A Comparison of the Nutritional Value of Cow's Milk and Nondairy Beverages

J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2017 May;64(5):799-805. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000001380.


Objectives: Nondairy beverages are advertised as a healthy alternative to cow's milk. There is an increased availability and consumption of nondairy beverages and a decrease in consumption of cow's milk. The aim of the present study is to review and compare the contents and nutritional value of nondairy beverages to cow's milk.

Methods: Information about the nondairy beverages on the shelves at stores in Buffalo, New York was collected. The Web pages of several manufacturers were assessed for product contents. The nutrient contents including the protein quality of the nondairy beverages and cow's milk were compared. The nutrient contents of nondairy beverages and cow's milk were also compared to recommended dietary allowance or adequate intake for toddlers and young children.

Results: Commonly available nondairy beverages are derived from almond, cashew, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice, and soy. Cow's milk has higher protein content and quality compared with most of these products. It was noted that most of these beverages are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. The bioavailability of these substances after fortification is, however, not available.

Conclusions: Nondairy milk beverages vary in their nutritional profiles. These should not be considered nutritional substitutes for cow's milk until nutrient quality and bioavailability are established.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium, Dietary / analysis
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / analysis
  • Dietary Fats / analysis
  • Dietary Proteins / analysis
  • Food, Fortified
  • Magnesium / analysis
  • Milk / chemistry*
  • Milk Substitutes / chemistry*
  • New York
  • Nutritive Value*
  • Vitamin D / analysis


  • Calcium, Dietary
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Fats
  • Dietary Proteins
  • Vitamin D
  • Magnesium