Soy milk is one of the first and the most popular of milk alternatives. Made from the highly nutritious soy beans, this creamy drink is loaded with proteins, fibers and essential vitamins and minerals that your body requires for basic function. It also contains disease preventing phytosterols, which are not found in cow’s milk. There is growing debate about whether soy surpasses cow’s milk in health value. The truth of the matter is: they both have unique advantages and disadvantages that make them more suitable for specific dietary needs.
Milk is Better for Younger Children
If you are trying to choose between cow’s milk and soy milk to feed your kids, cow’s milk is usually the better choice. Unless your children are intolerant to lactose or casein, they should stick to drinking cow’s milk, especially the ones that are fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D.
One of most important nutrients to support a child’s growth and development is calcium. Babies and young children need a diet that’s rich in calcium that can be easily absorbed by their bodies. Soy milk is by nature much lower in calcium concentration compared to cow’s milk. Even soy milk that’s fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D loses to cow milk in terms of absorption efficiency. The lactose in cow’s milk catalyzes calcium uptake in the intestines so that more calcium can be absorbed.
Another setback about soy milk nutrition is the potential to trigger allergies. Just like the milk protein casein, soy proteins can also lead to anaphylactic reactions, and these occurrences are more serious in children than in adults. Children who are sensitive to soy can develop symptoms like hives, swelling, nausea and diarrhea if they drink soy milk. In more severe cases, they can go into anaphylactic shock. Therefore, you need to be extra cautious when giving your children soy milk.
Soy Milk is Better for Your Heart
Elderly and cardiac patients are best suited to use soy milk as a dairy alternative. Whole milk contains a significant amount of saturated fat and cholesterol, which can increase the risks of plaque formation and heart disease. Skim milk does not have this problem.
Soy milk is naturally cholesterol free, and contains a healthy dose of essential fatty acids that can effectively reduce your blood cholesterol level. The phytosterols in soy milk can further improve your heart conditions by controlling your blood pressure and preventing cholesterol absorption in your intestines. Studies have shown that regular intake of soy milk significantly lowers your risks for atherosclerosis and strokes, making it an effective therapeutic aid to heart patients and high-risk groups.
Soy Milk is Better for Weight Control
Plain soy milk has less sugar than milk, and has a calorie count that is comparable to that of nonfat milk. Each cup of unsweetened soy milk only has about 7 grams of sugar and around 80 to 90 calories. Soy milk also contains an extra dose of fiber, which makes it more filling and helps to control your appetite. Therefore, soy milk is a better choice if you are on a weight loss diet.