Dairy cows were the fundamental building block of my children’s language and growth development.

The first animal sound my kiddos said was “moo.” Cows were the first animals they identified in a book. And when I could no longer breastfeed, cow’s milk produced the formula that nourished my babies until they could drink the real stuff.

Seriously, cows are awesome and provide us with so much.

Cow’s milk is an excellent source of nutrients

Dairy farming provides us with dairy foods that are high-quality proteins and natural sources of vitamins. Early research also suggests lactoferrin, a protein found in animal milk, has protective qualities against the common cold and respiratory illnesses. It’s not a miracle prevention by any means, but it does reinforce the importance a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods plays in our overall health.

The selection in today’s dairy coolers though could make you go cross-eyed. From oat to pea-based alternatives and full fat to 2% real milk, you may find yourself wondering, Which milk is the healthiest?

Experts say cow’s milk is naturally the healthiest milk. There is no added sugar, and cow’s milk already contains many important nutrients for our bodies.

Cow’s milk vs. almond milk and oat milk

Other dairy alternatives like soy or almond drinks may be good options if you’re lactose-intolerant, but they must be fortified or consumed in excess to even begin to compete with the real deal. For example, one glass of cow’s milk provides as much protein as eight glasses of almond milk.

If you’re a coffee drinker like me, you’ve probably seen oat “milk” on the menu at your favorite café. Compared to milk, one cup of this trendy alternative has half the protein and is not a source of vitamin A, which supports our immune systems, or vitamin D, which helps regulate our moods.

When it comes to which real milk you decide to purchase, Stephanie Clark, a dairy food scientist at Iowa State University, says calories from milk are not the biggest source of calories in your diet. Choose what tastes good to you!

In our house, that’s whole milk. It’s what our pediatrician recommends for our children to maintain a healthy body weight. Plus, as a coffee lover, it’s my go-to for a creamy, caffeinated beverage.

What will cows bring our family next? I’m guessing a good round of dad jokes from my husband.

I can already envision the sympathy laughs: “Did you hear the one about real cow milk? It’s legen-DAIRY.”

Learn more about author Caitlyn Lamm here.

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