You're probably familiar with goat milk cheeses such as chevre and feta, but have you ever thought about drinking goat milk? If you're a fan of organic dairy and a smaller environmental footprint, you may be interested in trying goat milk if you haven't already found a non-dairy milk substitute that you prefer. Goat and cow milk can be easily incorporated into the diet and offer a range of valuable macro and micronutrients. Goat milk confers some additional health benefits and may be an ideal choice for supporting digestion.
But what's the difference between goat's milk and cow's milk? Is goat's milk better for you? Which should you be drinking? Naturopathic doctor Kate Morrison weighs in with a nutritional profile and more information about goat's milk in comparison to cow's milk.
Cow Milk vs. Goat Milk
All milk is made up of water, lactose, fat, protein, and micronutrients. Though kinds of milk may share the same macronutrient profile, they are actually very different. Goat milk has several unique properties when compared to cow milk.
While cow milk has been the go-to milk source in the Western world for centuries and remains a healthy option for many, goat milk is increasingly becoming the choice for health-conscious consumers because of its naturally easy-to-digest composition. It’s also the most consumed milk globally.
Because of its profile, goat milk is less likely than cow milk to cause respiratory, digestive, and dermatological symptoms for many people.
One cup of goat milk provides 140 calories and 7 grams of fat with a modest amount of cholesterol at 24 milligrams, or about 8 percent of the recommended daily value, based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Goat milk is relatively low in sodium and carbohydrates, and high in protein and calcium, providing about 8 grams of protein and 30 percent of the recommended daily value of calcium per cup.
In goat milk, the fat globules are smaller and have a greater surface area than those found in cow milk. Smaller globules are more easily and efficiently worked on by pancreatic lipase, the fat-digesting enzyme.
Levels of the short and medium chain fatty acids are significantly higher in goat milk than cow milk. Triglycerides with medium-chain fatty acids enjoy particularly fast and efficient digestion and are excellent sources of energy. Furthermore, the levels of omega 6 fatty acids are higher in goat milk than in cow milk.
The protein in all milk is composed of relative amounts of microproteins. When you drink milk, the proteins cause it to curdle in your stomach.
Alpha S1 casein is a milk micro-protein that determines the structure of the curd. It is associated with a larger and firmer curd. The level of alpha S1 casein is 50 percent lower in goat milk than in cow milk. This means that a softer, more easily broken down curd is formed.
Beta-lactoglobulin is a more easily digested milk micro-protein. There are three times as much beta-lactoglobulin in goat milk than found in cow milk.
Vitamin and Mineral Content
Both goat and cow milk are rich in a range of vitamins and minerals. While levels of vitamin A and D, and the minerals calcium and selenium are higher in goat milk, vitamin B12 and folic acid are found in greater amounts in cow milk. Some studies have also shown that the absorption of several minerals in goat milk is higher compared to cow milk.
Acidity and Alkalinity
While cow milk is slightly acidic, goat milk is alkaline. Alkaline diets result in a more alkaline urine pH. It has been suggested that an alkaline diet may prevent a number of diseases and result in significant health benefits, including cardiovascular, neurological, and muscular. This is still undergoing research and debate.
US Department of Agriculture Food Data Central. Goat milk. Updated April 1, 2019.
Stergiadis S, Nørskov NP, Purup S, Givens I, Lee MRF. Comparative Nutrient Profiling of Retail Goat and Cow Milk. Nutrients. 2019;11(10). doi:10.3390/nu11102282
Rubio-Martín E, García-Escobar E, Ruiz de Adana MS, et al. Comparison of the Effects of Goat Dairy and Cow Dairy Based Breakfasts on Satiety, Appetite Hormones, and Metabolic Profile. Nutrients. 2017;9(8). doi:10.3390/nu9080877