Soy milk vs milk vs skim milk. Which is right for you?

Soy milk vs regular milk and skim milk. Picture of a Brett Standeven standing next to variety of different soy milk on a table.

Soy milk vs regular milk and skim milk. Which is the best choice?

How many of us grew up having a big glass of milk for breakfast. I could be showing my age but for me, it was whole milk with Weetabix. There weren’t too many other options at the time. However, we now have a wide range of alternatives such as goat milk, skim milk. However, there are plant-based milks which offers a great alternative to regular milk. One of the most popular alternative is soy milk. So which milk is the better choice? In this article we compare soy milk vs milk and skim milk.

Milk 1: Soy milk (What is soy milk)

Each kind of milk contains different nutrients and benefits. Of course, regular dairy milk is produced differently from plant-based milk. Soy milk, for example, is made by soaking dried soybeans in water before boiling. Next the beans are ground down and the fibrous material removed. The milk is a stable emulsion of protein, water, and oil. 

Milk 2: Regular milk and skim milk. (Cows milk is natural but most milk is not organic).

If cows are not treated with antibiotics, then the farmer may be certified as organic. However there are very strict requirements before the farmer can be certified. I believe the requirements also extends to the food cows eat. However most farms and therefore milk is not registered as organic. However this can lead to another debate are organic farms as hygienically clean as non-organic farms. Or are the cows healthier on non-organic farms. Are you concerned with antibiotics in your milk? Well there are very strict regulations to prevent traces of antibiotics found milk used for human consumption.

What’s is more important to you, the taste or health benefits?

I’d say most people are not too concerned with the health benefits of each milk. Many people would chose  taste over the nutritional benefits. If you are vegetarian or need to which milk to chose then this article is right for you.

In this article I will discuss three different types of milk.

  • soy milk
  • regular cows milk
  • skim milk

I’ll give more information about each of the different kinds of milk and the nutrients they contain. I’ll also mention the possible health benefits and some disadvantages you can get by drinking one milk over another. However please keep in mind, I’m not a food scientist or have any medical background. Although I have tried to research carefully to provide you with accurate information.

Soy milk nutritional benefits

How many calories in soy milk? 

A full cup of soy milk served provides 100 calories if the soy milk is unsweetened. However check the labelling carefully sweetened soy milk such chocolate soy milk may contain over 150 calories per cup. That’s about two Oreo cookies or half a hand full of rice. Therefore sweetened soy milk may not be as healthy as you think.

Soy milk is full of protein.

Also, a full cup of soy milk contains about 8 grams of carbohydrates and approximately 7 grams of protein. However, the number of calories, carbohydrates and protein is comparable to regular cow’s milk. Also, soy milk contains 4 grams of fats and 0.5 grams of saturated fats. Are you lactose intolerance or vegetarian? Soy milk could could provide a vegetarian alternative to traditional dairy milk. (do Amaral Santos, da Silva Libeck & Schwan, 2014).

Soy milk may lower your cholesterol.

Soy milk lacks cholesterol and is low in low saturated fat. Unlike whole milk which whole milk which has a much higher amount saturated fat. Therefore soy milk it could be a better choice if you have high cholesterol. A research study by Stanford School of Medicine, showed that drinking soy milk could lower cholesterol in your body. However, like anything keep drink soy milk in moderation because another study indicates eating a large amount of soy products could disrupt the thyroid system. It sounds like the egg debate all over again. 

Essential fatty acids

    Soy milk has numerous benefits since it is prepared naturally to provide a nutritious drink full of essential minerals, vitamins, fibre, and protein (Michaëlsson et al. 2014). Basically, if you drink soy milk, you’re drinking ground soybeans and water. Sure it’s not quite that simple but you get the picture. Also, soy milk may lower your cholesterol, so it’s a healthy alternative to regular milk. So if your family has a history of heart disease or high cholesterol, soy milk could be a good option. The milk also contains omega- 6 and omega-3 which may reduce the risk of heart disease. You may know Omega-3 and Omega-6 as essential fatty acids. They are essential for a good reason your body needs them.

Yes soy milk may had added sugar. Unsweetened soy milk could be the healthy option.

If you are into health and fitness then go for unsweetened soy milk. Also if you’re getting a little podgy around the midriff then unsweetened soy milk could be the way to go. After all, why ruin the health benefits of soy milk having low calories by adding sugar. Needless to say, if you’re vegetarian then losing or maintaining weight may not be a priory. However it’s something to consider. 

Does soy milk have calcium?

Okay, you’ve heard regular milk has calcium and your’e right. Regular milk contains a high amount of natural calcium however soy milk is often fortified with calcium.

Phytoestrogen and calcium for bone health.

However, as an added bonus soy milk also contains phytoestrogen which occurs naturally in plants. Soybeans have a lot of phytoestrogens which may prevent bone loss as you age. Therefore soy milk with fortified calcium and naturally occurring phytoestrogen may help prevent osteoporosis. 

Reduce your hidden sugar intake by drinking unsweetened soy milk.

Since soy milk is low in sugar, well the unsweetened variety anyway. Then you may want to consider it as an alternative to regular milk. Especially if you have kidney problems or if you suffer from diabetes. Needless to say please consult your health professional for further information.

Disadvantages of soy milk.

Despite all the benefits of soy milk.  I feel it is very important to look at some of the potential disadvantages as well.  Or at least when we compare soy milk vs regular milk or skim milk. Regular cows milk is full of nutrients. After all the purpose of regular milk is to provide all the essential nutrients for growing calves.

Soy milk has added calcium.

Compared to regular milk, soy milk does not provide as much naturally occurring calcium. If you have young children you may want to reconsider changing from regular milk to soy milk. Calcium is essential for the development of strong bones in children and whole milk can provides daily requirements. It may come to no surprise the many health professionals recommend drinking regular milk which is enriched with calcium. Also, you don’t need to buy calcium supplements your source of calcium on top of soy milk. 

 Some manufactures may use a thickening additive made from kelp. 

Another disadvantage of soy milk is some manufacturers use Kombu which is kelp to thicken the milk. Sure seaweed is considered very healthy however it may cause complications such as increased iodine in the body. Iodine is important for your thyroid. However if you have thyroid problems then ask your doctor if you should drink soy milk. It is also important to monitor your iodine intake, if you drink soy milk containing Kombu it may put you above the RDA.

Some people have a reaction to Kombu.

There is also research to indicate that the kelp additive may cause digestive problems and thyroid related issues. For some people this may be due to a reaction of the additive or adverse reaction to increased iodine in your diet. Try not to drink too much soy milk. If you drink a lot of soy milk it can lead to adverse side effects such as stomach problems.

Also, some of the additives used during production might lead to thyroid disorders, allergy-related symptoms, and reproductive problems especially for individuals who have been using it since an early age.

We have not been drinking soy milk for thousands of years unlike regular milk.

Alternatively, If you are not vegetarian you may want to continue drinking regular milk. After all, we have been drinking animal milk such as cow and goats milk for thousands of years. Apart from lactose intolerance drinking regular milk does not cause severe health problems if you drink in moderation. 

Okay, I mentioned calcium is added to soy milk however did you know that other vitamins are also added? Vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin and vitamin B12 are also added to soy milk. This may be a benefit. However, soy milk vs regular milk nothing bets good old fashioned cows milk for nutrient density.


Nutritional benefits of regular milk

If you want a natural product then regular milk lacks a lot of the preservatives and additives. Unlike plant-based milk which nutrients are added in the manufacturing process. Regular milk also compares similarly to cows milk. A full cup of regular milk has around nine calories and five grams of fat. Milk also has around 146 calories and 5 grams of saturated fat. 

Regular milk also has around 24 milligrams (mg) cholesterol. Also, regular milk contains around 6 milligrams of sodium (Pereira, 2014). Regular milk also has Potassium and unlike soymilk, calcium is not added it occurs naturally. 

Cows milk is not a fad, we have drunk cows milk for thousands of years.

I believe regular milk has numerous health benefits it may not be as fashionable as other milk. However regular milk is not a new fad it’s been tried and tested for hundreds of years. Although we are told to avoid fat, people now understand  fat may not that bad for us after all. 

According to a research review that was conducted by the European Journal of Nutrition, full-fat dairy consumption was associated with:

  • lower obesity risks
  • reduced rates of weight gain,
  • Overall lower body weight gain. 

Regular milk has fat-soluble vitamins

Also, you may absorb vitamins easier than plant milk such as soy milk?  (Pereira, 2014). Some vitamins, for example, vitamins A, D, E, and K are stored in fat (fat-soluble vitamins). And your body can absorb fat-soluble vitamins easier than other vitamins. Again moderation must be considered, that’s great that your body can absorb and store fat-soluble vitamins easily. However, this can lead to another problem. Can you guess what happens if you take in more fat than you need? You guessed it. You’ll put on weight. 

The taste of whole milk comes from natural flavours.

Regular milk contains fewer additives compared to other forms of dairy. Fat-free and low-fat milk products may contain more emulsifiers and stabilizers. This gives that rich creamy taste which you usually get with whole milk. However if fat is taken consumers still demand the full flavor of regular milk.

Also, some manufacturers make up the loss of flavour by adding sugar. Strange I know but if you avoid whole milk for health reasons then actually you may consume more artificial additives. 

Whole milk has a rich creamy taste it also provides your body with energy.

Another benefit is that regular whole milk thicker and has a nice full flavour compared to skim soy milk. Yes, it’s the fat which gives you the creamy taste. A creamy taste is not the only benefit to full cream milk. Whole milk provides the body with a valuable source of energy. So the traditional breakfast of cereal with milk may not be so bad after all.

Do you like cooking then your recipes probably require regular milk.

Whole milk you can thicken easier than other milk and it comes back to the taste. Butter, cream and milk just simply work well together with other ingredients when cooking or baking. Of course, there are rice crackers but those are so dry. You’ll probably feel like a big glass of milk afterwards anyway. 

Disadvantages of whole milk

Despite the numerous health benefits, there are several disadvantages associated with regular milk. One of them is that it contains higher levels of fat. This is one of the main reasons people often choose another form of milk. It shouldn’t come to any surprise, yes regular milk has more fat. 

Yes, regular milk contain saturated fat.

Research shows that a full cup of regular milk contains around 8 grams of fats alone. Half of the total amount that is present is in the form of saturated fats. Although there is some debate about how bad saturated fats actually are. However, if you’re consuming too much fat the evidence is clear that it can bring unwanted health problems.

Too much fat may lead to health problems.

Saturated fat increases the risk of heart diseases and those who drink regular milk stand a higher chance of suffering from these diseases. Also, saturated fats in regular milk lower the levels of good cholesterol. (Michaëlsson et al. 2014). Needless to say, regular milk has a higher level of calories as compared to other forms of milk. 

About half of the total amount of calories in regular milk is from fat. Therefore, If you’re watching your weight then regular milk is probably not the best choice. 

You maybe lactose intolerant

The other disadvantage of regular milk is that the presence of lactose which for some can cause digestive problems. The lactose can be hard to break down by the body. This can result in bloating, nausea, gas, diarrhoea, and cramping. (Michaëlsson et al. 2014). The last disadvantage is that some people are simply allergic to regular milk.          

Nutritional benefits of skim milk

Skim milk has most of the fat removed fat from whole milk. Which is process is referred to as skimming. A full cup of skim milk has around 83 calories compared to around 150 calories from regular milk. However, not all the fat is removed during skimming, and about 0.2 grams of fat remain. 

Skim milk and regular milk has a similar amount of protein.

Skim milk contains several nutritional advantages compared to other forms of milk. One of the benefits of skim milk is that it provides roughly the same amount of protein as regular milk. Usually, in every cup of skim milk, there are around 8.0 grams of protein. Protein also contains amino acids which are essential to regulate brain activities and to repair and build new cells.

Does skim milk contain calcium?

Another great reason to drink milk or skim milk is that it is a natural source of calcium.  As you know calcium is very important for strong bones and teeth. This is especially true for young growing children as their bones are still developing. Most of the body tissues require calcium for normal functioning. A full cup of skim milk provides approximately 299 milligrams of calcium which is roughly 30% of your daily requirements. However your daily requirement does vary greatly depending on your age or if your male or female.

Skim milk is fortified with vitamin A and D.

Natural whole milk contains vitamins A and D which are fat-soluble. However, the skimming process removes the fat from skim milk. So skim milk does lose a lot of these vitamins. I can’t speak on behalf of manufactures also different countries have different regulations milk manufactures must adhere to. 

However, some manufacturers may fortify milk with vitamin A and D to compensate for the vitamins removed by skimming. Other manufacturers may have a product range which labels milk as enriched with vitamin A and D.

The benefit of consuming fortified skim milk is that you can get the same vitamins without the saturated fat that are found in whole milk. The presence of vitamin D in skim milk helps the body to absorb calcium properly. Also, you need vitamin D for your body to absorb calcium. 

Additionally, skim milk with fortified with vitamin A may help maintain good eye and skin health. 

Disadvantages of skim milk

    Skim milk has numerous disadvantages despite its health benefits. One of the drawbacks is that skim milk may contain added sugar. During the skimming process, manufacturers may add sugar to compensate for the natural favours lost when the fat is removed. Unfortunately, some people drink skim milk and do not release sugar may have been added.

Skimming removes fat-soluble vitamins.

The other disadvantage is that skim milk lacks the nutritional value of whole milk. Since skimming removes fat from the milk and therefore many of the fat-soluble vitamins found naturally in whole milk. This is the reason vitamins have to be added later in the manufacturing process. However, there is a debate that synthesized vitamins are not as easily absorbed into your body. Since fat contains a natural balance of vitamins and minerals enriching soy milk or skim milk may put a natural balance of vitamins out of kilter. 

 Manufactures may add sugar the enhance flavor.

Of course, if you just replace fat with sugar it may just lead to other problems such as hypoglycemia. Also having a little fat in your diet may normalize your blood sugar.  Therefore, to replaced a diet balanced in healthy fat with one that is low in fat and higher in sugar may not be the best option. 

Comparison of soy, regular, and skim milk

The three types of milk have significant similarities and differences. One of the main similarities is the nutrient make up of the three kinds of milk. All three contain a healthy source of protein and nutrients. However soy milk and skim milk may have added vitamins as a replacement of the natural vitamins found in whole milk. However there is debate whether or not these vitamins are as easily absorbed in your body.

The main difference, is that soy milk of plant-based while regular milk and skim milk is an animal product. So many vegetarians may opt for soy milk as an alternative to regular milk.

Since regular milk has natural sugars and has a creamy texture. On the other hand soy milk and skim may have additives and sugar added to enhance flavor

However, the main advantage of soy milk vs regular milk and skim milk is that soy milk and skim milk has very little saturated fat.  

The number of calories present in the three types of milk can vary greatly. Unsweetened soy milk has around 100 calories which can jump the 150 calories if the milk has been sweetened. Regular milk has around 150 calories, and skim milk has approximately 85 calories. All the three types of milk provide calcium, potassium, and sodium though in varying quantities. 


Each variety of milk provides the body with different nutrients and each has various nutritional benefits. However, some milk manufactures may enrich their milk by adding vitamins. 

However, you can choose the type of milk to drink depending on your needs. For example, If you’re vegetarian you will want to drink plant-based milk. If you’re watching your calories you may want to avoid sweetened soy milk or whole milk. The three types of milk contain different amounts of proteins, fats, calcium, carbohydrates, and vitamins. Contrastingly, they also have side effects depending on their composition and the level of saturated fats or estrogen they contain. Please keep in mind that I do not have any medical training. Please consult with your GP or a nutritionist for advice on your dietary requirements. So which milk do you prefer and why? You’re welcome to leave a comment below. 


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