Milk…one day it’s in and the next day it’s out. The American Milk Council has a done a great job of teaching us that we need milk to get calcium and be healthy…but repeated studies have also shown that there are some downsides to milk.
With all of this information I think it’s great to know about the other choices out there and to see if one might be worth adding to your diet if you have any concerns about dairy allergies or other issues from cow’s milk. I’ve tried nearly every variety on the market now and thought a quick break down could be helpful.
The first option to hit mass market shelves was soy milk. Soy milk is often one of the cheapest and easiest to find alternatives for those looking to try something besides dairy in their cereal, baking or smoothies. The debate continues on about the pros and cons of soy in the diet, so this is a personal decision each will need to make but some of the proposed benefits are the lower sugar content, phytoestrogens, low cholesterol and some fortified brands could help with calcium absorption.
Good Karma recently sent me three varieties of flax milk to try. I had not yet seen this option and was excited to find that the taste is creamy and the calories remain consistently low in each variety. I found myself drinking the original and vanilla alone when I wanted a treat and I was supremely happy with all the smoothies I had. So in terms of taste flax milk is great and since it is a little thicker it should work as a substitute in most baking.
Flax Milk also provides you the benefit of natural Omega 3’s! If you aren’t a daily fish or walnut eater, this is a great way to ensure that you are receiving the benefits in foods that you already enjoy. This is also one of the lower calorie milk substitutes I have seen with each averaging between 40-60 calories per cup.
However, unlike ground flax it does not have the fiber and does not provide any protein. If your are interested in trying Good Karma Flax Milk checkout their store locator to find it near you. Many of you may know this brand previously from their original Organic Rice Devine (milk and ice cream!). This is another company with a great mission that I really love “We set out to make frozen desserts and novelties indistinguishable from the finest ice creams, but with the added benefits of being dairy-free and gluten-free so they could be enjoyed by everyone.”
Another reason to look beyond Soy Milk is that anyone with a nut allergy may find that soy milk will also cause symptoms. Flax milk, rice milk, and coconut milk are the best alternatives in that case.RICE MILK
Rice milk is generally made from brown rice boiled and then strained, so no worries you are not indulging in the dreaded white food by enjoying rice milk. Rice milk is naturally sweet from the grain so it does not work well in all baking situations, but is generally accepted for cereal and smoothies. This is another great vegan option. However, as with many of the other choices I like to spread my nutrition around so I choose to keep this as an occasional choice rather than daily.
Due to a higher fat content coconut milk is often a last choice for many people, but it is a great alternative. Coconut milk like SoDelicious or Silk Coconut contains protein and the fat is the kind your body needs to help you burn fat (medium chain fatty acid). Many coconut milks are slightly creamier making them great for muesli, smoothies and yogurt.
Studies have also shown that lauric acid can help to increase the bodies immune system and because this occurs naturally in breast milk it may be an alternative for babies when needed.
Selecting unsweetened almond milk can make it a better choice for those watching their blood sugar than many other varieties. Almond milk is also one of the best choices for calcium, as many brands contain 30% or more of the recommended daily value. Almond milk is also good for the skin with Vitamin E.
However it should be understood that almond milk does not provide the same benefits as whole almonds. Again because I like to spread my nutrition around, I limit my almond milk intake in favor of daily nut servings.
Hemp milk has the strongest flavor of the listed milk alternatives and makes it something that many have to adjust to. Hemp milk also contains the 10 essential amino acids, which is why it is often a favorite among vegans as a protein source. Hemp milk also does not pose a problem for those with a nut allergy. Hemp milk is generally a little more expensive and can spoil more quickly than other varieties.
Here’s a quick overview of how some of the nutrition compares on standard brands:
Are you a milk drinker? A milk substitute fan?
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