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Almond milk or cow milk: Which is healthier?

caption: Almond milk is a popular replacement for cow's milk.
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Almond milk is a popular replacement for cow's milk.

What’s in a name? Well, the Food and Drug Administration is refereeing a fight right now over that question.

The dairy industry defines “milk” as coming from a cow, but the makers of plant-based products like almond milk or soy milk want to be allowed to keep their moniker.

Dietitian nutritionist Judy Simon of the University of Washington said it’s time for the FDA to be brought up on the times on this issue. Milk consumption has gone down in the U.S., and that includes products like yogurt and cheese. Simon sees a link between that and the rise of alternative products on the shelf.

Ross Reynolds interviews UW dietitian nutritionist Judy Simon on 'The Record,' Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019.

“I think some people are looking to have less animal products in their life, they’re looking for more sustainability so they’re looking to go more plant-based, going more vegan, and some kind of just think of it as a health halo – it sounds healthier to drink almond milk than cow’s milk,” Simon said.

“But it might not be.”

She said many of these products don’t have the equivalent nutritional value of cow’s milk, especially in regards to protein. They also may add sugar or vitamins after the fact. She said in many cases, people are better off just eating the nut or seed or making their own at home (blanch, remove peels, blend).

“People think of almond milk being just like almonds: really rich in protein, calcium, fiber. But actually much of that is processed out of the product,” Simon said. “It’s primarily water with a little bit of the nutrients of almond.”

Simon said when shopping, go right to the list of ingredients – you may be surprised! Then look at the nutritional facts, including calories, protein, calcium and vitamin D.

As for the FDA, she predicts the agency will side with the dairy industry and you’ll be seeing “almond beverage” or “hemp drink” on cartons instead.

Produced for the web by Kara McDermott.

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