Which milk should I be drinking?

Dairy or plant-based? Oat, almond, rice, coconut, or soya? With so many options available, it can be confusing to know which milk to go for when ordering your morning latte! So here are my thoughts on milks from a nutrition perspective, and some tips for things to look out for when choosing yours.

Dairy or plant-based – which is best?

If you are wanting to go plant-based for ethical reasons or because you have an allergy or intolerance to dairy products, a good quality almond milk or soya milk is probably your best option. These are lower in sugar and saturated fat, and higher in protein than the other plant milks, so they are less likely to spike your blood sugar levels. 

What’s the healthiest milk option? 

As with most things in nutrition, the answer is – it depends! Especially because all of us are different, with different health concerns.  

If it’s more protein you’re after, you might want to consider a higher protein option like cow’s milk or soya milk. 

If you’re trying to reduce your carb intake to better manage your blood sugar levels, almond milk or soya milk might be a better option for you, especially over rice or oat milk that don’t have as much protein to help with those blood sugar spikes. When it comes to blood sugar, always think about what you put with your milk – having it in a strong coffee with a huge piece of cake is going to spike your blood sugar levels a lot more than having it with something protein-rich (e.g. protein powder or nut butter in a smoothie).

Dairy milk has other nutritional benefits, like being rich in essential fatty acids, calcium (one 200ml glass contains a third of your daily recommended amount), vitamin B12 (around half of your daily recommended amount), and other vitamins and minerals. 

It’s also worth bearing in mind what else is in your milk. Commercial plant milks are often ultra-processed and packaged up with emulsifiers, preservatives, stabilizers and flavourings which are not great for our health or our gut microbiome. This is why I always recommend a good quality plant milk with none of these ingredients (I like the brand Plenish, which is very clean). Similarly, non-organic cow’s milk may contain traces of antibiotics, as these are routinely given to cow’s conventional non-organic dairy farming. So for dairy, I recommend organic cow’s milk, which is higher welfare and less likely to contain traces of antibiotics. 

What about soya milk? 

Excess soya consumption has been linked to increased oestrogen levels and certain cancers like breast cancer. However, there is currently limited evidence to support this.1, 2

Actually, soya-based foods, including milk, may reduce blood cholesterol by 3-4%, therefore reducing the risk of heart disease.3 They’re rich in isoflavones, which have health benefits including for cholesterol, easing of menopausal symptoms, reduction in risk of certain cancers and as an antioxidant.4

Let’s see the stats

See below for a comparison of oat, almond, soya, rice, coconut and cow’s milk (both semi-skimmed and whole). This is based on a small glass (200ml).  

As you’ve hopefully seen, there is a lot more nuance around this topic than you might have initially thought! This very much comes down to moderation, balance and individuality. If you have any questions on this topic, feel free to get in touch here.


  1. Fraser GE, Jaceldo-Siegl K, Orlich M, Mashchak A, Sirirat R, Knutsen S. Dairy, soy, and risk of breast cancer: those confounded milks. International Journal of Epidemiology. 2020 Oct;49(5):1526-37.
  2. Messina M. Impact of soy foods on the development of breast cancer and the prognosis of breast cancer patients. Complementary Medicine Research. 2016 Feb 1;23(2):75-80.
  3. Del Gobbo LC, Falk MC, Feldman R, Lewis K, Mozaffarian D. Effects of tree nuts on blood lipids, apolipoproteins, and blood pressure: systematic review, meta-analysis, and dose-response of 61 controlled intervention trials. The American journal of clinical nutrition. 2015 Dec 1;102(6):1347-56.
  4. Kant R, Broadway A. The benefits of consuming soya milk-A review. Trends in Biosciences. 2015;8(5):1159-62.