The dairy case is filled with choices – or confusing decisions. When it comes to nutrition, not all milks are created equal. Here’s the lowdown on milk vs. milk substitutes. Cow’s milk provides 9 essential nutrients. Rich in protein, vitamins and minerals making it one of the most naturally nutrient-rich beverages.

Soy is the closest substitute but with added salt and sugar. Almond and rice milks have little protein but have added sugar, salt and calcium. Coconut has no protein, but some added calcium and vitamin D.

The reason 3 daily servings of dairy are recommend is because most Americans fall short on calcium, potassium and vitamin D. Cow’s milk provides these. If you’re lactose intolerant, try lactose-free. At the store, compare the label and price of the milk you buy to see if it’s giving you the best nutrient bang for your buck.

This is Judy Barbe helping you LiveBest.