Soy milk is made by crushing soybeans while cow’s milk is produced by dairy cows and retrieved by the milking process. Soy milk is a great source of protein which helps the growth and maintenance of body tissues including organs and muscle. However, soy milk differs from cow’s milk in that it is low in saturated fat and contains no cholesterol. It is also a source of fiber (3 grams per cup) which is beneficial to the digestive tract, and iron which helps oxygen travel through the blood in the body. Soy milk is lower in calcium, but it is usually fortified to levels comparable to cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk is also a good source of protein but is generally higher in fat and saturated fat as well as being a source of cholesterol. However, you can lower these fats and cholesterol by choosing low fat (1%) or fat free (skim) milk. Cow’s milk does not contain fiber but is a very good source of calcium. Calcium is beneficial in building healthy bones and teeth and helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
The major difference in soy and cow’s milk is that soy milk is lactose free which makes it a better option for individuals who cannot tolerate cow’s milk due to allergy or intolerance. Both types of milks can also be fortified to provide additional nutrients not normally present in the milk. Therefore, it is up to the consumer to look closely at the labels and choose the type of milk that best fits their individual needs.
Additional nutrition information about soy can be found at MissouriFamilies.org.
Contributors: Kelly Hall, MU Dietetic Intern & Mary Wissmann, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, St. Louis County, University of Missouri Extension, WissmannM@missouri.edu