Low fat or Skim Milk, Soy milk , or Almond… what is best? Lets explore the options so you can decide. Milk is a pretty amazing, well balanced, and almost a nutritionally complete food. It also has a lot of controversy surrounding it, depending on what you use it for. Bariatric surgery encourages the use of “milk” before and after surgery because it is a good source of protein and usually well tolerated. It can be used as part of a meal or as a snack in your diet. Being as objective as possible, I want to outline the basics of milk nutrition, soy milk nutrition, and almond milk nutrition. We promote all these different types of milks depending on your needs and likes when going through the bariatric surgery process and weight loss. These can all play a healthy role in your diet, but they cannot all play the same role because they do not all have the same nutrition content. It is much like comparing red apples to green apples (cows milk verse soy) which are clearly similar and then comparing any “apple” to an “orange” (almond milk) which is clearly not the same. There are multiple other “milk” forms out there, but they do not come close to comparing nutritionally as a substitute to cow’s milk.
Low fat milk plays an important role in bariatric surgery and weight loss. We encourage the use of 1% low fat or skim milk on a daily basis. We encourage this milk when you use a protein powder. These milks have almost equal amount of B12, Vit D, Calcium and Potassium (essential for your health). Sot milk is very close in the amount of nutrition. Per Silk’s processing method and Tufts university research, Almond milk has no B12, 1/3 less calcium, a 1/3 less Vit D, and a 1/3 less Potassium. Remember most of the nutrients in soy and cows milk is in a natural form so it will be used by your body. Most of the nutrients in almond milk are added so it is not as bio-available or absorbable to the your body. Almond milk still plays an important role in your weight loss depending on your medical history and what you need the most help with. Your dietitian can help you make this important choice.
If you cannot tolerate cow’s milk then a good alternative can be plain or unflavored soy milk. You can also use Lactaid. This is still cow’s milk with the lactose removed, so the nutrition is not significantly different which is good. The carbohydrate content is less.
Almond milk has become a popular alternative as people try to improve their and chance or weight loss, but it may not always be the best choice. Of course almond is a nut and nuts do not produce milk so we will explore what almond milk is and its comparative role nutritionally. Almond milk is made by soaking the nuts until they are soft, then blending it with water to mimic the consistency of other milk. Once this process is complete, the complimentary vitamins and minerals are added to make it comparative to other milk nutrition. Before and after weight loss surgery the dietitian may recommend different milk types based on your medical history, other protein foods you eat, and your personal desires. Your desire and tolerance regarding milk can also change as you change with weight loss surgery. The comparison of different types of milk are for the nutrition content. As you change after surgery it might be ideal to change milk types or it might be perfect fine to remain using the same one. Each comparison is based on an eight ounces glass of cow’s milk, soy milk, or almond milk. The cow’s milk will have two values so you can see the difference between low fat and skim milk. The below graph is adapted from Tufts University School of nutrition’s lengthy research graph on milk varieties.
All milk has calories, calcium, carbohydrate, and protein which we expect and is why it is recommended as part of a healthy bariatric diet before and after surgery. All the milks have varying levels of other nutrients like sodium (salt) potassium (an essential electrolyte), vitamin D, and calcium that may sway your use of one milk over another depending on your medical history. The USDA indicates Skim milk is the same as fat free so the only major different between low fat and skim or fat free is the fat content. This will always change the total calorie content as well, but it is not a significant difference in regard to your ability to lose weight.
Ultimately it is your choice to use the milk that is best for you and your health throughout your bariatric weigh loss process. If you need help deciding what is best, definitely reach out to a dietitian to help you with this decision. Remember it is very normal if the type of milk you use changes as you loss weight.