Soy vs. Dairy


If you follow the news on nutrition, it can seem like scientists just can’t make up their minds. One month a certain food is good for you, and the next month that food is out and another is in. It’s enough to make going to the grocery store feel like a job for a detective.

So it goes with the soy vs. dairy debate. Some swear by dairy, and others say soy will make you live forever. If you’re confused by the back-and-forth, here’s a short summary of the scientific evidence: Sometimes soy is best, and sometimes dairy is best. In other words, look at your individual situation and decide what’s best for you.

Your mother was right: Drinking milk is good for you. Cows have been helping people build strong bones and teeth for generations. Calcium is especially important for children and adolescents, who are building the skeletons that will carry them through life. Milk products also provide such essential minerals as magnesium, potassium, folate and riboflavin.

For the healthiest choice, buy organic milk, which provides all the benefits of dairy without exposure to synthetic growth hormones, antibiotics or pesticides. Some studies indicate it may also have more vitamins and nutrients. Look for milk that is fortified with vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium. If you’re watching your weight, choose low-fat or skim milk products (trust us – many of them taste just as rich and delicious as the full-fat versions).

For many people, however, dairy products can be problematic. If you’re lactose intolerant – meaning you can’t digest the sugars in dairy – a simple glass of milk can make you miserable. If that’s the case, soy is tailor-made for you.

Soy products offer a healthy alternative, providing many of the nutritional benefits of dairy without the drawbacks. Soy may provide some additional health advantages as well. Research studies have found that regular soy consumption may lower cholesterol levels, help with hot flashes associated with menopause, and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

These research studies have helped fuel an expansion of soy products over the past decade. Gone are the days when “soy” was synonymous with “tastes like cardboard.” Today you can buy tasty soy milk, cheese and yogurt, plus a host of products fortified with soy.

Whether you choose soy or dairy, you’re benefiting your health – and getting a delicious taste treat as well.