Milk alternatives – do you know the options?


By:  Rini Jablonski, Healthy Aggies intern

“Milk” is not the same as it was a mere five years ago. When perusing the milk section at any grocery store, you may notice that there is a whole lot more to choose from than your classic dairy milk. Some of these alternative milk forms include nut milks, hemp milk, coconut milk, oat milk, and the list goes on. So you may be wondering, what is the benefit of each particular milk? We are here to answer your burning questions about the rapidly expanding world of alternative milks with a list that highlights some of the most common ones and their benefits.

1) Almond milk:

Almond milk is made from mixing ground almonds and water, then straining that mixture. It is rich in Vitamins E and A and is often fortified with Calcium. On average, unsweetened almond milk offers the lowest amount of calories as far as alternative milks go, at 40 calories per 8 fluid ounces. It is also a common misconception that almond milk provides a sufficient amount of protein. While almonds contain around 6 grams of protein per serving, one 8-fluid ounce serving of almond milk only contains around 1 gram of protein. To put this into perspective, one serving of nonfat dairy milk contains around 9 grams of protein.

Almond milk takeaway: Lowest in calories and contains no saturated fat but also contains little protein.

2) Soy milk:

Soy milk is made from soybean flour and water. Compared to other milk alternatives it has the highest amount of protein, averaging around 7 grams per serving. In addition, soy milk provides good amounts of Calcium, Vitamins A and D, and iron. Its calorie count is on average 80 calories per 8 fluid ounce of unsweetened plain soy milk.

Soy milk takeaway: Provides more protein than any of the other alternative milks.

3) Coconut milk beverage:

The coconut milk beverage you see in the milk section of a store is very different from the coconut milk product you may see in a can elsewhere. It is much thinner, and is the product of straining coconut meat twice and mixing the remaining liquid with water. Coconut milk beverage does not naturally contain vitamins A, D, and calcium, but may be fortified with them. Per 8 fluid ounces, coconut milk offers around 50 calories. It does not offer much protein at less than one gram per serving. Lastly, although not scientifically confirmed, coconut milk beverage is thought by some to contain Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT), a type of fat that may be helpful in overall health.

Coconut milk takeaway: Good for people with soy allergies; but not a good source of protein.

4) Hemp milk:

Hemp milk is made from soaking ground hemp seeds in water, and it is described as having a grassy flavor. It naturally provides a good source of Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, and Vitamins B and D. It averages around 60 calories for 8 fluid ounces. Hemp milk contains about 4 grams of protein per serving. All of the vitamins and minerals listed above are essential for bodily functions such as bone growth and muscle movement.

Hemp milk takeaway: Provides good amounts of vitamins and minerals essential for bone and muscle function.

5) Oat milk:

In a similar fashion as the milks above, oat milk is made by mixing ground oats with water and straining the mixture. Oat milk contains a naturally sweet flavor, and it is often enriched with vitamins B12, Riboflavin, A, and D. It contains about 3 grams of protein per serving. Oat milk is a great alternative for people who are either vegan, lactose-free, and allergic to either soy/nuts.

Oat milk takeaway: Provides best source of B vitamins, has naturally sweetened flavor; not a great source of protein.

Conclusion: There are even more options of milk out there, including and not limited to pea milk, lactose-free milk, and different nut milks. Finding your preferred milk depends on your own taste preferences and how your body reacts to each one. For sure, opt for the unsweetened version, as sweetened or flavored versions of these milks will often contain high amounts of added sugar. But overall, I find it fascinating that a whole market of milks exists to suit people’s nutritional needs, and it is exciting to explore the world of alternative milks.



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