Milk Substitutes: The Best Plant-Based Milk Options
The word “milk” no longer has to mean something that came from an udder. These days, there are a wide variety of plant-based milk alternatives to choose from. Whether you're going vegan or just want to sample some of the intruiging options, here are four healthy milk alternatives to try:
1. Hemp Milk
Hemp Milk comes from ground hemp seeds. Hemp seeds are high in protein, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats. This makes hemp milk a little more nutritious than other plant-based milks. (Although hemp is related to the Cannabis Sativa plant, it does not contain the psychoactive component that cannabis is known for.)
While hemp milk is essentially free of carbs, there are some brands that will add sweeteners, therefore increasing the carb content. Most sugars will be listed on the product label as brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, or cane sugar.
One 8-ounce glass of hemp milk contains the following1:
- Calories: 60
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbs: 0 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Phosphorus: 25% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Calcium: 20% of the DV
- Magnesium: 15% of the DV
- Iron: 10% of the DV
2. Oat Milk
Oat Milk doesn’t possess the same health benefits as eating a bowl of whole grain oats, but it’s still very nutritious. It is naturally sweet because of the startches in the oats, and high in complex carbs.
The soluble fiber makes it creamy and slows down your digestion process, which makes you feel fuller for longer and avoids the rapid blood sugar spike associated with simple carbs. According to one study2, soluble fiber may also help reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
While oat milk nutrition varies by brand, an 8-ounce glass of Oatly oat milk contains the following:
- Calories: 120
- Protein: 3 grams
- Carbs: 16 grams
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Fat: 5 grams
- Vitamin B12: 50% of the DV
- Riboflavin: 46% of the DV
- Calcium: 27% of the DV
- Phosphorus: 22% of the DV
- Vitamin D: 18% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 18% of the DV
3. Almond Milk
Almond milk is a great dairy milk alternative that is also grain-free and a good option if you’re following a lower carb diet3. Unsweetened almondmilk is low in calories, but if it's sweetened, you should check the label for added sugars. You can also make your own almond milk by soaking almonds in water, blending them, and straining away the solid bits.
Almond milk is a wonderful source of vitamin E, but it’s relatively low in proteins and other nutrients normally found in milk. For this reason, most almond milk brands will add their own calcium, as well as vitamins such as A and D.
An 8-ounce glass of unsweetened almond milk will often provide the following4:
- Calories: 41
- Protein: 1 gram
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Fat: 3 grams
- Vitamin E: 50% of the DV
4. Coconut Milk
Coconut Milk comes from the flesh of the coconut and is a good option if you’re avoiding dairy, gluten, and tree nuts. Most of the coconut milk that you buy at the store has a consistency similar to cow’s milk because it gets blended with water.
Coconut milk is higher in fat than other plant-based milks, but it's the healthier kind of fat, including medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs)3 that are linked to certain heart health benefits, such as higher HDL cholesterol levels.
Some brands of coconut milk are also fortified with nutrients such as vitamins B12, D, and A, and minerals. These added nutrients will vary by brand, so you need to shop around and compare product labels.
An 8-ounce (240-ml) serving of an unsweetened coconut milk gives you the following
- Calories: 46
- Protein: none
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Fat: 4 grams
If your plant milk doesn't have added calcium, you may want to take a calcium supplement, such as our NATURELO Bone Strength supplement made with plant-based calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D.
3. How well do plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow’s milk?, 2018 Jan; 55(1): 10–20
5. Nutritional Guide: Unsweetened Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Alternative, 1999;43(5):301-9