When did going to the store to buy milk become so complicated? I remember when we switched from whole to 2% as a kid, and that was a big deal! We also had a milkman (yes, I am that old!)—but that’s a different story.
Not only do we have whole, 2%, 1% and skim there are all of those non-dairy milks. Everywhere you look there are ads for almond, rice and soy milks, just to name a few.
But the question is, do we really need them or is it just a trend?
There are many reasons why people choose non-dairy milk over cow’s milk.
Lactose intolerance, milk allergies (quite different from lactose intolerance), and veganism are just a few.
Soy, rice, and almond milk contain no cholesterol because they’re plant-based, so they can be a healthy choice for people trying to reduce cholesterol consumption.
Cow’s milk isn’t as “bad” as some believe. It contains calcium and vitamin D which many people do not get enough of, and it’s also a wonderful source of protein.
I dare say there are probably people who drink the non-dairy milk because it is popular these days, but that’s not a bad thing.
So what are some of the non-dairy milks and what are their benefits?
Soy milk is made from filtered water and whole soybeans.
This milk is a very popular dairy alternative and has the closest nutritional profile to cow’s milk.
While most brands of soy milk contain the same amount of protein, vitamin D and calcium as cow’s milk, other brands of soy milk do not contain any added vitamins or other nutrients.
So, always read ingredients lists and nutritional information carefully before you make your choice.
Almond milk is a good alternative to cow’s milk when you are looking to cut calories.
This nut milk is made from almond base containing filtered water and ground almonds.
Unfortunately it contains very little protein—just one gram per cup.
Though most varieties of almond milk are fortified with vitamins and other nutrients, there are others that don’t contain vitamin D or calcium.
Rice milk is a nice option when you want something with a neutral flavor.
Though some feel that rice milk is not as creamy as other non-dairy milk alternatives, when fortified, it usually does contain the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as cow’s milk.
But if you’re looking for protein this probably isn’t the milk for you.
Coconut milk from the cooler is not the same as the canned coconut milk you purchase to make your favorite Thai dish.
The ingredients found in refrigerated and shelf-stable coconut milk cartons include coconut cream (water, coconut, guar gum,) cane sugar and added nutrients.
Canned coconut milk simply contains coconut water (juice.) Coconut milk is a good alternative when you want something creamy and sweet.
Though this milk offers 30% DV of vitamin D and 50% DV of vitamin B12, it contains little added calcium and just one gram of protein per cup.
If you’re looking to reduce you saturated fat intake, keep in mind that coconut milk is the only non-dairy milk we’ve seen that contains as much saturated fat as whole cow’s milk.
When researching the different non-dairy milks, look for higher levels of protein, low or no added sugars, and added (fortified) vitamins and minerals that you find in cow’s milk (30% DV calcium and about 25% DV vitamin D.)
Note that not all dairy alternatives are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and the amount of these added nutrients varies from brand to brand.
Be sure to read labels to find the nutrition profile that fits your needs, especially if calcium and vitamin D are important considerations for your diet.
Hopefully this information will help make your cow or non-dairy milk buying a little less confusing. If you’ve never tried any of the non-dairy milks, give a shot.
You’ll never know until you try!