What’s the Best Non-Dairy Milk?

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For many, consuming dairy, particularly drinking milk, can be problematic due to milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Stomach cramping, bloating, and loose stools may quickly result, leading many to seek non-dairy and lactose-free milk alternatives.

Luckily, food manufacturers have caught on, providing the grocery aisles with TONS of fantastic non-dairy milk options. The question remains, “What’s the best non-dairy milk?”

Let’s first explore the top 5 non-dairy milk options in order to make an accurate assessment!

  1. Soy milk:
    • What is it?
      • Grounded soybeans mixed with water and then strained
    • Top brands:
      • Soy Dream, Silk, WestSoy
    • Nutritional Profile (per 1 cup serving):
      • Unsweetened- 80 calories, 4g fat, 4 g carbs, 7 g protein
    • Pros:
      • High in protein
      • Minimally processed and typically does not require use of emulsifiers
      • Creamy and nutty taste
    • Cons:
      • Contains high levels of phytic acid, a natural compound found in soybeans, which inhibits absorption of essential minerals
      • Not suitable on a low FODMAP diet
      • Most soy is GMO and not organic
  2. Almond milk:
    • What is it?
      • Grounded almonds mixed with water and then strained
    • Top brands
      • Blue Diamond, Pacific, Silk, Almond Breeze 
    • Nutritional Profile (per 1 cup serving)
      • Unsweetened 30-35 calories, 2.5g fat, 1-2g carbs, 1 g protein
    • Pros
      • Low in calories
      • Smooth and creamy texture
      • Generally safe for low FODMAP diet
    •  Cons
      • Almonds are a common allergen
      • Lacks protein
      • Naturally low in most nutrients (unless fortified) 
      • May contain sweeteners, thickeners and emulsifiers
  3. Coconut milk:
      • What is it?
        • Coconut meat grated and soaked in hot water. Then, the cream is skimmed off and the remaining liquid is strained.
      • Top brands
        • Silk, So Delicious, Coconut Dream
      • Nutritional Profile (per 1 cup serving)
        • Unsweetened (carton) – 45 calories, 4-4.5 g fat, 1-2 g carbs, 0 g protein
        • Differences between canned and carton varieties
      • Pros
        • High in medium chain triglycerides which are easy to digest fat molecules with some potential health benefit  
        • Good source of potassium
        • Naturally rich and creamy with a slightly sweet coconut taste
      • Cons
        • Low in protein
        • Naturally low in most nutrients
        • Limit to 1/2 cup per meal when following a low FODMAP diet
        • High in saturated fat, which some individuals may need to limit
        • May contain emulsifiers, stabilizers and preservatives
  4. Rice milk:
    • What is it?
      • Cooked  brown rice, blended with additional water and then strained
    • Top brands
      • Rice Dream, Pacific, Vitasoy 
    • Nutritional Profile (per 1 cup serving)
      • Unsweetened- 70 calories, 2.5 g fat, 11 g carbs, 0 g protein
    • Pros
      • Least allergenic of all the dairy free milk alternatives
      • Easy to digest
    • Cons-
      • High in carbohydrates and calories
      • Low in protein
      • Naturally low in most nutrients (unless fortified)
      • Typically does not taste creamy due to low fat content
      • May contain arsenic from the rice
  5. Cashew milk: 
    • What is it?
      • Water soaked cashews blended with water and then strained
    • Top brands
      • Cashew Dream, So Delicious, Silk
    • Nutritional Profile (per 1 cup serving)
      • Unsweetened- 35-40 calories, 3-3.5g fat, 1-3 g carbs, 0-1 g protein
    • Pros
      • Creamy and nutty taste
      • Low in calories
      • High in vitamin E
    • Cons
      • Low in protein
      • Cashews are a common food allergen
      • Avoid if following a low FODMAP diet
      • Naturally low in most nutrients (unless fortified)
      • May contain sweetener and other additives

Okay, so now you probably have a pretty good understanding of some of the most popular non-dairy milk options on the market.

So, which one should you use?

I believe it depends on WHY you are using the milk!

Reasons For Using Milk:

  • To lighten up your coffee or tea
    • I prefer almond milk in this scenario since it is thick and creamy, and tends to mix well in hot beverages. Keep in mind that the characteristics of each milk may vary from brand to brand.
  • To wet your cereal
    • It really doesn’t matter!
  • To add to a smoothie or protein shake
    • It really doesn’t matter!
  • To obtain calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients
    • Most brands of non-dairy milks are fortified with these nutrients, but be sure to check the label because it may vary from brand to brand. You can find out by reading the nutrition facts label or by reading the ingredients list as most of these nutrients must be added to the milk since they are not naturally contained.
  • To increase lean muscle mass
    • Go for soy milk since it is the highest in protein and calories– two essential ingredients when you are looking to gain muscle.
  • To hydrate
    • Water is always the best option when it comes to hydration, but if you are drinking milk to hydrate opt for unsweetened almond or cashew milk since they are lowest in calories and carbohydrates and will not drastically spike your blood sugar levels.
  • To bake or incorporate into a recipe
    • It doesn’t matter too much, but remember that some of these milks have unique flavor profiles. I like to bake with coconut milk because of its high fat content and naturally sweet flavor. However, if you dislike the taste of coconut or know that this flavor profile will not go well with the recipe, then opt for a more neutral option like unsweetened, unflavored soymilk or almond milk.

I hope this gives you a bit of insight into the various types of non-dairy milk options. If you must follow a dairy free or milk free diet, I encourage you to experiment with different types of non-dairy milks as well as different brands. Find the one that works best for your body and for your needs!

If you need more help figuring out a diet plan that best suites you, please explore the services we offer at Food Sensitivity Solutions.

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