If you asked me when I was little where milk came from my only answer would be “a cow.” Now it seems there are a million answers to that question! Cow, goat, almond, coconut, hazelnut, soy, rice, hemp, multigrain, oat, even potato! With so many options, it gets a little confusing to decide which is the optimal choice. How do each of these milk alternatives compare nutritionally to cow’s milk? Why you might choose a milk product not made from a cow? I’ll lay out the information needed to make the best decision for you and compare the more popular milk alternatives.
This happens when the body doesn’t make enough of the enzyme lactase that helps break down the naturally-occurring sugar in milk, lactose. This leads to bloating, cramping, diarrhea or gas soon after drinking milk.
An allergy is different from an intolerance in that an allergy causes an immune response. The two types of protein sources in cow’s milk that cause allergic reactions are casein (found in the solid part of milk that curdles) and whey (the liquid part of milk that remains after milk curdles). Symptoms can occur within minutes or hours of consuming milk because the body perceives the protein as a foreign invader. These symptoms may include wheezing, vomiting, hives and digestive problems. Rarely, milk allergy can cause a severe, life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis.
Dairy comes from cows, honey comes from bees, eggs come from birds, etc. A vegan diet omits all products that come from an animal and would therefore use a plant-based source of milk.
Some people prefer the taste of one type of milk over another. For example, I particularly think almond milk adds a unique flavor when I use it to make muesli (oats, dried fruit, nuts, cinnamon, etc. soaked overnight with milk).
A few points to consider when determining which milk source to choose:
Cow’s milk: 8 grams of protein
Soy milk: 5-10 grams of protein
Almond milk: 1 gram of protein
Rice milk: 0.28 grams to 1 gram
Cow’s milk: 30% Daily Value
Soy milk: 4-30% Daily Value
Almond milk: 20-45% Daily Value
Rice milk: 2-25% Daily Value
Calories (per cup/ 8 fluid ounces)
Plain Cow’s milk: 80 (skim), 100 (1%), 120 (2%) 150 (whole)
Plain Soy milk: 105
Plain Almond milk: 60
Plain Rice milk: 120
Keep in mind that the sweetened versions of milk (chocolate, vanilla, etc) contain more calories and grams of sugar compared to the plain version. Aside from nutritional content, the flavor does play a big role in the choice. I’ve only tried the four compared above and I think the plain versions are pretty nasty. There are unsweetened flavored options
What milk alternatives have you tried? Which did you like or dislike and why?
P.S. I’m not personally endorsing the Silk brand; I simply used the pictures to give examples. Pick whichever brand floats your boat.