While goat’s milk is seen as more of a specialty item in the United States, approximately 65 percent of the population of the world drinks goat’s milk.
Although Americans tend to gravitate toward cow’s or plant-based milks, there are a number of health-related reasons to choose goat’s milk.
You may find it difficult to digest traditional cow’s milk and would prefer to try out other animal-based milks before looking to plant-milk. Or you may simply be looking to change what you add to your morning coffee and cereal. Whatever, the reason, we’ve got you covered.
Check out the comparison of goat’s milk to other types of milk, below, to get a better idea of whether this option is the right one for you.
Goat’s milk vs. cow’s milk
Ounce for ounce, goat’s milk stacks up favorably against cow’s milk, particularly when it comes to protein (9 grams [g] versus 8 g) and calcium (330 g versus 275–300 g).
Research also suggests that goat’s milk may enhance the body’s ability to absorb important nutrients from other foods. In contrast, cow’s milk is known to interfere with the absorption of key minerals like iron and copper when consumed in the same meal.
Another reason some people choose goat’s milk over cow’s milk has to do with digestibility. All animal-derived milk contains some lactose (natural milk sugar), which some people, as they age, lose the ability to fully digest.
But goat’s milk is slightly lower in lactose than cow’s milk — about 12 percent less per cup — and, in fact, becomes even lower in lactose when cultured into yogurt. People with mild lactose intolerance, therefore, may find goat’s milk dairy somewhat less disruptive to digestion than cow’s milk.
In terms of digestive health, goat’s milk has another feature that outperforms cow’s milk: the higher presence of “prebiotic” carbohydrates, which help nourish the beneficial bacteria living in our gut ecosystem.
These carbohydrates are called oligosaccharides. They’re the same type of carbohydrate that’s present in human breast milk and are responsible for helping to support the “good” bacteria in a baby’s digestive tract.
Plant-based milk vs. goat’s milk
In recent years, plant-based milks have become an increasingly popular choice among vegans as well as those who have a hard time digesting lactose.
They’re a palatable option for people seeking non–animal-based dairy items, nutritionally speaking. But plant-based milks fall short in some areas when compared to goat’s milk.
Some popular types of plant-based milks include:
The nutritional composition of plant-based milks varies significantly by variety, brand, and product. This is because plant-based milks are processed foods. As such, the nutritional value of plant-based milk depends on ingredients, formulation methods, and the extent to which additional nutrients, like calcium and other vitamins, are added.
These significant variations aside, unsweetened plant-based milks are lower in protein than goat’s milk — in the case of soymilk, only slightly so and, in the case of almond, rice, and coconut milk, significantly so.
Also, while unsweetened almond and coconut milk are low in calories, they lack carbohydrates and protein. While raw almonds, coconuts, and so on, are packed with nutrients, once they’re turned into milk, they consist of roughly 98 percent water (unless they’ve been fortified with calcium). In short, they don’t bring much to the table, nutritionally speaking.
Among plant-based milks, hemp milk and coconut milk have the highest fat content. Because goat’s milk isn’t typically available in reduced fat varieties, it will be higher in fat than any plant-based milk.
For those keeping an eye on the types of fat they consume, know that hemp milk and flax milk contain heart-healthy, unsaturated fat, while coconut milk and goat’s milk contain primarily saturated fat.
The last factor to consider when evaluating plant-based milks versus goat’s milk are the other ingredients that manufacturers choose to add.
While there are a very small number of products that literally contain two ingredients — such as soybeans and water — the vast majority of products on the market contain a variety of thickeners and gums to create a creamier texture. While most people digest these just fine, some do find them to be gas-provoking or otherwise digestively bothersome, as in the case of carrageenan.
The sugar debate
The other major nutrients that can be compared from one milk to another are carbohydrates, which mostly take the form of sugar.
The carbohydrate content of goat’s milk (and even cow’s milk) is naturally occurring lactose. In the case of lactose-free cow’s milk, the lactose is simply split into its component parts (glucose and galactose) so that it’s easier to digest. However, the total sugar count remains constant.
Meanwhile, the carbohydrate and sugar content of plant-based milks varies a lot depending on whether a product is sweetened. Know that most varieties of plant-based milk on the market — even “original” flavors — will be sweetened with added sugar, unless explicitly labeled “unsweetened.”
This generally increases the carbohydrate content to a range of 6 to 16 g per cup — the equivalent of 1.5 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar. Unlike goat’s milk, however, this sugar is in the form of sucrose (white sugar) rather than lactose; that’s because all plant-based milks are naturally lactose-free. Moreover, sweetened plant-based milks will be higher in calories as well, though they generally top out at 140 calories per cup.
Goat’s Milk Labneh Dip Recipe
If you’re interested in trying out goat’s milk dairy products, yogurt is generally a good place to start. It’s far easier to find than liquid goat’s milk in the United States.
You’ll find that goat’s milk yogurt is similar to cow’s milk yogurt in texture but with a slightly stronger tang that’s reminiscent of the signature flavor of goat’s cheese.
Labneh is a thick, creamy, savory yogurt dip that’s a popular Middle Eastern–style spread. It’s often served with a generous drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of a signature herb mixture — za’atar — which may contain some combination of hyssop or oregano, thyme, savory, sumac, and sesame seeds.
Serve this labneh at your next party as a centerpiece surrounded by assorted olives, warm pita triangles, sliced cucumber, red peppers, or pickled vegetables. Or use it for breakfast on toast topped with sliced hard-boiled egg and tomato.
Check out my favorite, easy, and delicious goat’s milk labneh recipe below.
- 32-ounce container of plain, whole goat’s milk yogurt
- pinch of salt
- olive oil (choose a high-quality, extra virgin variety)
- za’atar spice mixture
- Line a sieve or fine strainer with cheesecloth, a thin tea towel, or two layers of paper towels.
- Place the lined sieve over a large pot.
- Dump the entire container of goat’s milk yogurt into the sieve and tie the top of the cheesecloth.
- Leave it out at room temperature for 2 hours. Note: the longer you strain the yogurt, the thicker it will become.
- Remove and discard the liquid from the pot. Refrigerate the strained yogurt until it’s cold again.
- To serve, dish into a serving bowl. Top with a pool of high-quality olive oil and garnish generously with za’atar.
Though goat’s milk isn’t always an obvious choice among Americans, it’s one that offers a huge amount of nutrients and, in some cases, slightly higher nutritional value than cow’s milk. It’s even been found to help us absorb certain nutrients — something cow’s milk doesn’t do.
While plant-based milks are a good alternative for those with an intolerance to animal milk and dairy products, goat’s milk tends to offer a more nutritional — and natural — option when it comes to protein, calcium, and fats.
And that makes goat’s milk simply one more delicious and healthy option you can add to your daily diet.
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Tamara Duker Freuman is a nationally known expert in digestive health and medical nutrition therapy for gastrointestinal diseases. She is a registered dietitian (RD) and New York State Certified Dietitian–Nutritionist (CDN) who holds a Master of Science degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University. Tamara is a member of East River Gastroenterology & Nutrition (www.eastrivergastro.com), a private Manhattan-based practice known for its expertise in functional bowel disorders and specialized diagnostics.