You know you need calcium for strong, healthy bones, right? And if you’re like a lot of Americans, you rely on milk for the bulk of your dietary calcium.
But how much calcium is actually in milk?
Click the video below to find out…
Now, you may have heard rumors that cow’s milk can cause osteoporosis. But our resident Bone Health Expert, Lara Pizzorno, compiled all the research and wrote an in-depth post debunking this milk calcium myth.
Even so, cow’s milk isn’t your only option in the milk aisle nowadays. There are many milk options from a variety of different sources to suit every dietary need. But how do these options stack up against cow’s milk in the calcium department? Let’s find out!
Comparing Milk and Milk Alternatives: Almond, Rice, Soy, Coconut, and Goat Milk
We’re going to compare the nutritional value of traditional cow’s milk with five alternatives; almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk, and goat’s milk.
You might balk at the thought of pouring some of those on your morning bowl of cornflakes. But the calcium content (and additional benefits) could just surprise you…
Milk and milk alternatives: Nutrition comparison per 1 cup
|Calcium (mg)||Protein (g)||Total Fat (g)||Sugar (g)||Total Carbs (g)||Calories (kcal)|
|Cow’s Milk, Whole||300||7.99||9.0||11||11||161|
|Cow’s Milk, 2%||300||8.0||5.0||12||12||123|
|Cow’s Milk, 1%||300||8.0||2.5||12||12||102|
|Cow’s Milk, skim||300||8.0||0||13||12||86|
|Almond Milk (unsweetened)||0*||1.01||3.49||0||1.99||45|
|Rice Milk (unsweetened)||283||0.67||2.33||12.7||22||113|
|Coconut Milk Beverage (unsweetened)||130||0.0||4.1||0.0||1.99||45.6|
Cow’s milk has been the go-to source of calcium for decades. And despite the surge in popularity of milk alternatives, cow’s milk still dominates milk sales in the United States. Reports show that dairy milk raked in $16.2 billion in 2017, and cow’s milk makes up the vast majority of that figure.
How much calcium is in cow’s milk?
Whole, 2%, 1%, and skim milk all provide similar amounts of calcium per cup –– about 300 mg. For reference, the recommended daily intake of calcium is 1,000 mg for women under 51 and men under 71. For women over 51 and men over 71, it’s 1200 mg.
|Pros of Cow’s Milk||Cons of Cow’s Milk|
|High in calcium||Lots of people are allergic to cow’s milk. Most commonly it’s because of two specific proteins– casein and whey|
|It contains 18 of 22 essential nutrients in one convenient glass||Not suitable for a lot of people with dietary restrictions or choices|
|Very versatile ingredient||Questionable practices. There are concerns over how some dairy farms produce cow’s milk|
Almond milk has become extremely popular in America in the last decade or so. Research shows almond milk now holds a 64% market share of non-dairy milk sales. And those sales are worth an estimated annual total of $2.11 billion!
Almond milk is made by blending almonds with water. The mixture then goes through a strainer to remove the pulp, which leaves the ‘milk’ behind. Some almond milk manufacturers will also add thickening agents like carrageenan (a seaweed derivative). Watch out for sweetened versions of almond milk though. They have a lot of added sugar!
How much calcium is in almond milk?
There’s actually quite a lot of calcium in almonds, but almond milk contains next to no calcium (naturally) as it’s lost during the manufacturing process. So many brands offer calcium-fortified almond milk– that means they add extra calcium to the milk.
But it’s always a good idea to check the label to see which type of calcium is added. Often times, it’s a rock-based calcium your body can’t absorb very well. (We’ve got a whole section on fortified milks toward the bottom of this page.)
A cup of almond milk also contains:
- 1.01 grams of protein
- 3.49 grams of fat
- 0 grams of sugar
- 1.99 grams of carbohydrates
- 161 calories
|Pros of Almond Milk||Cons of Almond Milk|
|Very low in sugar and fat||Very little natural calcium and protein content|
|100% vegan||Not suitable for people with nut allergies|
|Contains no lactose. And lactose could be bad for your bones.||Often contains a lot of unnatural sweeteners (look out for unsweetened varieties)|
Rice milk is a naturally sweet alternative to cow’s milk. It’s made by blending partially milled rice with water. And during this process, the carbohydrates in the rice break down into sugars. That’s where the sweetness comes from!
On a less sweet note, rice milk tends to contain traces of arsenic. You see, arsenic is present in the environment, and rice absorbs more of it than other cereal crops. So it’s advised that infants and toddlers shouldn’t consume rice milk.
How much calcium is in rice milk?
Rice milk contains about 283 mg of calcium per cup. Not far off the 300 mg of calcium per cup cow’s milk provides!
A cup of rice milk also contains:
- 0.67 grams of protein
- 2.33 grams of fat
- 12.67 grams of sugar
- 22.01 grams of carbohydrates
- 113 calories
|Pros of Rice Milk||Cons of Rice Milk|
|One of the least allergenic milk alternatives||Provides very little protein|
|Naturally sweet flavor||Not suitable for infants|
|Low in fat||Contains a lot of carbohydrates, so may not be suitable for diabetics|
As the name suggests, soy milk comes from soybeans. The milk is produced by soaking and grinding the beans and boiling the mixture. The final step is filtering the liquid to produce the end product.
Research shows that soy milk delivers the most balanced nutritional value of all cow milk alternatives! Plus, soy milk is naturally lactose-free. So it’s a great alternative for people who are lactose-intolerant. But unsweetened soy milk is an acquired taste, especially for people used to the taste of cow’s milk. Plus, soybean is the most genetically modified crop in the world! In fact, 94% of soy acreage in the United States is genetically modified. And genetically modified organisms (GMO) are linked with health and environmental issues. So if you opt for soy milk, it’s best to go organic — as organic means it’s also non-GMO!
How much calcium is in soy milk?
Soy milk only contains 300 mg of calcium per cup.
A cup of soy milk also contains:
- 9.00 grams of protein
- 4.51 grams of fat
- 1.99 grams of sugar
- 4.01 grams of carbohydrates
- 91 calories
|Pros of Soy Milk||Cons of Soy Milk|
|Lactose-free||Soy is a common allergen|
|The most balanced nutritional value of all cow milk alternatives||An acquired taste|
|Contains lots of isoflavones, which improve blood pressure||Most soybean crops in the United States are genetically modified|
Coconut Milk Beverage
Coconut milk in a drinking sense is often referred to as coconut milk beverage. And it’s different to the canned coconut milk you might have used before in the kitchen. Both are made from the white, fleshy part of a mature, brown coconut. (Coconut water comes from unmatured green coconuts). The flesh of the coconut is shredded, simmered in water, and strained. The mix then separates into a rich, creamy layer and a liquid layer beneath. These two layers together are what you’ll find in canned coconut milk for cooking. But for coconut milk beverage, the creamy layer is skimmed off.
Now, coconut milk contains a lot of unsaturated fat compared to other types of milk. But it’s not all bad news! Coconut milk contains a type of fat called medium-chain triglyceride. And studies show this type of fat can help prevent obesity. So with all that in mind, consider using this type of milk in moderation.
How much calcium is in coconut milk?
Coconut milk contains a modest amount of calcium naturally. But like other milk alternatives, calcium-fortified options are available.
A cup of coconut milk also contains:
- 0 grams of protein (this is also a common addition to fortified options)
- 4.01 grams of fat
- 0.0 grams of sugar
- 1.99 grams of carbohydrates
- 45.6 calories
|Pros of Coconut Milk Beverage||Cons of Coconut Milk Beverage|
|Contains healthy fats that can promote weight loss||The high-fat content can be an issue if consumed in large quantities|
|Fortified options often contain high amounts of vitamins A and D||Provides very little calcium and protein naturally|
|Coconut isn’t actually a nut, so allergies aren’t a common issue||Some of the thickening agents in coconut milk can cause digestive issues for some people|
You might not think of goats when it comes to milk sources, but outside the Western world, goat’s milk is widely consumed! And as far as nutritional value goes, goat’s and cow’s milk are very similar. In fact, the calcium values are pretty much identical. Goat’s milk also tends to be easier to digest than cow’s milk too, because it has smaller protein particles and contains less lactose.
How much calcium is in goat’s milk?
Goat’s milk contains 300 mg of calcium per cup. That’s the same as cow’s milk.
A cup of goat’s milk also contains:
- 7.99 grams of protein
- 2.50 grams of fat
- 10.99 grams of sugar
- 10.99 grams of carbohydrates
- 101 calories
|Pros of Goat’s Milk||Cons of Goat’s Milk|
|Easier to digest than cow’s milk||Very distinct smell and taste|
|High in calcium||Harder to come by in supermarkets and is often expensive as a result|
|Less allergenic than cow’s milk|
You may remember we mentioned fortified milks a little earlier on this page. So what are they exactly, and what do you need to know about them?
Well, fortified milk is a milk product the manufacturer has added an essential nutrient to. Cow’s milk is typically fortified with vitamins A and D.
Vitamin A is fat-soluble, and is naturally present in cow’s milk. But vitamin A is lost during the production of skim or skimmed milk, so it’s actually a legal requirement to add it to these products. As for vitamin D, it helps your body to absorb the calcium your consuming in the milk.
It’s not just cow’s milk that can be fortified, though. The alternative milks we’ve discussed on this page are often fortified too. But these fortified milks contain added calcium to make their nutritional value similar to that of cow’s milk. Is it too good to be true though? Check out the video below to see if fortified milks are a good source of calcium…
The Calcium Content of Other Dairy Products
There’s one glaring thing to consider with milk…
While it’s useful to know the calcium content of milk, the average adult rarely drinks a whole glass of it. We use milk more sparingly as we get older– in a morning bowl of cereal, as a cooking ingredient, or a splash or two in a cup of coffee or tea. But the average adult often consumes dairy in the form of cheese or yogurt.
So how much calcium do you get from these dairy products?
Well, as far as cheese is concerned, the runaway winner in calcium content is parmesan. It provides 1268 mg per 100 g (although it’s usually consumed in far smaller quantities.)
And plain old yogurt provides anywhere between 154-176 mg of calcium per 100g. To discover the calcium content of other dairy products (including your favorite cheeses) check out our “Top Calcium-Rich Foods Post.”
When it comes to the calcium content of milk, cow’s and goat’s milk provide the most bang for your buck (300 mg per cup). For people that can’t drink dairy because of allergies or dietary restrictions, milk alternatives like soy and almond milk are available.
These milk alternatives do offer certain benefits, but they tend to be lacking in the calcium department. And calcium-fortified milk alternatives aren’t as promising as they may seem…
See, the calcium often separates from the liquid and settles at the bottom of the container – that’s not much use to anyone! What’s more, the calcium added to calcium-fortified milk is almost always rock-based. And that’s an issue, because your body wasn’t designed to consume rocks.
In reality, you’re far better off getting your calcium from leafy greens like kale or bok choy. Or better still, a plant-based calcium supplement like AlgaeCal Plus. It provides all 13 nutrients you need to support healthy bones, including 720 mg of calcium per serving – that’s more than double the amount a cup of cow’s milk provides!
And because the calcium is plant-based, you won’t have to deal with any of the side effects that rock-based calcium supplements cause (looking at you constipation).