The idea of giving up dairy when going vegan may sound impossible for some. Fortunately, if you’re a dairy milk lover, there are plenty of plant-based milks available that may turn your dairy love into plant love. Some of the most popular plant-based milk varieties include almond, coconut, hemp, oat, and soy milk. An emerging plant-based milk that has also caught the attention of many is pea milk. There are also hazelnut and walnut plant-based milks. So which one is best for you? From a flavor and texture perspective, it's really a matter of personal preference. Organic soy milk and oat milk tend to be the creamiest and can make a seriously delicious latte. Almond milk and coconut milk are less creamy, but can be great in cold cereal or used as a milk substitute in baking. Let’s take a look at the nutritional values of each.
Almond milk is low in calories and carbohydrates (if unsweetened), and also low in protein. It can be good source of vitamin D, calcium, and potassium as many almond milks (and other plant-based milks) are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Almond milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk, but, obviously, may not be suitable for those with nut allergies.
Coconut milk is similar to almond milk, but contains saturated fat, similar to dairy milk. Coconut milk is also often fortified, and could be a good option from someone with a nut or soy allergy.
Soy milk is naturally a great source of protein, and may also contain a high amount of vitamin D, calcium and potassium. The protein in soy milk is comparable to cow’s milk (7–8 grams of protein per cup). It's also often fortified with Vitamin B12, which is important for anyone following a plant-based diet. Always look for organic soy milk (many brands are organic) since most of the soy grown is GMO. Choosing organic will ensure the milk is made with non-GMO soybeans and without pesticides.
Pea milk is low in calories and carbohydrates, and high in protein and potassium. In fact, some pea milks contain the highest amount of potassium among non-dairy beverages. Pea milk is a great plant-based milk option with its protein content comparable to cow and soy milk.
Oat milk is the most recent plant-based milk to receive all the rage—and, for good reason! It can easily be allergen-free if made with gluten-free oats. It's super creamy and delicious, making it popular with coffee baristas. It has fiber (YAS!) and is made with simple ingredients, oats and water (look for unsweetened, just like the other plant-based milks).
Whichever plant-based milk you choose, look for brands that are fortified with nutrients like calcium, potassium, and vitamins A, D, E and B12. Also, choose unsweetened plant-based milk by checking the ingredients and nutrition label. Look for plant-based milks that do not contain cane sugar or other added sugars.
You can also make your own plant-based milk at home, which can be less expensive and contains the simplest ingredients (no thickeners like carrageenan and other gums). However, you won't get the benefit of fortified vitamins and minerals with homemade milk, which is always nice reassurance.
Overall, whichever plant-based milk you choose can be a great substitute for dairy milk. Try a few different brands and see which you like best.
Find a complete analysis of plant-based milks from a variety of brands below.
Please share—what's your favorite plant-based milk?
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My name is Margaret Peterson and I am in the nutrition coordinated program at Georgia State University. I am earning a Master’s degree in Health Science, and completing supervised practice hours to become a Registered Dietitian. In my free time, I enjoy working out, going to concerts, and trying new spots around Atlanta. My goal is to start private practice when I finish my program, but I also have an interest in working in a clinical setting. I chose to pursue a career in nutrition because I believe the foundation of a healthy life starts with the diet. My goal is to help people find the best diet for them individually in order to feel comfortable and confident with the nutrition aspect of overall wellness.