Plant-based milk alternatives are nothing new. In fact, they’ve been on the market for quite some time now. If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, or simply want to avoid dairy products, you can find many alternatives to cow’s milk. Each variety differs in flavor, consistency, and taste, so there’s likely to be one that suits your preferences and nutritional needs. Cow’s milk has been a popular beverage for years, and people still add it to their coffee, cereal, smoothies, or even just drink it as-is. However, not everyone can drink cow’s milk. Here are some reasons why you might choose to switch to a plant-based alternative and a list of five of the best options that you can buy:
A Look at the Alternatives
Nutritionally, cow’s milk can offer many benefits. It has a significant amount of high-quality protein, as well as important vitamins and minerals such as calcium and phosphorous. However, it is not always a good option for everyone, and there are many reasons why you might avoid cow’s milk. For instance, you could have dietary restrictions, such as lactose intolerance. Nearly 75 percent of people in the world have this condition, and 2 to 3 percent of children under the age of 3 develop milk allergies. Some individuals don’t want to consume milk due to concerns about health risks from contaminants such as hormones, pesticides, and antibiotics or because of ethical considerations. For example, people who are vegan exclude animal products from their diet.
One of the most well-known milk alternatives, soy milk is made from either soy protein isolate or soybeans, and thickeners or vegetable oils are frequently added to improve the product’s flavor and consistency. A close substitute for cow’s milk, soy milk contains similar amounts of protein but approximately half of the calories, carbohydrates, and fats. Soy milk is also a good choice because it offers all the essential amino acids, making it among the few plant-based sources of complete protein. In addition, it is one of the oldest and most popular milk substitutes on the market today.
Comprised of water and coconut cream, coconut milk has a tropical flavor compared to other milk alternatives on the market. If the coconut flavor doesn’t appeal to you, then you might not like this milk substitute. It is lower in carbohydrates than some grain- or nut-based products and has a creamy consistency that is similar to cow’s milk in many ways. However, it’s higher in saturated fats and doesn’t contain much protein. If your diet requires more protein, then coconut milk might not fit your needs.
Another popular alternative, almond milk is available in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties. Almond milk is generally made from either whole or ground almonds combined with water, although some brands might use water and almond butter instead. Less creamy than other milk alternatives, it tastes nutty with a slight variation in sweetness. Like coconut milk, almond milk is low in protein, which is something to keep in mind if you are using it as a milk substitute. While almond milk is lower in calories than cow’s milk, it is important to keep in mind that it has few of the nutrients found in whole or ground almonds. This is because almond milk is mostly water, so if meeting your nutritional needs is a concern, try to choose a variety that has a higher almond content.
A newer milk alternative on the market, pea milk is made from pea protein isolate combined with water and emulsifiers like sunflower oil, gellan gums, and algal oil. Unsweetened pea milk can contain up to 8 grams of protein, and using algal oil adds docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), an important omega-3 fatty acid that helps with cognitive function and health and immune system health. Pea milk has a mild flavor and a creamy texture that’s reminiscent of cow’s milk.
Oat milk varieties have become a trendy option, and many coffee shops have begun adding it to their menus. Its creamy texture is similar to cow’s milk, and the high fiber in oats might make it more filling than some other milk alternatives on the market. Since oat milk is naturally sweeter than other alternatives, it can have a higher sugar content, so it’s important to pay attention to that when you use it.
When choosing a milk alternative, it’s generally best to look for varieties without added sugars and fewer additives. You might also want to look at the cost, because many of these options can prove expensive. Therefore, it’s beneficial to try a few different ones to find a plant-based milk alternative that’s right for you.