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. Don't worry, they do not contain the psychoactive component found in the Cannabis Sativa plant. The hemp seeds are actually 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.
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 for people who are either lactose intolerant or who are choosing to give up dairy milk entirely. You can make almond milk by soaking almonds in water, blending them, and straining away the solid bits.
Because unsweetened almond milk is low in calories, it is a good option if you’re following a lower carb diet3. It should be noted that many brands of almond milk are full of added sugar, so it’s important to check the product label and avoid those with too much additional sugar.
While almond milk is naturally a wonderful source of vitamin E, it’s actually low in proteins as well as other vital nutrients. Most brands of almond milk will fortify it with calcium as well as vitamins A and D, but the fortification amount depends on the brand.
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 trying to go dairy-free or have a tree nut allergies. 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 a little higher in fat than other plant-based milks. However, it does contain 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. Again, the type and amount of nutrients added is very dependent on brand, therefore you need to shop around and compare product labels.
While coconut milk has even less protein than almond milk, lots of brands fortify it with certain nutrients.
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 you switch from dairy to organic plant-based milks, you may need to supplement with calcium. If your milk alternative doesn't have added vitamins and minerals, we recommend taking 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