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How much protein is in milk?

Plus, which type of milk has the highest protein content?

How Much Protein Is in Milk? | Juniper

Milk is the first thing we ever consume and there's a good reason for it, as it is thought to be both an excellent source of calcium phosphate and essential amino acids.

As we get older, many of us continue to drink milk through our coffee, on our overnight oats and in our protein shakes. But did you know that milk on its own can be a useful source of protein?

We know that protein is a key part of any balanced diet. We need it to help repair and grow our cells, build muscle mass and maintain a strong immune system.

But how much protein is in milk? Is it a high-quality protein? Is cow's milk protein better than nut milk or soy milk? And what if you have lactose intolerance? Read as we give you all the answers.

Is milk a good source of protein?

There are 20 amino acids that join together as the building blocks of protein. Out of those, 9 essential amino acids cannot be made by our bodies and must be consumed through our daily diet [1].

High-quality protein sources contain these 9 essential amino acids and are known as a complete protein source. Milk, like other dairy products, is a complete protein.

Cow's milk, or bovine milk, is a liquid with around 3.5% protein.

Milk's protein content is split into 80% casein proteins and 20% whey proteins, both of which are popular choices for protein shakes. That leads us to ask: just how much protein is in milk?

How much protein is in a 250ml cup of cow's milk?

The protein content of a glass of whole milk or full cream milk is around 7.7 grams [2][3].

Cow's milk contains high-quality protein with essential amino acids and around 3.5% fat.

Milk products can help boost the overall protein content of a meal. For example, adding regular milk to a bowl of cereal or a protein shake can help you reach your protein goals.

Which dairy milk has the highest protein content?

If you don't want to drink full cream or whole milk to get your protein, don't worry. There are plenty of other options to get protein in milk:

1. Semi-skimmed milk — 8.53 g per glass of milk

Reduced-fat or low-fat milk has more protein content than whole milk for only 1.5-2% fat.

2. Skim milk — 8.26 g per glass of milk

Skim milk has around 0.15% fat. Added milk powder helps reduce the fat content whilst boosting the protein content.

3. Lactose-free milk — around 8 g per glass of milk

For anyone with lactose intolerance who doesn't want to give up dairy products, lactose-free milk has a similar protein content to whole milk.

4. High protein whole milk — 15 g per glass of milk

The newest additions to the supermarket shelves are the dedicated high protein milks.

These kinds of milk boast up to 70% more protein than standard whole milk achieved through a cold filtration process.

5. Milk powder form — 33.7 g per cup

The process of dehydrating milk into powder removes some of the fat content whilst increasing the protein content.

If you're feeling adventurous with your milk products, there's also sheep, goat and even camel milk that all provide protein.

Some research suggests that camel milk is the closest to mother's milk with up to 5 grams of protein per glass of milk [5].

Which plant-based milk is highest in protein?

If you have lactose intolerance, a dairy allergy or if you're vegan you might be looking at alternative milk protein sources. Which one is the highest?

1. Soy milk — 8.52 g per glass of milk

Soy milk protein is the only plant-based milk that is also a complete protein. That means it contains essential amino acids that our bodies can't make on their own.

The highest protein soy milk must be derived from whole soybeans. Some varieties with added protein can be up to 10.5 grams per glass of milk.

2. Pea milk — 7.99 grams per glass of milk

A low-calorie, low-fat milk option for vegans, vegetarians or anyone with a milk allergy.

Only 70 calories per glass, pea protein isolate also comes in a protein powder form.

3. Hemp milk — 4.44 grams per glass of milk

Hemp is a high-protein plant source, but hemp milk may not be as readily available as some of the other plant-based milk proteins on this list.

4. Cashew milk — 4 grams per glass of milk

Cashew milk is a versatile milk substitute with a moderate protein content.

However, as a nut milk, it does come with a higher caloric density compared to some of the other plant-based options.

5. Almond milk — 2 grams per glass of milk

Almond milk is naturally cholesterol-free and is lower in fat and calories than cow's milk.

If you buy a fortified variety you can get closer to 10 grams of protein per glass of milk, as well as added B12 and calcium for bone health.

6. Oat milk — 1.92 grams per glass of milk

Oat milk is mostly water and has fairly low protein compared to whole milk. It does have more fibre and vitamin A and is usually fortified with vitamin D and B12.

A cup of oats has over 26 grams of protein, so if you're trying to hit certain protein goals, it's worth contemplating your choice of milk consumption.

Other plant-based milks are quite low in protein including hazelnut (1.99 grams of protein), rice (0.67 grams of protein) and coconut milk (0.51 grams of protein).

What other nutrients does milk contain?

Milk contains a range of nutrients that are readily absorbable for our bodies all in one convenient glass [3].

Some of the nutrients found in milk include:

  • Calcium phosphate
  • Carbohydrate
  • Iodine
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Riboflavin (B2)
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin B12
  • Zinc

Milk consumption is also linked to good bone health, possibly from being a rich source of calcium.

What are the health benefits of drinking milk?

Milk and dairy products have been known to have health benefits.

It can help with maintaining healthy bones and research suggests that human consumption of dairy foods might even help protect us against cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Milk and dairy food products have also been associated with reduced blood pressure and a reduced risk of developing some cancers and type 2 diabetes. [4]

The main health benefits of dairy foods we mostly talk about are calcium or calcium phosphate.

Milk is a readily absorbable source of calcium. To achieve the same amount of calcium as you get in a glass of milk, you would need to eat around 100 grams of tofu, 100 grams of almonds or half a cup of canned salmon [4].

An estimated 8 out of 10 adults aren't getting enough dairy foods in their diet. So maybe a few more of us need to having a daily glass of milk, and why not pair it with protein powder for an extra dose of protein?

If you're still a little overwhelmed with meeting your protein needs or calculating how much protein you need each day, then Juniper’s Weight Reset Programme can help.

Our health coaches and dietitians will give you all the lifestyle advice you need to kick your health and weight loss goals.

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