If You Can’t Drink Dairy, What about the Alternatives?

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

Growing up, I absolutely loved drinking milk. There was nothing like a big glass of ice-cold milk first thing in the morning, or even throughout the day.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten to where I’m intolerant to dairy and can no longer consume it. But, because I still wanted to drink glasses of milk, it made me switch to milk alternatives. As I made the switch, I realized just how many different milk alternatives are out there! It made me wonder if there was any nutritional difference between them, and if so, which one was better?

Before we look at which alternative milk is the healthiest, just how many different milks are there? Some of the different alternative milk options that exist include oat, almond, soy, pea, quinoa, coconut, rice, pistachio, walnut, spelt, hemp, macadamia, cashew, hazelnut, sesame, flax, and even banana! While it is incredibly unfortunate that some of us can’t have cow’s milk, it is nice that there is a wide variety of options available to us!

Out of all of those different milk varieties, which one is healthier? A study was done to compare the nutrient content of pea, soy, almond, hemp, oat, cashew, coconut, and rice milk. According to Dr. Ben Redan, “Pea-based milk alternative products contained, on average, higher amounts of a majority of the measured mineral micronutrients versus soy-based milk alternatives. Either soy- or pea-based milk alternatives contained higher amounts of target mineral micronutrients in comparison to the other six types of plant-based milk alternatives we assessed.”

The next thing that you might be wondering is which one tastes better. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer on which alternative milk tastes the best, as it all comes down to personal preference. Of all of the milk alternatives that I have tried, I have found that I like each one for a certain reason. Oat milk is nice because of its creamy, nutty flavor, and I think it is the best in coffee. Almond milk is much waterier but is smooth and almost flavorless, and in my opinion, it is the closest to cow’s milk. Cashew and coconut milk are the creamiest, and in terms of their flavor, cashew has a very mild flavor, but coconut tastes strongly of coconut. And while banana milk might sound weird, it is actually delicious! It is super thick, creamy, and sweet, almost like melted ice cream!

While there is no perfect substitute for cow’s milk, it is nice that there are some alternative options for those of us who can’t consume dairy.

And remember, nothing is added to cow’s milk. It’s 100% milk. Every serving of milk provides vitamins, minerals, protein, and energy (calories). This includes 13 essential nutrients, just as protein, calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D, vitamin B12, riboflavin, niacin, phosphorus, pantothenic acid, zinc, selenium, iodine and potassium. Most milk alternatives have a list of additives, including sugar.

If you’re drinking an alternative because you’ve been told it’s healthier and not because of dairy intolerance, you might need to revisit the nutritional gain from drinking good ‘ole dairy milk.

For more health-related articles, check out the Fill Your Plate blog!


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