Alternatives to cow’s milk have been around for a while now, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the abundance of options available. Whether you’re allergic to dairy or just want to try something plant-based, here’s the low-down on four popular milk alternatives:
Are you in on the coconut craze? If you are, you may be drinking coconut milk. Coconut milk has claims to support metabolism due to medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs). In one study, dieters were given 18-24 grams of MCFAs a day for four months. These individuals lost about 3 ½ more pounds than dieters who were given olive oil. BUT...you would have to drink 26-38 cups a day of coconut milk to get as much MCFA as those involved in the study. So, maybe coconut milk is not so much of a magic bullet after all. Plus, your arteries also have to deal with the coconut milk cholesterol raising longer-chain saturated fatty acids. If you love coconut and want to continue drinking this option, I recommend the brand Blue Diamond, which cuts the saturated fat down to 1 gram per serving.
While pea milk might be a newer contender to the alt-milk market, it is delicious nonetheless. There are a number of options that are blended with nuts, and I’d suggest giving this option a chance if you haven’t tried it yet. Most brands have 8 grams of protein per serving and the taste comes close to conventional dairy milk, which is a plus for those who love the traditional stuff but can’t stomach dairy or lactose. Try the Silk Protein NutMilk or the Ripple unsweetened original and unsweetened vanilla.
Do you know that most almond milks have no more than 4 to 6 nuts per cup? This would explain why they are so low in calories and protein. Some companies have increased that number to a whopping 17 or 18 nuts per cup, which increases calories and protein. So, if you are looking for a creamier product, the milk options with more nuts can provide that perfect mouth feel while also providing more protein. However, keep in mind that the calcium or vitamin D amounts may not increase.
Limit the amount of rice milk you consume due to high levels of arsenic (!). Arsenic is found in rice since rice can soak it up from soil and water. A half a cup of rice milk could put an adult at the daily limit. Consume with care.
In the end, what do you need to know?
Get enough protein. Look for at least 7 grams per cup. Dairy provides 8 grams per cup.
Limit added sugar. A cup of dairy milk contains three teaspoons of lactose (milk sugar). Most non-dairy milk naturally has 0-2 grams of sugar. Anything over the 2 grams is going to be added sugar. Choose an unsweetened option, and add your own flavoring like vanilla if you find it too bland.
Choose healthy fats. If you do drink dairy milk, choose nonfat or 1%. For milk alternatives, you don’t need to worry. The fats from nuts, seeds, or soy are the healthier kind.
Know what you are missing. If you are transitioning from dairy milk to a milk alternative, consider the nutritional value of dairy milk. Dairy milk is rich in calcium, vitamin b12, and potassium. Try to find milk alternatives that have similar nutrients!