What kind of milk will you leave for Santa?

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Flickr/Wikimedia Silar

Hae Young Yoo, Editor in Chief

Santa is coming to town and when he slides down the chimney, he will be expecting a plate of cookies and a glass of milk. This year, give Santa something new to try. Instead of regular old cow’s milk, surprise Santa with one of the many delicious and nutritious varieties of non-dairy milk.

For regular milk drinkers, the adjustment to new non-dairy milks like coconut, soy, and almond milk may take some getting used to. The process can be made a lot easier by the flavors found in these new milk varieties.  Coconut milk speaks for itself, with its slight coconut taste and lighter texture. Soy milk  has a creamier taste and comes in different flavors such as chocolate, vanilla, and even pumpkin spice. Almond milk on the other hand, is loved for its slightly nutty flavor.

When considering health benefits, coconut milk, not to be confused with coconut water, may be an option for a certain jolly man with stomach that shakes like a bowl of jelly. Made by blending the squeezed milk from grated coconut flesh with water, coconut milk is cholesterol free, and easier to digest than cow’s milk. The downside: coconut milk has significantly less calcium and protein than cow’s milk and also has more than 500 calories per cup in some brands. It is also very high in saturated fat. So on second thought…maybe it’s not the best choice for jolly old Saint Nick.

Soy milk, which is made by extracting the liquid from soaked and crushed soybeans, has roughly the same amount of calories, protein, and calcium as whole cow’s milk does, but has only four grams of total fat while cow’s milk has 8.1 grams. However, soy milk has not gone without criticism. In his article, “The Health Dangers of Soy,” Huffington Post author, Dr. Joseph Mercola, argues that the health problems soy can cause outweigh the benefits.

Mercola writes that soy contains high phytic acid, that reduces assimilation of calcium and other essential minerals, and trypsin inhibitors that interfere with the digestion of protein. The flavor selections are tempting, but the health risks may just put soy milk on the naughty list this year.

When it comes to taste and health, almond milk seems to be the perfect blend of both. Made from ground almonds, water and sweetener, almond milk is high in the antioxidant Vitamin E that protects the body against free-radical damage in the muscles, and mineral magnesium, which helps to break down food. Its low number of calories is appealing, with just 60 per cup, and only 2.5 grams of total fat. Store sales also show that almond milk is a new favorite among customers, receiving the most increased retail sales of non-dairy milks in 2011.

Non-dairy milk may be just what Santa needs this season. It is free from artificial growth hormones that cows are injected with, not to mention producing it does not leave nearly as big of a carbon footprint as producing cow’s milk does.  So this holiday season, see what non-dairy milk will be your new favorite, and bring Santa along for the ride. Who knows, a few of his favorite sugar cookies and a glass of almond milk may just get you a few more gifts under the tree.

Hae Young Yoo can be reached at  [email protected]

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