Sorting out Milk Alternatives

There are plenty of fresh alternatives if cow’s milk doesn’t work well for you.

Ana Piper
Today’s market offers a variety of milk alternatives to meet dietary needs.

Soy milk has long been an alternative to cow’s milk for those with sensivities, but in today’s market myriad other choices have popped up. Below we try to make sense of the milk alternatives and which will benefit you best.

Oat Milk

Good for those with food sensitivities and restrictions

Oat milk is free of lactose, nuts, dairy and soy as well as gluten. Oat-based products are the perfect option for those trying to find a milk alternative. According to Cleveland Clinic medicine dietitian Jorden Edinger, oat milk has more protein and fiber compared to other plant-based milks, but is higher in carbohydrates and calories checking in at about 100 calories per serving

Soy Milk

Good for those who seek a nutrient-rich dietary alternative

Known as the original plant-based milk alternative, soy milk isn’t new to the scene, but still stands strong in the market. In a study by the Journal of Food Science and Technology, it was concluded that soy milk was the best alternative to cow’s milk in terms of balanced nutritional content, high protein and fiber.

Almond Milk

Good for those searching for a low-calorie option

For those looking for a low-calorie alternative to cow’s milk, almond milk can’t be beat with only 40 calories per serving, according to Cleveland Clinic registered dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick. However, almond milk is naturally low in protein, at only one gram per serving due to the way the almonds are processed to make milk.

Pea Milk

Good for those looking for a protein-rich, nut alternative milk

High in protein at eight grams per serving and low in sugar, pea milk is one of the newest alternatives to the market that is comparable to cow’s milk. However, being a newcomer, minimal research and studies have been conducted to weigh the pros and cons.

Hemp Milk

For people who want a milk rich in omega-3

Hemp milk is rich in nutrients, vitamins and heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids, according to Kirkpatrick. With a creamy consistency it can be a great substitute for cow’s milk for those who prefer a thicker product. Hemp milk has been in the market for years but was always imported due to laws against growing hemp in the United States. A newly-minted law in 2018 legalized hemp farming in the U.S.; thus, anticipate more hemp-based milks in the future. 

Coconut Milk

For those who prefer a low-carb, high-fat diet

Extracted from the white, fleshy part of mature coconuts, coconut milk is a relative newcomer in the non-dairy milk market. Due to its high fat count, it isn’t recommended as a healthy dairy alternative, but for someone on a high-fat, low-carb diet—such as keto— it could be used as an alternative to meet fat intake goals. Dr. Mark Hyman, the director of functional medicine at the Cleveland Clinic, recommends buying light, unsweetened coconut milk to get the most nutritional benefits out of it.