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Goat Milk Vs. Cow Milk: Is One Actually Healthier Than the Other?
Mint Images – Norah Levine/Getty Images

These days, the dairy aisle is saturated with options—and we don’t just mean 2 percent or whole. There’s soy, almond, cashew, rice, oat, hemp, camel (really)…you get the idea. In a world full of milks (and mylks), it can be overwhelming to choose just one. The sleeper hit that’s rising to the top, though, is goat milk. But what’s even the difference between goat milk and cow milk? Is it just taste, or is it nutrition? Which is better

We had heard goat milk might have more nutritional benefits than regular old moo juice, so we dug deeper for the answer. It turns out, neither milk is healthier than the other, but goat milk may be a better choice for digestion. And if you’re as lost as we were, don’t worry. We have the scoop on goat milk versus cow milk.

What is goat milk?

If you’re like us, you cook with and drink milk all the time, but might not actually know what it is. At its most basic level, all dairy milk is an emulsion of fats, proteins, micronutrients, lactose and water. And while cow milk is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you think of milk, goat milk is rising in popularity.

According to some studies, goat milk is less likely to cause adverse digestive symptoms than cow milk. To understand why, we compared the two.

What are the nutritional stats of goat milk and cow milk?

Here’s what you can expect from a one-cup serving of goat milk, according to the USDA:

  • 170 calories
  • 9 grams of protein
  • 10 grams of fat
  • 11 grams of carbohydrates
  • 11 grams of sugars
  • 25 milligrams of cholesterol

Meanwhile, here’s what a one-cup serving of whole cow milk offers, per the USDA:

  • 160 calories
  • 8 grams of protein
  • 9 grams of fat
  • 11 grams of carbohydrates
  • 11 grams of sugars
  • 30 milligrams of cholesterol

So when it comes to macronutrients, goat milk and cow milk are almost identical. Goat milk comes out on top for protein and cholesterol, but cow milk’s fat content is ever so slightly lower. 

And as far as vitamins and minerals go, both milks have a lot to offer, just in different amounts. Goat milk has more calcium, potassium and vitamin A than cow milk, but cow milk has more vitamin B12, selenium and folic acid.

So if their nutrition content is almost the same, is goat or cow milk healthier?

Not really, but it’s complicated. Both goat and cow milk offer myriad nutrition benefits, but goat milk may be easier on the digestive system. That’s because the levels of micro-proteins that make it hard for some people to digest are lower in goat milk than in cow milk. The fat molecules (or globules, if you want to get technical) are also smaller, which makes it easier for your body to process.

Because it’s thought to be easier to digest, there’s a misconception that goat milk is lactose-free. (That’s the sugar found in dairy that can cause tummy trouble for people with a lactose allergy or intolerance.) It’s actually not: Goat milk does have less lactose than cow milk, but not enough to make it lactose-free. Still, it might be easier for you to stomach (pun intended) because of its molecular structure.

My baby has a cow milk allergy. Can I give him goat milk?

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages feeding infants goat milk in place of formula—even though it might be easier to digest, it doesn’t offer the same nutritional benefits, and if it’s not pasteurized, it carries a risk of infection—yikes. Talk to your pediatrician about alternatives to baby formula. They might recommend goat milk when your kid is closer to toddler age.

That’s all great. But what does goat milk taste like?

If you’re wondering how goat milk compares in flavor (we were), think about how goat cheese tastes. Whereas cow milk is mild, neutral and creamy, goat milk is definitely, well, goaty. It’s tangy and grassy and might take some getting used to.

The final takeaway:

Cow milk is the winner when it comes to that ubiquitous milky taste, as well as price and availability (goat milk is both more expensive and less common in the grocery store). But goat milk may be easier to digest, thanks to its molecular structure. The bottom line is that both milks are healthy, but if dairy often does funny things to your digestive system, it might be worth giving goat milk a try.

RELATED: The 15 Most Nutritious Vegetables You Can Put in Your Body

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