Expert Q&A

Soy milk vs. cow's milk: Which is better?

Why would I choose soy milk over cow's milk?

The main reason to make the switch from cow’s milk to soy milk is if one experiences food allergies or sensitivities. Dairy is the most common food allergy in the United States. This is probably because so many people overeat dairy products. While milk provides some good protein and nutrition, it is really meant only to feed babies. Humans are the only animals that continue to drink milk after infancy and childhood. 

Commercially available, soy milk is fortified to have nutrient levels similar to cow’s milk. Unlike cow’s milk, it is low in saturated fats and cholesterol. Although the calcium in soy milk is not absorbed as easily as cow’s milk, tests show that calcium levels in people who drink soy milk are maintained even with their lower calcium intake. Children older than one year of age can safely switch from breast milk to soy milk. Unless a baby shows signs of a dairy allergy, soy milk is not recommended as an infant formula. 

While it is possible to be allergic to soy, dairy allergies are more common. The symptoms to watch out for include bloating, gas, intestinal upset, sinus congestion, postnasal drip, itchy eyes, itchy ears, headaches, frequent colds, joint aches and foggy thinking. Milk made from nuts or oats can be a good alternative to cow’s milk for people with hormonal concerns or an allergy to soy.

Wendy Hodsdon, ND
Contributing Expert

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