It is National Dairy Month and if you are one of the 75% of the world’s population (or one of the 40 million Americans) that is lactose intolerant or have a milk allergy, then you are probably a pro at tasting the variety of non-dairy milks out there.
There are benefits to drinking different types of milks. In fact I tell my new moms all of the time to rotate the milks they introduce to their baby. It not only enhances their palate and exposes them to a variety of flavors, but they get different nutrients from each non-dairy milk. Just be sure to buy unsweetened to avoid the excess and unnecessary added sugars. In fact, those added sugars can spike blood sugars more than cow’s milk, which is the natural sugar, lactose. There is a difference.
My goal is to help you find which is the right one for you and your family if you are needing or considering going milk/dairy free.
1 Almond Milk
Dates back to the Middle Ages and it is super easy to make at home. It’s consistency is thin like skim milk, and low in calories and fat like skim milk (about 40 calories and 3 grams of fat per serving). If you like a little foam in your coffee, then this is a great non-dairy substitute.
Almonds are naturally high in vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, selenium, iron, fiber, zinc and calcium. While cow’s milk has about 8 grams of protein per serving, almond milk only has about 1 gram. I like to add a little protein powder to up the protein content and make it just about equal. My personal favorite is the 365 Brand carried at Whole Foods. It is free of the additive called carrageenan. If you have gut issues already, this can disrupt it even more. In fact, a local UIC professor is hitting the FDA hard with their studies to remove it in all food products.
2 Coconut Milk
Coconut milk has been around since the beginning of time (ok, well almost) and is getting some major play in the last few years. Many of us are familiar with it coming from a can, thanks to companies like So Delicious making it a yummy fad. I swore by coconut milk yogurt when I had heartburn during my pregnancy and this tends to be one of my favoritesfor baking, but I’ll use canned coconut milk for its thicker consistency.
It is rich in vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5, and B6 as well as iron, selenium, sodium, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Coconut milk has more calcium naturally and is rich in lauric acid, a substance also found in human milk (the only other place in the world!), which researchers have shown have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
The downside is carrageenan and little protein. Word on the street is So Delicious is looking to remove this additive due the demands from its consumers. This can be a nice non-dairy alternative for toddlers due to it’s high (and good) fat content. Just don’t get suckered into buying the sweetened stuff. But as a special treat, their chocolate milk has WAY less sugar than Horizon’s chocolate milk.
3 Hemp Milk
Don’t be fooled by the name. This milk has he highest amount of naturally occurring omega 3’s than all the non-dairy milks (others are fortified). This is important for the toddler who is beginning to drink milk as omega 3’s are vital for brain and eye development in the first two years of life. Hemp milk was a life saver for my son who could not have almond, coconut or cow’s milk.
The flavor is nutty (though it is a seed) and unique, and it gets some getting use to (just don’t put in in your coffee). It has great nutritional value containing 10 essential amino acids and a little higher in protein. I liked Tempt Living Harvest as it was also corn-free, which was important for our food sensitivity issues. Their ice cream is fantastic and if Dr. Oz picks hemp milk as his favorite non-dairy alternative, then it is not all that bad. The downside? Yes, it has carrageenan in it.
4 Rice/Quinoa Milk
In an effort to keep our home free of products with carrageenan in it, we have begun using this new milk combo as it adds more nutrients than rice milk alone. It has a sweetness that I am not a fan of and I wasted a good cup of coffee using this milk in it. The upside is that it is super easy to digest for those with a lot of food allergies, but it is not the most beneficial in terms of nutrients and vitamins. I have begun switching back to hemp milk for the kids.
5 Soy Milk
It has the highest amount of protein than other non-dairy milks that is comparable to cow’s milk, but is also highest in calories. Although soy milk supplies some B vitamins, it’s not a good source of B12, nor does it provide a significant amount of calcium like coconut naturally does. Soybeans tend to be the hardest beans to digest, so if you are feeling bloated after drinking soymilk, you may have an intolerance to soy. Be careful, if you have a peanut allergy, you may also be allergic to soy. Peanuts are also a legume like soy and some studies found hidden correlation between soy and peanut allergies (some deadly). Some question its high estrogen like compounds and I am personally not a fan of soy milk at all. If you do like and buy soy milk, make sure it is GMO-Free.
In fact, someone is giving me their Soya Maker and I cannot wait to begin making homemade milks for all of us!