How does the fats in cow’s milk and plant-based milk alternatives compare?
Milk is not considered a “high-fat” product and a range of lower-fat options is available to suit different consumer preferences. When comparing the nutritional value of cow’s milk and plant-based beverages, it is important to take the food matrix into consideration. In the context of milk, the matrix concept refers to the unique combination of nutrients and bioactive factors in milk and how they interact with one another and the physical food structure to produce the overall effect on health.
Although cow’s milk contains some saturated fat, there is no evidence to support a harmful effect on cardiovascular health; the matrix effect of cow’s milk is different from what would be expected based on single nutrients. Contrary to popular belief, even full-cream cow’s milk is not a “high-fat” product (average total fat content 3,3 g per 100 ml of milk), but it is often the first food to be excluded from the diet of persons attempting to lose weight, especially teenagers and young women. To suit the consumers’ tastes, cow’s milk is available in low-fat (1,5% total fat) and skimmed or fat free (< 0,05 g fat/100 ml) versions. Plant-based beverages have low-fat contents of about 1%, unless they are produced from oil seeds (e.g. coconut milk contains 11,5% fat). The fat in these beverages is often not unsaturated.