As someone who’s lactose-intolerant, in the past I’ve often struggled with finding suitable alternatives to dairy. These days, more and more people are choosing not to consume dairy because of health and ethical reasons. This is great news for me because there are now more dairy-free milks available today than ever before. But what are the differences between all of these options? Each of them has their own unique flavor and nutritional value. Here I’ve laid them out for you so you don’t need to! Because why buy the cow when you have so many other milks to drink?
Creamy, thick and sweet, coconut milk is delicious and packed with nutrients, including vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6, and minerals including iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorous. However, coconut milk contains very little protein and is packed with both calories and saturated fat, so use sparingly! Coconut milk is definitely best for cooking curries and other rich dishes—not as a casual drink to sip on.
Cooking, baking, coffee and tea
Nutritional Low Down
Calories: 445 per cup
Fat: 48g (43g saturated)
Almond milk is similar to cow’s milk in texture and tastes faintly nutty, like almonds. It’s an excellent source of calcium and vitamins D & E. While low in calories, almond milk is unfortunately a feeble source of protein at only one gram per cup.
Be aware! Most of almond milk’s nutrients are added in during processing and most brands usually contain lecithin, which are starches and thickeners that help create that milk-like consistency you might be used to.
Baking, cereal, coffee and tea
Fat: 2.5g (0g saturated)
Soy milk is the best source of protein of the dairy-free milks (4 grams per cup!) and is packed with magnesium and vitamin D. It’s creamy, slightly sweet and tastes very similar to cow’s milk in texture.
However, while once the go-to for most dairy-free milks, soy has become controversial lately, with studies claiming that soy milk may not be the amazing cure-all for cancer, weight loss and cholesterol reduction that we once thought. Nonetheless, soy milk is a great alternative to less-healthy options since it can be a good source of polyunsaturated fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals for your heart and blood vessels.
Sauces, casseroles, soups, cereal
Fat: 2 g (0.5g saturated)
Rice milk is thin and sweet and can be an adequate substitute for dairy simply because of taste, color and lack of allergens. It also has no cholesterol or saturated fat. However, the nutritional benefits of rice milk are subpar: it’s low in protein and calcium and high in carbs and calories. You can find it fortified with calcium, but this also means that it comes with other additives that help thicken it and prolong shelf life.
Cereal, coffee and tea
Fat: 2g (0g saturated fat)
Hemp milk is not as common of a milk alternative, but it’s become a little more mainstream in recent years. Thick, nutty and a little grainy to the taste, hemp milk is made from hemp seeds, which are high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also an excellent source of phosphorous, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, fiber, calcium (about half of your recommended daily intake) and protein (3 grams per cup!).
Rich in protein and vitamin E (an antioxidant that promotes healthy hair and skin), hazelnut milk is becoming very popular especially in speciality coffee shops because of its roasted aroma and velvety texture. But the health benefits are equally impressive: it’s a good source of vitamins B1, B2 and B6 as well as folic acid and plant-based omega-3 fatty acids. Plus it’s soy, lactose and gluten-free!
Cereal, coffee and tea
Fat: 3.5 g