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Almond milk. Coconut milk. Oat milk… Oh my! When it comes to non-dairy milk alternatives, the glass is not only half-full, but overflowing with options. And with so many options, comes several questions. That’s where we come in.
There are plenty of reasons that people are trying plant milks in place of cow’s milk: lactose intolerance, a vegan lifestyle, inflammation, hormones, antibiotics, and of course, ethical concerns. But even if none of these are a priority for you, you may still be curious about the sudden rise of plant milks and the differences between all of them. So we’re exploring the pros and cons of the most popular non-dairy milks on the market.
In general, dairy-alternatives tend to have fewer calories, less fat, less protein (except soy) and more water content for better hydration. But let’s break it down.
- All milk alternatives contain less fat and fewer calories than cow’s milk.
- Most are lower in protein. But soybean, pea and flaxseed milk contain the same amount or a little more.
- All have comparable sodium levels to cow’s milk, except coconut, which is much lower. (15 mg vs. 105 mg)
- Pea protein milk and soymilk have more potassium than cow’s milk.
- Almond, pea, and flaxseed milk have more calcium than cow’s milk.
In addition to this nutritional information, it’s important to note that a lot of plant-based milk contain thickening agents that often upset the digestive system. Pro-tip: if you see carrageenan, guar gum, xanthum gum, locust bean gum or gellan gum listed on the ingredients, you may want to put it back on the shelf and reach for something else.
Of course, nutrition is important when thinking about which milk is going to off-set that Oreo cookie. But environmental impact is another factor that comes into play. According to a recent study done at the University of Oxford, dairy milk uses nine times more land to make a liter of milk as compared to rice, soy, oat or almond milk. However, not all plant-based milks are created equally. Almonds require irrigation, using the most water of all non-dairy options. Rice emits the most greenhouse gases while soy and oat milks require more land than other non-dairy beverages. So, when you’re considering your choices, make sure to consider the planet.
Speaking of going green, it’s time to talk money. A gallon of regular or organic cow’s milk costs about $4 on average. Alternatives such as oat milk is going to be more expensive for the same volume, but varieties like almond, coconut, flaxseed, cashew and rice milk are more comparable in price. So, if you’re looking to spend less dough on milk, these options are for you.
Now that you’ve got the skinny on plant-based milks, it hopefully feels less like udder chaos. With the variety of milk alternatives coupled with the nutritional benefits and a low carbon footprint, we’re confident you can find one your taste buds will approve of. What are you waiting for? Get moo-ving to the grocery store and find you and your cereal’s new favorite milk.