If you’re a regular Dr. Axe reader, you might have noticed that, even though it’s one of the most popular drinks out there, I’m not a big advocate of cow milk. For example, is milk helping or hurting your bones? Also, this dairy drink can be a challenge for our bodies to digest. For some people, it’s even more inflammatory than gluten.
But I don’t stay away from milk altogether. In fact, goat milk is one of my favorites drinks. Read on to learn why this drink is far superior than its cow counterpart.
Goat Milk Nutrition Will Surprise You
While it’s not very popular in the Western world, goat milk is actually one of the most widely consumed milk drinks in the rest of the world and with good reason — it tastes great and it’s chock-full of nutrients.
Just check out all that one glass of goat milk has to offer. (1)
- Calories: 168
- Saturated Fat: 6.5 grams / 33 percent DV*
- Carbohydrates: 11 grams / 4 percent DV
- Protein: 10.9 grams / 4 percent DV
- Cholesterol: 27 milligrams / 9 percent DV
- Sugars: 11 grams
- Sodium: 12 milligrams / 5 percent DV
- Calcium: 327 milligrams / 33 percent DV
- Phosphorous: 271 milligrams / 27 percent DV
- Magnesium: 34.2 milligrams / 9 percent DV
- Potassium: 498 milligrams / 14 percent DV
- Copper: 0.1 milligrams / 6 percent DV
- Zinc: 0.7 milligrams / 5 percent DV
- Vitamin A: 483 IU / 10 percent DV
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): 0.3 milligrams / 20 percent DV
- Vitamin C: 3.2 milligrams / 5 percent DV
- Vitamin D: 29.3 IU / 7 percent DV
*Recommended Daily Value
Goat Milk Benefits
1. It’s easier to digest.
While the fat content of cow and goat milk is similar, the fat globules in goat milk are smaller, making it easier for your body to digest. (2) Once it reaches your stomach, the protein in goat milk forms a softer curd than cow milk — only about 2 percent of goat milk is curd, compared to about 10 percent in cow milk — helping your body digest it with less irritation than cow milk.
Goat milk is also lower in lactose, or milk sugars, than cow milk. Because many people aren’t as lactose intolerant as they believe — or simply have trouble digesting cow milk and aren’t actually allergic to lactose — goat milk can be a viable option. (3)
2. It has fewer allergenic proteins and causes less inflammation.
Most people who are intolerant of cow milk are actually sensitive to one of the proteins found in it, A1 casein, and lack the ability to digest A1. Additionally, cow milk is the number one allergy among children and can persist throughout adulthood. That’s because it contains more than 20 different allergens (including A1 casein) that can cause allergic reactions — often confused for seasonal allergy symptoms — which can range from hives and runny noses to abdominal cramping and colic in babies. (4, 5)
So what’s the big deal with A1 casein? This protein is highly inflammatory for some people, and inflammation is at the root of most diseases. A1 casein can contribute to gastrointestinal issues like irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, leaky gut and colitis — and some less obvious problems, like acne, autoimmune diseases and skin issues like eczema. (6, 7, 8)
While there are some cows who don’t produce A1 casein, namely Jersey and Guernsey cows, the majority of bovines in the U.S., Western Europe and Australia are Holstein and Fresian, which are A1 casein producers.
On the contrary, milk that contains mostly or exclusively A2 casein produces none of these inflammatory effects. Goat milk contains only A2 casein, making it, protein-wise, the closest milk to human breast milk. (9) In fact, one study suggests that goat milk, when used as the first protein after breastfeeding, is less allergenic for babies than cow milk. (10)
3. It’s high in calcium and fatty acids but low in cholesterol.
While cow milk is often touted as one of the main calcium-rich foods, there’s no need to worry about not getting enough of calcium when switching to goat milk. It’s actually richer in the mineral, with about 33 percent of the daily recommended value versus 28 percent in cow milk.
Goat milk also has high levels medium-chain fatty acids — 30–35 percent as opposed to 15–20 percent in cow milk. These fatty acids provide an energy boost that isn’t stored as body fat, help lower cholesterol, and can even help treat conditions like coronary diseases and intestinal disorders. (11, 12, 13)
But wait, there’s more! Goat milk helps increase “good” cholesterol levels while reducing the bad ones. In fact, it’s got healing properties similar to olive oil and is recommended for keeping high cholesterol in check. (14)
4. It keeps skin looking good.
The fatty acids and triglycerides found in goat milk not only keep your insides running smoothly, but they help you look great on the outside, too. Their moisturizing qualities help keep skin baby soft. Goat milk also has high levels of vitamin A, which can improve your complexion, fight acne and improve overall skin health. In fact, it should be considered one of the home remedies for acne. The lactic acid found in goat milk helps rid your body of dead skin cells and brighten skin tone; no more pasty face! (15)
Because goat milk has a pH level similar to humans, it’s absorbed by the skin with less irritation and helps keep bacteria at bay (goodbye, pimples!).
5. It absorbs nutrients and minerals better than cows’ milk.
Moo-ve over, cows. While goat and cow milk might rank similarly for mineral content, goat milk might still be the winner.
That’s because early studies have found that nutrients like iron, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous were more easily digested and used by the body in goat milk than cow milk. Because of the bioavailability of these minerals, goat milk also looks promising for treatment of nutritional deficiencies like anemia and bone demineralization. (16) In addition, it can help address all-too-common iron deficiency and magnesium deficiency.
In fact, researchers suggest that goat milk should be consumed regularly by individuals with malabsorption issues, anemia, osteoporosis or prolonged treatments with iron supplements.
Regularly consuming goat milk enhances the body’s ability to use iron and boosts regeneration of hemoglobin, making it a safe and natural way to treat osteoporosis and combat anemia. Its high levels of zinc and selenium also help prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
Goat Milk vs. Cow Milk
So how does goat milk stack up against cow milk? Take a peek at our cheat sheet:
When you look at how your digestive system works, you can see how a gut problem like leaky gut can so easily crop up. Fortunately, goat milk is easily digestible by the body, making it a great option for those with gastrointestinal problems. Goat milk is also better tolerated by those with lactose issues and doesn’t cause inflammation the way cow milk can. It’s also a great option for children once they’ve moved past breastfeeding, as it contains fewer allergens than cow milk.
Because it’s not as common, goat milk can be substantially more expensive than cow milk, causing sticker shock at the onset. Raw goat milk, the best for you, can be difficult to find outside of health food stores and farmers markets. The taste and smell might not also be pleasing to everyone, particularly those raised with cow milk.
Regular cow milk is cheap and can be found everywhere. If you manage to get your hands on A2 casein cows’ milk from Jersey and Guernsey cows, you can enjoy many of the benefits enjoyed by goat milk drinkers, an excellent option for those who just can’t get used to the taste of goat milk.
A2 cow milk is difficult to come by in many areas and usually has the price tag to prove it. And whether it’s A1 or A2, cow milk is still more difficult for the body to digest, taking hours versus about 30 minutes with goat milk. For those with cow milk allergies — and this is a big group — this type of milk just isn’t an option.
If you have any gastrointestinal issues, leaky gut or irritable bowel syndrome, you might want to keep away from cow milk anyway. If you want to find out if you have such a problem, take my leaky gut test to find out.
But What About Sheep’s Milk?
There is another animal contender on the milk block — sheep. This creamy milk is quite similar to goats’ milk; in fact, in many cases, it’s healthier. One cup of sheep milk contains more calcium, carbohydrates and protein than its goat counterpart. Sheep milk is also higher in many vitamins and minerals like vitamin B12, vitamin C, folate and magnesium than both goat and cow milk. (17)
Like goats’ milk, sheep’s milk is easily digestible by the body, thanks to small fat globules that make it easier on your digestive tract. It contains similar levels of short- and medium-chain fatty acids as goat milk, so it’s less irritating. And those who can’t get used to the taste of goat milk might prefer sheep milk; it’s less tangy. (18, 19, 20)
So why isn’t everyone gulping down sheep milk? Its high fat content is a turnoff for many. While the fats are mainly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (i.e. good-for-you fats), one cup contains almost double the amount as cow and goat milk, a concern for those watching their fat intake.
Sheep milk is much harder to find as well. While goat milk is slowly making its way onto supermarket shelves, your best bet for buying sheep milk is still your local farmers’ market. If you are able to buy it, you can freeze sheep milk and unfreeze as needed; the flavor will remain the same.
Can’t get your hands on sheep milk? Eat your cheese! Some of the most popular Mediterranean types, like feta, Rocquefort, Manchego, Pecorino Romano and ricotta are all made from the animal. Sheep yogurt is also becoming more popular; keep your eyes peeled for that in stores.
What’s the Right Type of Goat Milk for You?
If you’re ready to add goat milk to your family’s diet, you have several options. For the optimal benefits, I recommend drinking raw goat milk. You can usually find this at your local farmers’ market or at health food stores. Similar to raw milk benefits from a cow, drinking raw goat milk ensures you get the most benefits of this nutritious drink.
If raw goat milk isn’t available in your area, there are other options available, mainly in fermented products. These increase good bacteria to keep you healthy and support nutrient absorption in the gut. One of my favorite fermented products is kefir and kefir benefits are pretty widespread, including helping leaky gut and boosting immunity.
Indeed, this milk drink can boost your body’s immunity against disease, build bone density, protect against allergies and even improve lactose intolerance. Be sure to purchase goat milk kefir to get goat’s great benefits, as cow and sheep versions are sold as well. Drink kefir solo or add it to your favorite dishes that call for yogurt.
If liquid goat milk isn’t your thing, fermented goat milk yogurt might be a good substitute. The probiotics benefits present in goat milk yogurt help support healthy digestion, lower your risk of diabetes, support weight and fat loss, and reduce high blood pressure. Try it with fruit or granola for a healthy breakfast or snack.
Soft, raw goat cheeses are also packed with probiotics and available in all 50 states. Spread it on a cracker or nibble it solo to get all the health benefits in a tasty way.
Cooking With Goat Milk
Are you ready to take the goat milk plunge and incorporate it into your diet? If you’re nervous about the flavor for drinking it straight, start with chilled goat milk, which has a less pronounced “goaty” flavor.
When you’re ready to start using goat milk in your favorite recipes, there are few things to keep in mind. Goat milk can essentially be used as a replacement for cow milk in any recipe. However, when it’s heated or processed in any way, there is a distinct “goat” flavor. Those who are long-time fans of the milk might not mind, but it could be a turnoff for newbies.
Goats’ milk is especially tasty in dessert recipes, as it gives your favorite sweets a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture. It’s also great in smoothies: combine your favorite fruits and leafy greens, throw in a dash of goat milk and blend.
Looking for some recipes that use goats’ milk? Here are some that I enjoy:
- Goats’ Milk Baby Formula: For moms having a difficult time breastfeeding, I’ve created an alternative recipe that’s free of additives and full of nutrients.
- Caramelized Onion, Goat Cheese and Rosemary Mac n’ Cheese: This pasta dish uses goat milk butter and cheese for a creamy finish. Feel free to substitute brown rice pasta for whole grain.
- Cherry & Walnut Goat Ice Cream: This sweet treat is especially lovely on a warm summer day. No need to include the whiskey for this to taste great!
- Goats Milk Soap: This step-by-step tutorial is a great introduction to making homemade soap using farm-fresh milk.
While each individual’s health needs will vary, I believe that goat milk and its related products can help almost everyone who wants a drink that’s full of vitamins and nutrients and protects — instead of working against — gut health and digestion. Give it a try soon!