Cow’s milk has been a staple in people’s diets for years, however some people can’t or choose not to drink milk whether it be due to allergies/intolerances, preference, or dietary restrictions (If you do chose to drink cow’s milk, always look for organic 100% grass fed). There are a ton of milk alternatives out on the market, so many that it can get a little overwhelming knowing which is best for you and their nutritional value. Keep reading for a few of my recommendations!
Made from either whole almonds or almond butter and water, almond milk is light, slightly sweet, and has a nutty flavor. It’s one of the lowest-calorie non-dairy drinks and is lower in protein and carbs. Almond milk is mostly made up of water and only 2% almond, so it doesn’t really provide of the nutritional benefits of whole almonds like their protein, fiber, and healthy fats. The drink is still a good source of vitamin E helping protect from free radicals. If you rely on plant milks as your main source of protein and or calcium, make sure you are choosing an almond milk that is nutrient rich and without added sugars. Always read the label!
Nutritional Values: one cup of unsweetened milk contains 30-35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 1-2 grams of carbohydrates.
If you are trying to replace the nutritional value of milk, especially the protein, then soy milk is your best bet. Some brands even have more protein than cow’s milk, with half the calories. It contains “complete” proteins which provide the body with essential amino acids that must be obtained from diet. However, it often contains thickeners and vegetable oils to improve its taste and consistency. Soy is one of the most processed foods, so buying commercial soy milk might not be the best alternative. It also contains isoflavones which may affect estrogen receptors and therefore the body’s hormone function. Despite common belief, research shows that soy most likely does not significantly impact thyroid function. Choose whole, non-processed, non-GMO soy to obtain its full health benefits
Nutritional Values: one cup of unsweetened soy milk contains 80-90 calories, 4-4.5 grams of fat, 7-9 grams of protein, and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
Coconut milk beverage is made from water and the white flesh of brown coconuts. Its creamy and has a subtle coconut flavor, for this reason it’s great to add to fruit smoothies! Coconut milk has the lowest protein and carbohydrate content of non-dairy milks. Coconut milk contains a special type of saturated fats called, medium-chain triglycerides. These can be metabolized by the body for energy. But, regardless of what type, too much saturated fat can promote cardiovascular disease. Consuming too much coconut milk may be problematic but consuming a moderate amount should not be a huge concern.
Nutritional Values: one cup of unsweetened coconut milk beverage contains 45 calories, 4 grams of fat, 0 grams of protein, and 1 gram of carbohydrates.
Oat milk has gained popularity and in its simplest form is made from oats and water, but manufactures have begun to add gums and oils to produce a desirable taste and texture. It contains a similar number of calories as cow’s milk, and unsurprisingly is higher in carbs. One benefit of oat milk is its high in beta-glucagon. Beta-glucagon is a type of soluble fiber and as it passes through the gut it binds to cholesterol. This reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body, helping lower LDL levels. One reason oat milk has gained popularity how well it emulsifies in hot beverages. How well it froths also makes it amazing to add coffee and lattes.
Nutritional Values: I cup of oat milk contains 120 calories, 5 grams of fat, 16grams of carbs, and 3 grams of proteins.
Pea Milk is an emerging non-dairy alternative and no it doesn’t taste like peas. It’s made from yellow peas and is high in protein and has less calories than cow’s milk. Pea protein is high in branched-chained amino acids, which promote muscle growth and help regulate blood sugar. Many people like this non-dairy milk for its thickness and creamy texture. It’s also high in nutrients such as potassium, iron and calcium. However certain types of pea milk are high in sugar and contain sunflower oil, which is high in omega-6 fats leading to inflammation.
Nutritional Values: one cup of unsweetened pea milk contains 70 calories, 8 grams of protein, 0 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.5 grams of fats.
There are so many milk alternatives out there and its really all about finding what you like flavors wise, while making sure whichever alternative you chose fits your nutritional needs. Overall make sure you are choosing unsweetened organic products, and always read the label looking out for unnecessary additives!