13 Best Milk Alternatives | The Healthiest Options to Try

Whether you're vegan, lactose-intolerant, or just trying to change your milk routine, milk alternatives can provide a strong nutritional profile and a range of flavours to keep things interesting. All the products lined on grocery stores shelves can make things a bit daunting and confusing with all the different options. 

But how do you know which one contains what and what is the nutritional profile? Check out the best milk replacements to decide the best milk substitute for yourself:

Reasons Why You Would Want to Switch to Vegan Milk?

Dietary Restrictions: If you are vegan, or you just want to exclude animal products from your diet for health or ethical reasons, then you need to switch to dairy-free options. For instance, vegans exclude all items that come or are made, from animals.

Milk Allergy: 2-3% of children under 3 are allergic to cow's milk. This can cause a variety of symptoms, such as vomiting, rashes, diarrhoea, and extreme anaphylaxis. To avoid these consequences, you will have to switch to milk alternatives. 

Possible Health Risks: Some people prefer to avoid cow's milk because of fears about potential toxins, including pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones.

Lactose Intolerance: About 75% of the world's population is lactose-intolerant. This disorder arises when people have a lactase deficiency - an enzyme that digests lactose.

To Cut Back on Calories: Some people opt for milk alternatives as a way of reducing their calorie intake. Cow's milk has around 11-12 g lactose sugar. So, on average, one 8oz glass of milk offers 130 calories. While, an unsweetened substitute for milk, on the other hand, can offer as low as 30 calories in the same glass.

The best part is that there are plenty of non-dairy options available out there. Read on to find some great recommendations.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is a pretty good alternative for milk if you are looking for something with a neutral taste and a less creamy texture. When fortified, it typically contains the same level of vitamin D and calcium as cow's milk.

Rice milk is produced with milled white or brown rice as well as water. It is the least allergenic of all non-dairy types of milk. This makes it a healthy choice for people with allergies or intolerances to milk, gluten, soy or nuts. It has a somewhat watery consistency and is perfect to use in smoothies, desserts, and porridge.

One cup rice milk packs 130–140 calories, 2–3 g fat, 1 g protein and 27–38 g carbohydrates.

rice-milk

Cashew Milk

This is another one of the latest additions to the list of dairy-free milks. Cashew milk is made from a combination of cashews and water, resulting in a creamy liquid. It is usually fortified with vitamins A, D and B-12, and calcium. A cup of unsweetened cashew milk delivers 2–4 g fat, 25–50 calories, 1–2 g carbohydrates, and 0–1 g protein.

Cashew milk has a low protein content which means that it may not be the best choice for people with higher protein requirements. However, with just 25–50 calories per cup, unsweetened cashew milk is a fantastic, low-calorie choice for those trying to minimize their total daily calorie intake.

Cashew Milk

Soy Milk

Soy milk is produced using either soy protein isolate or soybeans, and it often has thickeners and vegetable oils, added to it, to improve its consistency and taste. Soy milk has a mild and creamy taste. It works the best as a dairy-free milk and a substitute for cow’s milk in coffee, savoury dishes, or on top of cereal.

It is also among the several plant-based sources packed with the highest-quality "complete" proteins that deliver all the essential amino acids to your body. A cup of unsweetened soy milk offers 4–4.5 g fat, 7–9 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, and 80–90 calories.

Soy Milk

Flax Milk 

Packing only 70 calories per cup, flax milk has a lot more to it than what meets the eye. Most store-bought versions of flax milk are made from a mix of flaxseed oil, pea protein, and water.

Flax milk is full of alpha-linoleic acids, which has been known to treat heart diseases. It is also used to lower high blood pressure, prevent heart attacks, lower high cholesterol levels and reverse the hardening of arteries and blood vessels. 

When fortified, this milk alternative offers just as much calcium as regular dairy milk, so it's beneficial for those who want adequate levels of calcium. It also boasts decent levels of omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, vitamins A and D, and is high in fibre.

Flax Milk

Almond Milk

Made from crushed almonds, water, and sweetener, almond milk is sweet to taste. It has a nutty flavour and a light texture profile. It can be used to make tea and coffee, or mixed in smoothies. Furthermore, you can use it as a substitute for cow’s milk when making cakes and desserts or baking other goods.

What’s even more interesting, almond milk is a naturally abundant source of vitamin E, a class of antioxidants that assist in the protection of the body from disease-causing substances called free radicals.

One cup of unsweetened almond milk offers 30–35 calories, 2.5 g fat, 1 g protein and 1–2 g carbohydrates.

Almond Milk

Oat Milk

Oat milk is prepared from a combination of oats and water. It is naturally creamy and sweet and mild in flavour. Some manufacturers oftentimes add extra ingredients such as salt, gums and oils to get a desirable texture and taste.

Oat milk houses added fibre, which makes it more filling as compared to other alternatives of milk. That being said, oat milk has lower levels of protein than non-fat cow’s milk. It also has a little more calories as compared to unsweetened almond milk, which might not be much when consuming it once in a while, but it can add up if you drink it frequently.

One cup of this vegan milk delivers 140–170 calories, 4.5–5 g fat, 2.5–5 g protein, and 19–29 g carbohydrates.

Oat Milk

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is manufactured with water and white flesh of brown coconuts. It offers a sweet but subtle coconut flavour and has a creamy texture. It delivers 30 % of our daily value (DV) of vitamin D and 50 % of our daily value of vitamin B-12

Moreover, coconut milk boasts the lowest carbohydrate and protein content of the dairy-free milks. This may not be good for people with high protein requirements, but it is perfect for those who want to tone down their carbohydrate intake.

One cup of coconut milk offers 45 calories, 4 g fat, zero protein, and almost no carbohydrates as well.

Coconut Milk

Pea Milk

Pea milk is prepared using water, pea protein isolate, and other emulsifiers such as sunflower oil, algal oil, gellan gums, and guar. It boasts a creamy texture similar to that of soy but with a bit less nutty taste. The algal oil delivers DHA, a key omega-3 fatty acid that is associated with immunity, cognition, and heart health.

Due to its impressively high protein content, it is a great drink for post-workout, especially if blended in to make a smoothie containing fruits for added carbohydrates. One cup of pea milk offers 70 calories, 8g protein, 5g fat, and no carbohydrates. It’s also high in calcium as well as potassium.

Pea Milk

Peanut Milk

Peanuts are like the crowned king of healthy foods, since they are beneficial both for the planet and human beings. They boast a similar nutrient and taste profile as other tree nuts such as hazelnuts, almonds, cashews, and walnuts, etc. But these legumes use way less water and actually grow underground.

Peanut milk not only tastes good, but it also offers impressive nutritional benefits including vitamins B6 and vitamin E, along with unsaturated fats, magnesium, and 6 g protein in each serving.

What’s more, protein-based goods are more cost-effective as compared to other milk alternatives and also boast a higher protein content apart from having a creamy texture and taste.

Peanut Milk

Quinoa Milk

Quinoa milk is prepared from the combination of water and quinoa. Quinoa is an edible seed that is usually made and consumed as a grain. The quinoa grain is full of nutritional perks, high in high-quality protein and gluten-free

Made from one of the best superfoods; quinoa, quinoa milk is a decent plant-based source for getting complete protein for vegans and vegetarians. Plus, it has a low glycaemic index, is rich in fibre, prevents constipation, and regulates cholesterol levels.

One cup of quinoa milk offers 70 calories, 1 g fat, 2 g protein, and 12 g carbohydrates. It also offers potassium, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin B, vitamin E, and essential fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3).

Quinoa Milk

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is manufactured by combining water and shelled hemp seeds together. The hemp seeds come from the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. Hemp milk has a slightly nutty, sweet flavour and a watery, thin texture. It works best when used as an alternative of lighter milks for instance skim milk.

It contains calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Likewise, it is a good choice for vegetarians and vegans, because of its high-quality protein and essential amino acids content.

One cup of unsweetened hemp milk offers 60–80 calories, 4.5–8 g fat, 2–3 g protein, and 0–1 g carbohydrates.

Hemp Milk

Walnut Milk

Walnut milk is one of the best options for you to pick if you are in the search of a milk alternative to increase your intake of plant-based omega-3s. As far as taste is concerned, it is a little more earthy as compared to other types of milks and houses 3 g of plant-based protein for 120 calories. It is best suited to use in coffee, tea, or smoothies to balance out the sweet-tasting fruits.

Unsweetened milk is low in carbohydrates and high in proteins and fats. All these nutrients work in harmony to maintain the blood sugar levels and keep them steady. Moreover, walnuts are especially rich in two groups of antioxidants: ellagitannins and tocopherols, which provide protection against inflammation.

Walnut Milk

Macadamia Milk

Macadamia milk is prepared using water and around 3% macadamia nuts. It boasts a creamier, smoother, and richer flavour as compared to majority non-dairy milk and tastes amazing on its own or in smoothies and coffee. 

What’s more, macadamia milk is an extraordinary source of healthy monounsaturated fats whose intake can reduce blood pressure, risk of heart disease, and blood cholesterol levels, and it also houses omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Macadamia nuts are also full of magnesium, Vitamin B1, and manganese. 

One cup of macadamia milk delivers 50–55 calories, 4.5–5 g fat, 1–5 g protein, and 1 g carbohydrates.

Macadamia Milk

Factors to Consider Before Substituting 

Additives: Some non-dairy milks have additives like guar gum, carrageenan, and gellan gum that help to achieve a smooth and thick texture. Although these are widely accepted as safe by the FDA, many people complain about gastrointestinal problems after consuming them. So, it is better to avoid additives whenever possible. 

Allergies: Some people are allergic or intolerant to certain ingredients, like soy, gluten, and nuts, used in plant-based milks. It is better to check for the ingredients on the label if you are intolerant or allergic to something.

Hidden Sugars: Sugar is frequently added to plant-based milk alternatives to improve their texture and flavour. Stick with unsweetened and unflavoured options over-sweetened and flavoured ones. Plus, try avoiding brands that list sugar as of their first 3 ingredients.

Nutritional Profile: Go for a milk alternative with a nutritional profile similar to that of cow’s milk. Choose an alternative fortified with vitamin B12 and calcium to make up for their absence and has about 12 g carbohydrates and 8 g protein per ounce. 

Takeaway

While milk may be a trustworthy source of calcium for vegetarians, people have begun exploring dairy-free and vegan options because of allergies and as an effort to take care of the environment and lower their cholesterol and fat intake. 

So, if you need a substitute for milk for drinking, cooking, or baking, the above-discussed options will always be a safe bet no matter what the situation. Use them in your recipes or just consume on their own and reap the benefits of all the nutrients they pack inside.

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