The 10 Best Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
Milk from a cow? Boring! Over the past few years, dairy milk has had to make room in the grocery store aisle for the many exciting non-dairy milk alternatives that are all the rage in today’s society. Most of us are familiar with the classics such as soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and oat milk, which have found their way onto the menu boards of coffeeshops and in refrigerators worldwide. Not to be forgotten, however, are the innovative and sometimes slightly obscure alternatives that provide their own unique benefits, such as pea (yes, that really does say pea) milk. Whether for health reasons, environmental reasons, or a desire to try something new, the question for many is no longer whether they should buy dairy or non-dairy milk. Instead, so many of us are wondering which non-dairy milk to buy. The growing world of non-dairy milk alternatives can be confusing, but don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. Here is our list of what we believe are the 10 best non-dairy milk alternatives.
Besides tasting like a tropical vacation, coconut milk is also really good for you. Along with being soy and gluten free, coconut milk is high in MCT’s, a form of fatty acids, and there is evidence that these MCT fats may benefit weight loss, body composition, and metabolism. Thanks to its creamy, rich, and slightly sweet flavor, this non-dairy milk alternative is the perfect ingredient in many delicious recipes. From soups and curries to smoothies and ice creams, adding coconut milk is an ideal method to amp up your meal in a dairy-free way. The benefits of coconut milk don’t stop at nutrition and great taste, as coconut milk is a triple threat. Resulting in one of the most sustainable dairy-free milk alternatives, coconut trees require no additional watering, and coconuts themselves are zero waste, as every single part of a coconut can be used for consumption, fertilizer, or even fuel. A flaw in the sustainability of coconuts: most are grown in tropical regions such as the Philippines and Indonesia, and therefore require a great deal of transportation. Don’t cross coconut milk off your list yet, though! At Invico we love coconuts, but we also love preserving our Earth, so we’ve addressed this problem with our coconut milk powder and other evaporated coconut products.
Known and loved by many, almond milk is a staple in the non-dairy milk alternative world. Like coconut milk, almond milk possesses its own nutritional benefits not found in cow’s milk. This non-dairy alternative is lower in both calories and carbohydrates than its dairy counterpart. Additionally, almond milk contains antioxidants. Almonds are unique because they contain the highest levels of calcium of all nuts, setting this milk option above and beyond other nut milks if calcium is what you’re in search of. Unfortunately, all that calcium comes with a catch, as almond milk is not a great source of protein, and cannot be consumed by those with a nut allergy. The creamy texture of almond milk makes it similar to dairy milk and a great replacement in coffee, on cereal or just as a refreshing glass of milk. The drawback of almond milk: almond farming requires a lot of water and therefore is not the most sustainable option on our list of non-dairy milk alternatives.
One milk alternative that has been on the rise lately is oat milk. Made from a mixture of oats and water, oat milk is cheap and easy to make at home. Oat milk has several nutritional benefits such as high levels of protein and fiber. Keep in mind, however, that oat milk is comparatively high in calories and in carbohydrates, so anyone looking to cut calories or carbs may want to consider other non-dairy milk alternative options, or at least consume oat milk in moderation. A lot of people swear by oat milk in their coffee, as it thickens when heated, making it also work for thickening soups and stews. Sustainability wise, oat milk is a good option, as growing oats requires far less water than necessary to grow almonds, and less land than cows require.
Arguably the most classic of non-dairy milk alternatives, soy milk is very high in protein, similar to the protein levels of cow's milk. In fact, soy milk has the highest protein levels of all non-dairy milk alternatives, making it a suitable choice for someone who is lactose intolerant or vegan and cannot consume cow’s milk but still wants the protein benefit of cow’s milk. This milk is off limits to many, however, due to the ever-so-common soy allergy. While not so friendly to those who suffer from a soy allergy, soy milk is friendly to the Earth! This milk alternative is much more sustainable than cow’s milk, as soybean production requires less water and less land than cows require, while also emitting far less greenhouse gasses. Unfortunately, soy is frequently genetically modified, and it is hard to come by Non-GMO soy.
Slightly lesser known than the core four non-dairy milk alternatives, but not entirely uncommon, is cashew milk. Good for thickening smoothies, dressings, and sauces, cashew milk is a low calorie, low carb, and low sugar option that is suitable for those on strict diets or with health conditions that require their intakes to be monitored. If you’re looking for a non-dairy milk alternative that is high in protein, however, cashew milk is not your answer. Sustainability wise, cashews definitely beat almonds when it comes to minimal water consumption, as cashews grow in many areas with heavy rainfall.
Rice milk is a shining light in a galaxy of alt milks made from allergenic ingredients. This non-dairy milk alternative is hypoallergenic and is the best choice for someone with any combination of allergies to dairy, gluten, soy and nuts. Rice milk is high in carbohydrates, the highest of any non-dairy milk alternative, and has roughly the same amount of fat as cow’s milk has. Naturally thin and sweet, rice milk can easily be used for cooking and baking as a milk substitute, but it is not the most sustainable option due to the vast amounts of water required for rice production.
One of the more interesting alternative milks, hemp milk is made from water and cannabis but lacks THC, so there are no ...side effects, if you catch our drift. Hemp milk can be considered the ‘skim milk’ of alternative milks because of its lower calorie content. It has a similar amount of fat as cow’s milk but half as much protein and half as many calories. Hemp milk also contains oh-so-important Omega 3 and Omega 6. All you tree huggers will be delighted to know that hemp is actually very sustainable, as it takes little water and doesn’t require intensive farming.
If you remember one thing from this blog post, it’s probably going to be that pea milk is, in fact, a thing. This non-dairy alternative milk option is high in calcium and potassium. It is also low in carbs and has almost as much protein as cow’s milk, and is therefore a perfect addition to your post-workout smoothie. Along with being nutrient rich, pea milk is comparable to soy milk sustainability wise, as it too requires less water and less space than cows require, and produces less greenhouse gasses.
The powerhouse of non-dairy milk alternatives, peanut milk contains more calories, protein, and fat than any other non-dairy milk option. While hard to find and definitely an adventurous choice, peanut milk is a fitting option for those interested in calorie loading. Although it might not be the low-cal, low-fat milk alternative you were hoping for, peanut milk is incredibly sustainable. Peanuts replenish the soil they grow in with nutrients depleted by other crops, and therefore require minimal fertilizer.
Last but certainly not least, a new-comer to the non-dairy alternative milk game: flax milk. This milk alternative is high in fiber and contains the alpha-linolenic acid found in flax that helps reduce the risk of heart disease, however, flax milk is low in protein. This new milk gives some of the older players a run for their money as it is incredibly eco-friendly, requiring no water other than natural rainfall.
So there you have it, our 10 favorite non-dairy milks. It’s a lot to take in, but we promise it’s worth it to immerse yourself into the world of milk alternatives. Plus, you have this handy-dandy list to refer to when deciding which non-dairy milk to buy. Now, let’s go back to that question we’re all contemplating, because I’m sure most of us aren’t planning on going to the grocery store to buy 10 new milks, the question of which non-dairy milk to buy. Each of these 10 milks are unique in their own nutritious, sustainable and delicious ways, but at Invico the decision is easy. We are coconut milk’s biggest fan! To us, the nutritional benefits, the sustainability, and of course, the endless delectable uses of coconut milk take the dairy-free cake any way you slice it.