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These days, it feels like milk can be made from virtually anything. From trendy plant-based milk such as oat milk and algae milk to insect- and animal-derived options like cockroach milk (yes, really) and supercharged cow's milk, there are more options than ever when it comes to getting your milk mustache fix. (BTW, that's not even close to all of them. Here are 13 more types of milk that do your body good.)
The latest to be getting some traction in the wellness world? Camel milk.
It's said that camel milk tastes a lot like cow's milk, but slightly more salty with a hint of sourness. But how does it stack up nutritionally, and is it really the health powerhouse that camel milk brands claim it is? We asked nutrition pros to find out what's good (and bad) about the latest cool milk on the block.
The Pros of Camel Milk
Like many trendy milks before it, camel milk does have some pretty great nutritional benefits.
It's low in lactose. "Camel milk contains less lactose than normal milk, so it may be easier to digest for lactose intolerance," says Amy Goodson, a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant. It's worth noting, though, that there are lots of lactose-free options out there that use cow milk, including Lactaid, Fairlife, Mootopia, and more.
It's probably a better choice nutritionally than plant milks. If you currently drink plant milk for a reason other than being dairy-free, camel milk could be something to consider. "When compared to plant milk, I would say camel milk is nutritionally superior," says Goodson. Many plant-based milks are fortified with vitamins and minerals that aren't naturally-occurring, she adds.
However, a lot of those nutrients that are commonly fortified are naturally found in camel milk. "It is rich in minerals like zinc, potassium, copper, and magnesium," notes Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, registered dietitian and in-house nutrition expert at Betches Media.
Camel milk is also lower in fat and cholesterol, and is rich in antioxidants and protein, says Beckerman. "According to research, camel milk has three times the amount of vitamin C and 10 times the amount of iron when compared to cow milk." That's definitely a win.
The Cons of Camel Milk
While there are definitely some advantages to camel milk, there are some downsides you might want to know.
It's relatively high in calories. "Camel milk is more caloric than nut milk, so it's important to pay attention to portion size if you are swapping out your almond milk in your smoothie for camel milk," says Beckerman. This might not be a concern for everyone, but if you are watching your calorie intake, camel milk might not be your best bet.
It has less protein than cow's milk. While camel milk does have more protein than many plant-based milks (except for soy), it has less protein than traditional cow milk. If protein is a concern for you and you are able to drink cow's milk, the standard stuff could be a better choice. (Related: The Best Protein Powders for Women, According to Nutritionists)
It's super expensive. "The FDA has approved consumption of camel milk in the USA, but imports are restricted and there are only about 3000 camels in the USA," Goodson points out. "This drives up the cost of the milk." The main seller of camel milk in the U.S. is Desert Farms, which has 30 oz. of the stuff selling for $60. Considering you can buy a gallon of organic milk (about 128 oz.) at Whole Foods for around $6, that's pretty crazy-expensive.
It's sometimes unpasteurized. Raw milk is trendy, but not necessarily safe, because it carries the risk of passing along bacteria from the animal source. The FDA doesn't approve raw milk for human consumption, so it's not exactly recommended to drink it. 'It is important to note that pasteurization does not change the nutrient profile of milk, but it does make it safer to drink," says Goodson. Because some of the camel milk sold in the U.S. is unpasteurized, this is something to watch out for if you decide to try it.
There have been some pretty crazy health claims made about it. "Many camel milks have false and/or unproven health claims attached to them," says Goodson. While this might not be a reason to skip camel milk entirely, it's important to look at any health claims about foods with a critical eye. In fact, the FDA issued a warning to Desert Farms in 2016 about making false claims that camel milk could cure autism and other incurable diseases. Again, this might not be a reason to skip it entirely, but it's key to know that camel milk has not been approved for the treatment of any specific diseases or illnesses—so that's not a compelling reason to give it a try.
The Bottom Line On Camel Milk
While both Goodson and Beckerman agree that they wouldn't rush to recommend camel milk to the masses, it could be worth a try if you're interested in it and don't mind the high price, especially because of its vitamin C and iron content. Not convinced? Rest assured that the benefits of milk outweigh the potential downsides of dairy, so if regular milk is working for you, there's no need to fix something that's not broken, right?