Is Soy Milk Better Than Milk From A Cow?

There are a handful of reasons why people choose to drink soy milk (taste, allergies, veganism), but I'm curious... is it really a healthier option? I've seen many claims that it is, but I'd like to do my own research and find out myself.

I'm going to compare the different types of cow milk (skim, 1%, 2% and whole - all without Vitamin A or D added) to two different brands of soy milk (Silk (plain) and Vitasoy (organic creamy original)). We'll look at the nutrition data to figure out what type of milk is the healthiest. The data shown below will be based on one cup of each type of milk; a typical serving size.

Calories

Since it's the first thing you'll see on a nutrition label, let's look at calories first. It is excess calories that make you gain weight, so the type of milk with the least amount of calories will be ranked the highest for this section.

  1. Skim Milk: 83 Calories
  2. Silk Soy Milk: 100 Calories
  3. 1% Milk: 103 Calories
  4. Vitasoy Soy Milk: 107 Calories
  5. 2% Milk: 123 Calories
  6. Whole Milk: 149 Calories

So it looks like, in terms of calories, that skim milk is your best bet and whole milk is the worst choice. Who didn't see that coming? So if you want to take in the least amount of calories when you drink milk, opt for skim milk.

RANKING

  1. Skim Milk - 6 Points
  2. Silk Soy Milk - 5 Points
  3. 1% Milk - 4 Points
  4. Vitasoy Soy Milk - 3 Points
  5. 2% Milk - 2 Points
  6. Whole Milk - 1 Point

Let's move on to the fat content.

Fat

Since unsaturated fat is actually a good type of fat, we're going to ignore the "total fat" content and only look at the saturated fat. You want to limit your intake of saturated fat, so the type of milk with the least amount of saturated fat will be ranked the highest for this section.

  1. Skim Milk: 0 Grams
  2. Silk Soy Milk: 1 Gram
  3. Vitasoy Soy Milk: 1 Gram
  4. 1% Milk: 2 Grams
  5. 2% Milk: 3 Grams
  6. Whole Milk: 5 Grams

So it looks like, in terms of saturated fat, that once again skim milk is your best bet and whole milk is the worst choice. Both types of soy milk rank the same so they'll get the same amount of points. So if you want to take in the least amount of saturated fat when you drink milk, opt for skim milk.

RANKING

  1. Skim Milk - 11 Points
  2. Silk Soy Milk - 9 Points
  3. 1% Milk - 7 Points
  4. Vitasoy Soy Milk - 7 Points
  5. 2% Milk - 4 Points
  6. Whole Milk - 2 Points

Let's move on to the carbohydrate content.

Carbs

Carbs aren't actually your enemy; they're your energy. So we're going to focus on a type of carbohydrate that we want to limit our intake of, because the energy is burned quickly and spikes insulin levels. The carb we're going to focus on is sugar! The type of milk with the least amount of sugar will be ranked the highest for this section.

  1. Vitasoy Soy Milk: 5 Grams
  2. Silk Soy Milk: 6 Grams
  3. Skim Milk: 12 Grams
  4. 2% Milk: 12 Grams
  5. 1% Milk: 13 Grams
  6. Whole Milk: 13 Grams

So it looks like, it terms of sugar content, that Vitasoy soy milk is your best bet and 1% and whole Milk are tied as the worst. You might be wondering why soy milk has so much less sugar; it's because of the lactose content. Most of the sugar in cow's milk is lactose. So if you want to take in the least amount of sugar, when drinking milk, opt for Vitasoy soy milk.

RANKING

  1. Skim Milk - 13 Points
  2. Silk Soy Milk - 12 Points
  3. Vitasoy Soy Milk - 11 Points
  4. 1% Milk - 8 Points
  5. 2% Milk - 6 Points
  6. Whole Milk - 3 Points

Let's move on to the protein content.

Protein

Protein is quite essential for the growth and healing of your body. So the type of milk with the most amount of protein in it will be ranked the highest for this section.

  1. Skim Milk: 8 Grams
  2. 2% Milk: 8 Grams
  3. 1% Milk: 8 Grams
  4. Whole Milk: 8 Grams
  5. Vitasoy Soy Milk:  7 Grams
  6. Silk Soy Milk: 7 Grams

So it looks like, in terms of protein content, your best bet would be to stay away from soy milk. I'd also like to note that a study done at McMaster University found that milk protein was better at building muscle mass than soy protein. So if you want to get the most efficient protein and at good amounts, I'd stick with any type of milk from a cow.

RANKING

  1. Skim Milk - 15 Points
  2. Silk Soy Milk - 13 Points
  3. Vitasoy Soy Milk - 12 Points
  4. 1% Milk - 10 Points
  5. 2% Milk - 8 Points
  6. Whole Milk - 5 Points

Let's move onto the vitamins.

Vitamins

There are a bunch of vitamins we could look at but, since I don't want to drag this out too long, we're only going to look at six vitamins. Vitamins A and D (boosts immunity), Vitamin K (protects against osteoporosis), Folate (naturally occurring form of vitamin B9 - good for your skin), Pantothenic Acid (vitamin b5 - fights infection) and Vitamin B12 (energizes body). The type of milk with the most amount of vitamins will be ranked the highest for this section.

I chose to look at cow's milk that had no added Vitamin A or D, so you're seeing their natural content. Vitamins A, D and B12 were added to both kinds of soy milk. They call it "fortified", I call it unnatural and their ranking will be slightly adjusted because of this.

  1. Whole Milk
  2. Silk Soy Milk
  3. 2% Milk
  4. Vitasoy Soy Milk
  5. 1% Milk
  6. Skim Milk

Whole came out on top in the vitamin category because it was full of enough vitamins without having to have anything added to it. Cow's milk can be fortified too, so I couldn't let the soy milk have an unfair advantage. So if you want naturally vitamin-filled milk I'd stick with whole milk (otherwise go with Silk soy milk) and avoid skim milk.

RANKING

  1. Silk Soy Milk - 18 Points
  2. Skim Milk - 16 Points
  3. Vitasoy Soy Milk - 15 Points
  4. 1% Milk - 12 Points
  5. 2 % Milk - 12 Points
  6. Whole Milk - 11 Points

Let's move onto the minerals.

Minerals

There's also a bunch of minerals we could look at but I think this article is long enough. So, we're only going to look at five minerals: Calcium (good for bones & teeth), Zinc (boosts immunity), Magnesium (good for muscles), Phosphorus (helps body make energy) and Potassium (good for nervous system). The type of milk with the most amount of minerals will be ranked the highest for this section.

Both kinds of soy milk are also fortified with calcium and zinc while all the versions of cow milk naturally have these amounts of minerals. So the soy milk rankings will be slightly adjusted because of this.

  1. Skim Milk
  2. 1% Milk
  3. 2% Milk
  4. Vitasoy Soy Milk
  5. Whole Milk
  6. Silk Soy Milk

The ranking results for this section was a little surprising to me. Even with fortification, both kinds of soy milk couldn't compare to the lower fat types of cow's milk. So if you want a milk that's filled with minerals, then opt for skim milk and stay away from Silk soy milk.

Just for fun: Which Type of Milk is Closest to Human Milk?

We grew up drinking our mother's milk, or some kind of substitute, so I was curious to see what kind of milk is the closest, in terms of nutritional value, to the milk from a human.

It turns out that whole milk is the closest to human milk and skim milk is the farthest! Check out the picture above if you don't believe me.

So for a child, once you've finished breastfeeding, whole milk is the best choice.

Conclusion

RANKING

  1. Skim Milk - 22 Points
  2. Silk Soy Milk - 19 Points
  3. Vitasoy Soy Milk - 18 Points
  4. 1% Milk - 17 Points
  5. 2% Milk - 16 Points
  6. Whole Milk - 13 Points

And the winner is...

By the numbers, through my research, SKIM MILK is the best milk overall!

By looking at the label, soy milk may look healthier than most types of milk from a cow (although it barely ranked higher then 1% & 2%) but is it really that healthy?

The fact that they had to add in vitamins and minerals and that it has a weaker variety of protein, makes me think that it's not that healthy.

So if you want to drink milk that's not too high in calories, saturated fat or sugar, has an ample amount of efficient protein, and natural amounts of vitamins and minerals, then I'd go with skim milk.

You may even want to opt for 1% milk to ensure that you get a little more vitamins.

Your best bet is to get organic dairy products from grass-fed cows.

Don't let my conclusion sway you, especially if it's against your beliefs or you have allergies. Some people may actually prefer the taste of soy milk.

If that's the case, go ahead and grab some Silk soy milk and enjoy your drink.

I hope that, after reading this, you'll chose a little more wisely when it comes to milk selection. If not, thanks for reading anyway.

Gulp!

More by this Author


What Kind of Milk Do YOU Drink? 18 comments

Midasfx profile image

Midasfx 7 years ago

Great fact finding, learned a lot about the other kinds of milk. I wont touch soy products, you would have to trick me into drink soy milk or eating tofu. **Gross!!**

I'm a big 2% fan. It's good for chocolate milk and cereal too.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 7 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Yeah I'm not a big fan of soy products myself, but soybean oil pops up in so many thing. I drink skim a lot, find it quenches my thirst better than the other percentages.


greg austin profile image

greg austin 6 years ago from Canada

Soy beverages taste good and generally I love tofu but soy should be eaten in moderation unless it's fermented soy.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Yeah, like most things; it should be eaten in moderation if you enjoy it.


FrederickD profile image

FrederickD 6 years ago

Very informative! Unfortunately I think I have developed an allergy to soy products, so I've got to move onto rice milk if I can find it.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

I want to try out almond milk sometime.


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

I had to change to soy milk (from cow's milk) about 3 years ago. Cow's milk did funny things to my stomach. It certainly improved my digestion and now I prefer the taste. Thanks Bendo, lots of information in this hub.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Yeah some people can't handle lactose MPG Narratives, so soy is an option.

Personally I'd try out almond milk before I head to soy, if I couldn't drink cow's milk anymore.


MPG Narratives profile image

MPG Narratives 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Almond milk? I'll have to see if I can find some when I can't find the brand of soy I like. Thanks.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 6 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Yep! I love the taste of almonds so I'm assuming it'll taste good itself. It'd be my first choice if cow's milk wasn't an option.

No cholesterol, lactose and less saturated fat.


healthywholefoods profile image

healthywholefoods 5 years ago

I think that many people grew up on whole milk and any thing else (other than 2%) just don't taste the same. Maybe if people would introduce these healthy products into there diet a little at a time, they would find a whole new world of health and vitality.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Yeah healthywholefoods, skim milk is too watery for some, but I'm sure a lot of whole milk drinkers could get use to 1%. But for kids, the whole milk is good as they're still growing into their bodies and the closest they can get to their mother's milk.


healthywholefoods profile image

healthywholefoods 5 years ago

Great point, but have you ever read about goat's milk. I heard that it is very consistent with mothers milk. Can't say for sure, but I remember reading this. I don't mean to get off topic, but would be a great hub for someone to write on best milk for a growing child.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 5 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

That's very possible, healthywholefoods... I'd have to look more into it. It does appear that one doctort in Parents magazine says goats milk is closer to human's milk than cow's milk, so it might actually be a better option for young children!


adamas 4 years ago

I find this amateur analysis to be relatively unhelpful. The difference between 7 and 8 grams of protein is, dietarily speaking almost negligible, while the difference between 1 and 5 grams of saturated fat is relatively significant. There are sophisticated databases freely available to get more precise numbers, unlike the rounded nutrition label values. Skim milk is around 5% fat per serving (which is just under 1/2 a gram per serving, thus it can be labeled as 0 on a standard nutrition label.)

As for selecting unfortified milk and unfortified soymilk: most people buy the fortified versions of both, they are neither more expensive, nor difficult to find (in fact fortified versions are much easier to find).

an analysis of the nutrient content post-fortification reveals that soymilk has more of all the good stuff and equivalent protein, with less of the bad stuff (1/3 the saturated fat, no cholesterol, lower sodium, and no Trans-fat, which is present in all cow milk and excluded from the formal nutrition label by exception rules).

Comments relating to dangers of consuming too much soy are related to soymilks reconstituted from isolated soy protein from GMO soybeans, and chemically speaking, the levels of hormones in those "frankenstein" products are still only about on par with the hormones found in whole milk (hormones being fat soluble, reduced fat milks have reduced hormone levels). Again, such soy products are usually used in industrial processed foods as cheap filler (due to subsidies) any respectable soymilk brand (like silk or vitasoy) Uses non-GMO soybeans exclusively, removing that problem from consideration.


Bendo13 profile image

Bendo13 4 years ago from Colorado Springs, Colorado Author

Yes aadamas, I do realize that in labeling you are allowed to label something as 0, even if there is a tiny bit of it in there.

But you do realize that fortification of any food doesn't make it more healthy than, or even as healthy as, a food that naturally has those nutrients in them, right? Not even taking vitamins ensures that you'll absorb the nutrients the same way as if you consumed them in a food that naturally had them in it.

And you also do realize that trans-fat naturally found in the food that we consume is nothing like the trans-fat from hydrogenated oils. Trans-fat found in meat and dairy products isn't to be avoided like say... partially hydrogenated soybean oil. In fact, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a naturally occuring trans-fat that is very good for you, but an "amateur" might avoid it because it's a big bad trans-fat.

And I recommend at the end to eat organic meat and dairy products that come from grass-fed cattle... so, there would be no frankenstein hormones, only hormones that occur naturally.

Thanks for reading though!


schoolgirlforreal profile image

schoolgirlforreal 3 years ago from USA

Thanks for the tips. I've heard that soy milk is bad for you in the news, but I don't know if that's accurate?

I think 1% is the kind Weight Watcher recommended.


kikalina profile image

kikalina 3 years ago from Europe

I cant stand the taste of Soy milk so would never dream of drinking it no matter what.

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