With the rise of veganism and the desire to both help protect the environment and be kinder to our fellow creatures there has been a huge increase in the options available for those wanting to follow a plant-based diet.
Although technically these aren’t really “milks” but rather liquids that mix ground nuts and water and can substitute for cow’s milk. Real milk or not some of these are delicious and healthy alternatives to cows milk.
Soy milk: Great for vegans
Pros: Rich in protein and promotes a balanced diet.
Cons: A beany flavor and the presence of “anti-nutrients,” defined in the study as substances that reduce nutrient intake and digestion.
Dietitian’s take: Soy is one of the common eight allergens. It can also trigger unwanted symptoms in people who are soy intolerant or soy sensitive, including bloating, digestive pain, fatigue, headache, and skin reactions. It may be best for vegans, who have more limited protein sources (as long as they aren’t allergic or intolerant).
Almond milk: Great for calorie-watchers
Pros: Almonds have a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) that are considered helpful in weight loss and weight management.
Cons: Lacks some essential nutrients.
Dietitian’s take: Unsweetened almond milk can provide as few as 30 calories per cup and just one gram of carbohydrates. Most brands are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D. It’s a great replacement for milk in cereal, smoothies, and coffee for people who get plenty of protein from other sources and are watching calories and carbs.
Rice milk: Great for athletes
Pros: Lactose-free and can act as an alternative for patients with allergy issues caused by soybeans and almonds.
Cons: Rice milk varies widely in its nutrient profile, putting infants at risk for malnutrition.
Dietitian’s take: Low in protein and fat, rice milk’s calories primarily come from carbohydrates. It’s a good option for athletes or active people, especially pre-exercise (in smoothies, oatmeal, or cold cereal), particularly those with nut, dairy, and soy sensitivities.
Coconut milk: Great for cooking
Pros: Consumption can help reduce levels of harmful low-density lipoproteins (bad cholesterol) that are associated with cardiovascular diseases.
Cons: No proteins, rich in (saturated) fat.
Dietitian’s take: The richness of coconut milk makes it an ideal dairy replacement for certain recipes, like, soup, cream sauce, pudding, and ice cream. Great for people who enjoy cooking rich dishes but are trying to consume more plant-based meals and less animal fat.
Cashew milk: Great for calorie-watchers
One cup of unsweetened cashew milk is low in calories, typically around 25 calories, and fat, usually just two grams.
Cashew milk does not contain the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein found in a handful of cashews though because all that disappears when the pulp is strained from the milk.
Dietitian’s take: Unsweetened cashew milk is one of the lowest calorie plant options with just 25 calories per cup. Most brands are also fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Like almond milk, cashew milk is a good alternative for those watching calories and carbohydrates who aren’t looking for protein from their milk substitute. Some may prefer the flavor of cashew milk over almond milk if they prefer cashews to almonds.
Hemp milk: Great for vegans
Hemp milk is made from soaking hemp seeds in water and grinding them. One eight-ounce serving has around 100 calories, five grams of sugar and three grams of protein.
Dietitian’s take: Hemp isn’t a common allergen and while it’s not the highest in the protein of the plant options, hemp does contain complete protein, meaning it packs all of the amino acids needed for repair and healing of protein tissues in the body. The fat in hemp also includes both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. Great for vegans who are soy intolerant.
Oat milk is a tasty vegan alternative to dairy milks, and it is also nutritious. Oat milk is made with presoaked oat groats, which are hulled grains broken into fragments. Oat milk features a mild, slightly sweet taste, which substitutes well for low-fat or skim milk. Oat milk can also be used in the same way as rice milk or soy milk. Western herbalists recommend oat milk as a tonic for the nervous system. Oat milk is very low in fat and lactose free.
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