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Milk alternatives

Last Updated: 19 January 2019








Milk alternatives

Cow’s milk has had a lot of bad press in recent years - with many people, including top athletes shunning dairy for alternatives like soy, almond and even tree nut milk. Yet are there other animal alternatives for those who find they are lactose intolerant or who simply want to drink less cow’s milk? 


The answer is yes! Nutritionist Ruth Tongue shares her best picks of alternative animal milks, along with the nutritional benefits they may bring. 


Camel milk

Yes really! Camel milk is now being recognised as a superfood in it’s own right - and it makes sense when you consider that it has been a food source for thousands of years since the domestication of camels back in 900BC. In fact many ancient tribes are still reported to survive solely on camel’s milk for days on end when taking camels to graze in the deserts.


The health benefits of humps

Being the closest relative to cow’s milk, camel milk has many similar nutritional benefits to regular milk - it’s high in protein, relatively low in saturated fat and is also a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, vitamin D and zinc. In addition, it’s claimed that camel milk has three times as much vitamin C than cow’s milk, so is a good immunity booster.


Interestingly, it’s been shown that people who are lactose intolerant are typically able to tolerate camel milk, making it a great alternative.


If you’re conscious of your environmental footprint, camel milk is also a good alternative to cow’s milk as camels produce less methane (the gas that contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect) than ruminants.


Sheep milk

The countries of the Mediterranean remain the world’s biggest producers of sheep milk— and the extraordinarily long lives of Bulgarian shepherds is often attributed in part to the health-giving benefits of sheep milk.


Because the fat globules are much smaller in sheep milk, the milk is also more easily digested by humans making it a good alternative for those who struggle to digest cow’s milk. In addition, research suggests that sheep milk is higher in protein, calcium, zinc and many B vitamins than cow’s milk.


Despite these benefits, it’s important to note that sheep milk does contain lactose and also has a similar make up of proteins to cow’s milk, so it may not be well tolerated in those with a cow’s milk allergy or lactose intolerance.


Goat milk

Goats milk is fairly similar in structure to sheep milk -  and contains smaller fat globules than cow’s milk making it easier to digest for many. Goat milk is also the most similar in structure to human milk. It contains more protein, calcium and vitamin C than cow’s milk, yet has a sharp almost acidic flavour so may not be as appealing to everyone.



It’s important to note that if you’re pregnant, or have a compromised immune system for any reason always choose pasteurised rather than raw milks to ensure that any harmful bacteria have been destroyed. 



Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)

General health
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