Daisy Coyle writes:
"Cow’s milk is considered a staple in many people’s diets. It is consumed as a beverage, poured on cereal and added to smoothies, tea or coffee. While it is a popular choice for many, some people can’t or choose not to drink milk due to personal preferences, dietary restrictions, allergies or intolerances. Fortunately, if you’re looking to avoid cow’s milk, there are plenty of non-dairy alternatives available. This article lists nine of the best substitutes for cow’s milk.
Why You Might Want a Substitute
Cow’s milk boasts an impressive nutrient profile. It’s rich in high-quality protein and important vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins. In fact, 1 cup (240 ml) of whole milk provides 146 calories, 8 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and 13 grams of carbohydrates. However, cow’s milk is not a suitable option for everyone. There are several reasons you might be looking for an alternative, including:
Milk allergy: 2–3% of kids under the age of three are allergic to cow’s milk. This can cause a range of symptoms, including rashes, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe anaphylaxis. Around 80% of kids outgrow this allergy by age 16.
Lactose intolerance: An estimated 75% of the world's population is intolerant to lactose, the sugar found in milk. This condition happens when people have a deficiency in lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose.
Dietary restrictions: Some people choose to exclude animal products from their diets for ethical or health reasons. For example, vegans exclude all products that come from animals, including cow’s milk.
Potential health risks: Some people choose to avoid cow’s milk due to concerns over potential contaminants, including antibiotics, pesticides and hormones.
The good news is that there are many non-dairy options available if you want or need to avoid cow’s milk. Read on for a few great recommendations.
Soy milk is made with either soybeans or soy protein isolate, and often contains thickeners and vegetable oils to improve taste and consistency. It typically has a mild and creamy flavour. However, the taste can vary between brands. It works best as a substitute for cow’s milk in savoury dishes, with coffee or on top of cereal.
Summary Soy milk is made from whole soybeans or soy protein isolate. It has a creamy, mild taste and is the most similar in nutrition to cow’s milk. Soy milk is often seen as controversial, though drinking soy milk in moderation is unlikely to cause harm.
Almond milk is made with either whole almonds or almond butter and water.
It has a light texture and a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. It can be added to coffee and tea, mixed in smoothies and used as a substitute for cow’s milk in desserts and baked goods.
Summary Almond milk has a light, sweet, nutty flavour and is low in calories, fat and carbohydrates. On the downside, it is low in protein and contains phytic acid, a substance that limits the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium.
Coconut milk is made from water and the white flesh of brown coconuts. It is sold in cartons alongside milk and is a more diluted version of the type of coconut milk commonly used in Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines, which is usually sold in cans.
In its simplest form, oat milk is made from a mixture of oats and water. Nevertheless, manufacturers often add extra ingredients such as gums, oils and salt to produce a desirable taste and texture. Oat milk is naturally sweet and mild in flavour. It can be used in cooking in the same way as cow’s milk, and tastes great with cereal or in smoothies.
Summary Oat milk has a mild, sweet flavour. It is high in protein and fibre, but also high in calories and carbohydrates. Oat milk contains beta-glucan, which can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Rice milk is made from milled white or brown rice and water. As with other non-dairy milks, it often contains thickeners to improve texture and taste. Rice milk is the least allergenic of the non-dairy milks. This makes it a safe option for those with allergies or intolerances to dairy, gluten, soy or nuts. Rice milk is mild in taste and naturally sweet in flavour. It has a slightly watery consistency and is great to drink on its own as well as in smoothies, in desserts and with oatmeal. Rice milk has a high glycaemic index (GI) of 79–92, which means it is absorbed quickly in the gut and rapidly raises blood sugar levels. For this reason, it may not be the best option for people with diabetes. Due to its low protein content, rice milk may also not be the best option for growing children, athletes and the elderly.
Cashew milk is made from a mixture of cashew nuts or cashew butter and water. It is rich and creamy and has a sweet and subtle nutty flavour. It’s great for thickening smoothies, as a creamer in coffee and as a substitute for cow’s milk in desserts.
Summary Cashew milk has a rich and creamy taste and is low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar. On the downside, it contains very little protein, and may not be the best option for those with higher protein requirements.
Macadamia milk is made mostly of water and about 3% macadamia nuts. It’s fairly new to the market, and most brands are made in Australia using Australian macadamias. It has a richer, smoother and creamier flavour than most non-dairy milks, and tastes great on its own or in coffee and smoothies.
Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa. This is the same species used to make the drug cannabis, also known as marijuana. Unlike marijuana, hemp seeds contain only trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for marijuana’s mind-altering effects. Hemp milk has a slightly sweet, nutty taste and a thin, watery texture. It works best as a substitute for lighter milks such as skim milk.
Quinoa milk is made from water and quinoa, an edible seed that is commonly prepared and consumed as a grain. The whole quinoa grain is very nutritious, gluten-free and rich in high-quality protein. While quinoa has become a very popular “superfood” over recent years, quinoa milk is fairly new to the market. For this reason, it is slightly more expensive than other non-dairy milks and can be a little harder to find on supermarket shelves.
With a wide range of non-dairy milks available on supermarket shelves, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you.
Here are a few important things to consider:
Added sugar: Sugar is often added to enhance flavour and texture. Stick with unsweetened varieties over flavoured ones, and try to avoid brands that list sugar as one of the first three ingredients.
Calcium content: Cow’s milk is rich in calcium, which is vital for healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis. Most non-dairy milks are fortified with it, so choose one that contains at least 120 mg of calcium per 3.4 ounces (100 ml).
Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products and is essential for a healthy brain and immune system. People who limit or avoid animal products from their diets should choose milk that is fortified with B12.
Cost: Non-dairy milks are often more expensive than cow’s milk. To cut costs, try making plant-based milk at home. However, one downside of making your own milk is that it will not be fortified with calcium and vitamin B12.
Additives: Some non-dairy milks may contain additives such as carrageenan and vegetable gums to achieve a thick and smooth texture. While these additives aren't necessarily unhealthy, some people prefer to avoid them.
Dietary needs: Some people have allergies or intolerances to certain ingredients used in plant-based milks, such as gluten, nuts and soy. Be sure to check labels if you have an allergy or intolerance.
Summary There are a few things to consider when choosing a cow’s milk alternative, including nutrient content, added sugars and additives. Reading food labels will help you understand what’s in the milk you are buying.
The Bottom Line
For many people, cow’s milk is a dietary staple. However, there are a number of reasons you may need or choose to forgo cow’s milk, including allergies, ethical reasons and concerns over potential health risks. Fortunately, there are many great alternatives available, including the nine in this list. When making your choice, be sure to stick with unsweetened varieties and avoid added sugars. In addition, make sure your non-dairy milk is fortified with calcium and vitamin B12. There is no one milk that’s ideal for everyone. The taste, nutrition and cost of these alternatives can vary considerably, so it might take a while to find the one that’s best for you."
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We bring a variety of articles, studies etc. plus recent news/views and recipe ideas to this blog, we hope something for everyone to read and enjoy. But please note, not all may be suitable for you. If you may have any food allergies, or underlying health issues these must always be taken into account. If you are a diabetic and not sure how certain foods may affect your blood sugars, test is best, i.e. use your meter.
All the best Jan