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What Is Non-Dairy Milk? Guide and Alternatives for Every Taste

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Nowadays, non-dairy milk is everywhere. If we’d take a look at the milk aisle of a grocery store today, we would notice that almost half the options are non-dairy milks. While cow’s milk consumption has fallen 40% since 1975,  the demand for plant-based alternatives continues to grow.

But what exactly is non-dairy milk? Also called plant-based milk, non-dairy milk refers to any beverage consumed as plant-based alternatives to animal milk. These, are made of a water-based plant extract for flavoring and aroma and often provide a creamy mouthfeel.

Plant-based beverages are usually packaged similars containers to those used for dairy milk, but in some places like the European Union, they can not be labeled ‘milk.

They have gotten popular in the last years but they have been consumed for centuries, with the term “milk-like plant juices” used since the 13th century.

Nowadays, there are more than 20 plants used to manufacture non-dairy milk; almond, soy, and coconut being the most popular and highest-selling worldwide.

Now that you know what non-dairy milk is, let’s take a deeper look into the world of plant-based milk and all the alternatives you can find today.

Reason to ditch cow’s milk for non-dairy milk

  • Several studies have linked the consumption of cow’s milk to the formation of acne. (1,2,)
  • Drinking too much cow’s milk has also been linked to an increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancer. (3)
  • 2–3% of kids under the age of three are allergic to cow’s milk. This can cause symptoms like rashes, vomiting, diarrhea, and anaphylaxis. (4, 5).
  • Approximately 75% of the world’s population is intolerant to lactose, the sugar found in milk.
  • Other people choose to o avoid cow’s milk due to concerns over potential contaminants, like antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones (6, 78).

Best non-dairy milk

Nowadays, options for non-dairy milk are abundant and can be overwhelming. We have put together a list of all vegan milks out there to help you be informed and hopefully, narrow your options.

1. Soy Milk

Soy milk was one of the first options available and is still one of the most popular. It is also, typically one of the cheapest options in the supermarket.

Made with soybeans, it has a mild flavor and a creamier texture than cow’s milk. It works great as a substitute for cow’s milk, in savory dishes, with coffee or cereal.

One cup (240 ml) of unsweetened soy milk contains 80–90 calories, 4–4.5 grams of fat, 7–9 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates (1011).

Finally, it is one of the few plant-based sources of “complete” protein, meaning it provides all the essential amino acids that cannot be produced by the body

. (12).

2. Almond Milk

Almond milk, is made from ground almonds and water. It is a low-calorie option with a thinner texture, so if you’re used to drinking skim milk, this could be a good substitute.

It has slightly sweet and nutty flavor working great on coffee, tea, smoothies, and a substitute for cow’s milk in desserts.

One cup (240 ml) of unsweetened almond milk contains 30–35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 1–2 grams of carbohydrates (1314).

Almond milk is made up of mostly water with some brands containing only 2% almonds. To make the most of the nutrients and health benefits of almonds, choose brands that contain 7–15% of almonds.

3. Coconut Milk

what is non dairy milk - 2

Coconut milk is made from water and the white flesh of brown coconuts.

It is sold in cartons as a more diluted version of coconut milk used in Southeast Asian and Indian cuisines, which is usually sold in cans.

Coconut milk has a creamy texture and a sweet but subtle coconut flavor. One cup (240 ml) contains 45 calories, 4 grams of fat, no protein and almost no carbohydrates (1415).

It may not be the best option for those with increased protein requirements, but it would suit those looking to reduce their carb intake.

4. Oat Milk

Oat milk is quickly becoming one of the favorites. In its purest form, it’s is made from a mixture of oats and water. However, manufacturers often add extra ingredients such as gums, oils, and salt to add taste and texture.

This plant-based milk is naturally sweet, making it a fantastic choice for tasty lattes. One cup (240 ml) contains 140–170 calories, 4.5–5 grams of fat, 2.5–5 grams of protein and 19–29 grams of carbohydrates (1617).

It can be a bit more expensive than soy milk or almond milk, but it is easy to make at home for a cheaper alternative.

5. Pea milk 

Pea milk is a new addition to the market and is yet not as widely available. Some vegans say pea milk has the closest flavor to cow’s.

Made out of pea protein and fortified with vitamins and minerals, it has a neutral taste that doesn’t inject as much flavor as most of the nut milks.

It contains 8 grams of protein and 75 calories per cup of unsweetened pea milk, while offering a healthy dose of omega-3 fats.

6. Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from milled white or brown rice and water and it ‘s a great alternative for those with gluten, soy or nut allergies.

As with other non-dairy milks, it often contains thickeners to improve texture and taste. One cup (240 ml) of rice milk contains 130–140 calories, 2–3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 27–38 grams of carbohydrates (1819).

However, be aware that it does contain inorganic arsenic, and consuming too much could pose a health risk. This is why rice milk is generally not recommended for growing children.

7. Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is made from a mixture of cashew nuts or cashew butter and water. It is relatively new but not that hard to find.

It has a rich and creamy texture with a sweet and subtle nutty flavor. Cashew milk works great for thickening smoothies, as a creamer in coffee and as a substitute for cow’s milk in desserts.

One cup (240 ml) of unsweetened cashew milk contains just 25–50 calories, 2–4 grams of fat, 0–1 gram of protein and 1–2 grams of carbohydrates (2021).

Due to its low protein content, cashew milk may not be the best option for people with high protein requirements. But if you’re looking for a low-carb option with a little extra fat, it’s a good choice.

8. Macadamia Milk

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.

One cup (240 ml) contains 50–55 calories, 4.5–5 grams of fat, 1–5 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates (2223).

It has a rich, smooth flavor, making it great on its own, with coffee or smoothies.

The low carbohydrate content also makes it a suitable option for people with diabetes or those practicing a low carb diet

 

.

 9. Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the hemp plant, Cannabis sativa, the same species used to make the drug cannabis, popularly known as marijuana.

One cup (240 ml) of unsweetened hemp milk contains 60–80 calories, 4.5–8 grams of fat, 2–3 grams of protein and 0–1 grams of carbohydrates (2324).

It has a slightly sweet, nutty taste and a thin, watery texture, working best as a substitute for skim milk. It is a good option for vegans and vegetarians since one glass provides 2–3 grams of high quality, complete protein, with all the essential amino acids.

10. Quinoa Milk

Quinoa milk is made from water and quinoa, an edible seed that is commonly consumed as a grain. While quinoa has become a very popular “superfood” in the last years, quinoa milk is still new to the market.

One cup (240 ml) contains 70 calories, 1 gram of fat, 2 grams of protein and 12 grams of carbohydrates (25). It’s a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. It’s also full of fiber and important minerals like magnesium and zinc.

Quinoa milk is slightly sweet and nutty and has a unique quinoa flavor. It works best poured onto cereal and in warm porridge.

It is slightly more expensive than other nondairy milks but if you find it at your local supermarket, it could be worth trying.

What to look for in your non-dairy milk

With a wide range of nondairy milks available on supermarket shelves, it can be difficult to know which one is best for you. Here are a few important factors to consider:

  • Sugar is often added to enhance flavor and texture. Look for unsweetened varieties and avoid those that list sugar as one of the first three ingredients.
  • Calcium is vital for healthy bones and preventing osteoporosis. Most non-dairy milks are fortified with it, so pick one with at least 120 mg of calcium per 3.4 ounces (100 ml).
  • Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal products and is essential for brain health and the immune system. Choosing milk that is fortified with B12 is an easy way to include it in your diet
  • Additives: Some non-dairy milks contain additives like carrageenan and vegetable gums for a thick and smooth texture. While these aren’t necessarily unhealthy, some people prefer to avoid them.
  • Dietary needs: If you have an allergy or intolerances to ingredients like gluten, nuts, and soy, be sure to check labels.
  • Oil is usually added to refrigerated milks but not so much to shelf’stable ones. If you rather stay away from oil make sure to pick a milk that doesn’t include it.
  • Fewer ingredients are usually a good indicator, look for plant milks with fewer ingredients or experiment making your own.
  • Choose your non-dairy milk based on your needs. Oat, soy, cashew, or macadamia work great for your coffee. For cereal, soy or almond milk is a good alternative. Finally, if you’re baking, check to see if the recipe calls for a specific substitute, and if not, try almond, cashew, or oat milk.

Make your own plant-based milk

If you want to get a non-dairy milk with literally zero additives you can make your own in the easiest way with a vegan milk maker like Almond Cow while saving time and money.

You can use any nut, seed, or grain to make homemade plant-based milk in minutes. It makes 5-6 cups of fresh milk at the touch of a button. No straining and super easy clean up.

You can get $10 off clicking here.

Takeaway

As you can see, there are a number of benefits of choosing non-dairy milk and there is an alternative for every need and taste.

While some non-dairy milks can be pricier than cow’s milk, you can go for soy or prepare your own with a blender and a strainer.

Your plant milk of your dream is out there waiting for you!

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