Cows’ Milk vs. Plant-Based: A Nutritional Comparison | a2 Milk® USA Blog
Cows’ Milk vs. Plant-Based: A Nutritional Comparison | a2 Milk® USA Blog

Cows’ Milk vs. Plant-Based Alternatives: A Nutritional Comparison

Posted on February 20, 2018

According to data from the USDA’s economic research service, US per capita dairy milk consumption decreased by 22% between 2000 and 2016. Why the downward trend?

This trend partially stems from digestive issues, but a percentage of it can be attributed to misconceptions about cows’ milk. Many people think that plant-based milk is healthier than cows’ milk. But the numbers on the labels just don’t add up!

We did a little digging to compare cows’ milk to plant-based milk nutritional profiles and have displayed it in an easy-to-read milk comparison chart below. All numbers are a percentage of the Daily Value which is used to recommend nutrient intake levels to prevent deficiencies.

Milk Comparison Chart

Milk Comparison Chart - a2 Milk

Other than the strong levels of vitamins and minerals, milk contains only three ingredients: milk, vitamin D, and vitamin A. The rest of the nutrients are naturally occurring, meaning they are delivered to your body in their natural form.

Below are details outlined in the infographic above.  This includes the daily value of each nutrient and whether it’s naturally occurring or fortified.

Calcium: Daily Value = 1000mg

  •        Milk: 300mg = 30% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Soy: 300mg = 30% DV; fortified with Tricalcium Phosphate & Calcium Carbonate
  •        Almond: 520mg = 52% DV; fortified with Calcium Carbonate
  •        Pea: 450mg = 45% DV; fortified with Calcium Phosphate


Vitamin D: Daily Value = 400IU

D3 is what your body produces when your skin is exposed to sunlight and is the body’s preferred source of Vitamin D. D2 is a plant source of Vitamin D and may not be as good at raising blood levels of Vitamin D as D3.*

  •        Milk: 120IU = 30% DV; fortified with Vitamin D3
  •        Soy: 100IU = 25% DV; fortified with Vitamin D2
  •        Almond: 110IU = 30% DV; fortified with Vitamin D2.
  •        Pea: 120IU = 30% DV; fortified with Vitamin D2.


Riboflavin: Daily Value = 1.7mg

  •        Milk: 0.45mg = 25% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Soy: 0.44mg = 25% DV; fortified with vitamin blend
  •        Almond: 0.123mg = 6% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Pea: not reported


Vitamin B12: Daily Value = 6mcg

  •        Milk: 1.29mcg = 20%DV; naturally occurring
  •        Soy: 2mcg = 30% DV; fortified with vitamin Blend
  •        Almond: 0mcg = 0% DV
  •        Pea: not reported


Protein: Daily Value = 50g

  •        Milk: 8g = 16% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Soymilk: 6g = 12% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Almond: 1.55g = 3% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Pea: 8g = 16% DV; naturally occurring


Potassium: Daily Value = 3500mg

  •        Milk: 340mg = 10% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Soy: 300mg = 9% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Almond: 176mg = 5% DV; naturally occurring
  •        Pea: 451mg = 13% DV; naturally occurring


Vitamin A: Daily Value = 5,000IU

  •        Milk: 464 IU = 10% DV when fortified; 5% DV naturally occurring + 5% from fortification with Vitamin A palmitate
  •        Soy: 450IU = 10% DV; fortified with vitamin A palmitate
  •        Almond: 372IU = 7% DV; fortified with Vitamin A palmitate
  •        Pea: 499IU = 10% DV; fortified with vitamin A palmitate


Drink real cows’ milk for your health; it’s one of the easiest ways to get your daily recommendations of the all of these important nutrients!

Explore a2 Milk® and find it in a store near you!



  • Milk reference: USDA Nutrient Database Standard Reference #01079 “Milk, reduced fat, fluid, 2% milkfat, with added vitamin A and vitamin D”.
  • Soymilk reference: USDA Nutrient Database Standard Reference #16139 “Soymilk, original and vanilla with added calcium, vitamins A and D”.
  • Almond beverage reference: USDA Nutrient Database Standard Reference #14091 “Beverage, almond milk, unsweetened, shelf stable”.
  • Pea: USDA Nutrient Database Branded Food Products #45138170 “Nutritious Pea Milk” by Ripple Foods.
  • *Trypkovic et al., Comparison of vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 supplementation in raising serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D status: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012;95(6):1357-1364.




Bonnie JohnsonAbout the Author

Bonnie Johnson, MS, RDN      Twitter_clear   @a2milkRD

Bonnie is a food-loving registered dietitian/nutritionist with a Master’s Degree in Nutrition Science & Education from Colorado State University.

Bonnie promotes the science and research behind a2 Milk® to Health Professionals and is on hand to answer simple health related questions from a2 Milk® consumers.

For more complex questions, please contact your favorite health care provider.


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