk to drink? Best options for protein content and weight loss.

Milk is a must-have pantry ingredient for many. Whether it’s enjoyed with morning coffee, tea or breakfast cereal, milk has a special place in the daily routine and diet of many.

From a young age, children are encouraged to drink a glass of milk each day to support good health and growth. With the dairy market growing and plant-based milks broadening options, it can be difficult to find the milk that suits you without having to try them all.

With the growing debate around which milk offers better health benefits for people (animal milk or plant-based milk) consumers can feel at loss as to what to buy on their grocery runs.

Which milk is the healthiest?

According to Eating Well, the benefits of cow's milk can be "tough to beat" when it comes to nutrition. Cow's milk, the most common type of milk found in many households, has healthy vitamins and nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, niacin and protein, according to U.S. Health News.

A cup of cow's milk has about 8 grams of protein per 8 ounces (240ml serving) and satisfies about one-third of your daily protein requirement. It is also a great source of calcium as commercially-sold milk is usually fortified with vitamin D which helps with calcium absorption, making it a well-rounded food source.

Between full-fat/whole, %2, skim/low-fat and fat-free milk, the American Heart Association recommends fat-free, 0.5% fat and 1% fat milk for consuming as they are lower in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories and have slightly more nutrients.

All this information might be in vain if you're lactose sensitive or lactose intolerant but don't worry, there's a plant-based alternative that comes close to providing similar nutrition as cow's milk.

Soy milk is a popular plant-based milk and has a similar nutrient profile to that of cow's milk, according to a published study on the National Institutes of Health. Soy milk is made from soaking soybeans in water and grinding them, and then, filtering the remnant mixture to form a creamy beverage. It is high in protein, calcium, vitamin B12 and potassium and can be used as a cow milk substitute in coffee, tea, baking and more.

Which milk is the best for weight loss?

According to a study by NIH, unsweetened almond milk has the lowest calories and aids in a low-carb diet. Almonds also contain a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that are considered helpful in weight loss and weight management. So, almond milk might be your best bet for a milk alternative that aids weight loss.

What milk has the most protein?

Sheep's milk has the highest protein with 14.7 grams per one cup of 8-ounce serving, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Cow's milk, which is what people commonly mean when they say "milk," has almost 8.5 grams of protein in its low-fat version and 8 grams in whole milk per an 8-ounce serving, according to USDA.

Types of plant-based milk by protein content

In the order of most protein to least per a cup of 8-ounce serving, here are the different types of plant-based milk, according to USDA:

  • Unsweetened soy milk - 8.5 grams

  • Oat milk - 2 grams

  • Hemp milk - 2 grams

  • Almond milk - 1 gram

  • Rice milk - 0.7 grams

  • Coconut milk - 0.5 grams

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Which milk is the healthiest? Best types for protein and weight loss.