Milk alternatives

New so-called ‘milk’ alternatives (i.e. almond, soy, oat, rice and cashew ‘milk’) are common choices nowadays. However, traditional cow’s milk naturally contains a unique package of essential nutrients that are difficult to replicate in a factory. 

Many of the alternative milks have been formulated in recent times and there is often very little research available to assess their impact on health. Cow’s milk has been drunk for thousands of years and there are thousands of research papers demonstrating its positive effects on health.

  • The unique attributes of cow’s milk


    Cow’s milk contains high quality proteins that possess all essential amino acids in sufficient amounts required for body function. Most vegetable protein sources are considered incomplete because they lack one or more essential amino acids.


    Milk, yoghurt and cheese are the most significant contributors of calcium in the diet of Australians.1

    While soy drinks and other alternatives may be fortified with calcium, studies show that it is not absorbed by our bodies as well as the calcium from dairy milk.2 Calcium plays a critical role in building bones in childhood and maintaining bone health during adulthood which is important for reducing the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis.3


    Milk has one ingredient: Milk. It comes straight from cows on the farm where it’s taken to a factory and pasteurised (heated to destroy any harmful bacteria) and homogenised (mixed for a consistent texture and taste). Fortified milks are also available with added omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin D. This is in addition to the nutrients naturally found in milk. There are also a range of modified milks on the market to cater for different dietary needs including high-calcium and low-lactose.


    1 Australian Bureau of Statistics [Internet]. Canberra: ABS; 2015. Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results - Foods and Nutrients, 2011-12. Cat 4364.0.55.007. [updated 2015 Oct 15; cited 2016 Feb 09]. Available:

    2 Heaney RP. Bioavailability of the calcium in fortified soy imitation milk, with some observations on method. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;71(5):1166–9.

    3 Ebeling P, Daly R, Kerr D, Kimlin M. An evidence-informed strategy to prevent osteoporosis in Australia. Med J Aust. 2013;198(2):90-91.