At least once in your life, you’re going to stroll into the milk section of the grocery store, stare at the endless cartons before you and be baffled by the possibilities. Long gone are the days where you would put empty glass bottles on your porch and add milk to your cereal without question. Fat-free, lactose-free, almond, soy, rice, coconut, hemp, goat, cow; the choices are endless. And with so many choices come so many questions. Which has less fat, which has more protein, which is best for cholesterol? The milk you choose depends on the question you ask. To help you answer great milk question, we’ve compared the top three contenders (almond milk, soy milk and rice milk) against regular milk, so you have a better idea of what kind of milk you’d want.
Even regular old dairy milk ranges in its varieties, but all contain essential protein, and calcium that will benefit anyone in a growing stage, such as toddlers, teenagers, pregnant women and the elderly. Dairy milk also has the benefits of nutrients such as potassium and vitamins like vitamin D. That being said, dairy milk is high in saturated fats and calories, which isn’t good for anyone with high cholesterol, heart problems or if you’re trying to watch your weight. Lactose-free milk is a good option for anyone who is lactose intolerant but wants the calcium and protein of dairy milk, and skim milk is an alternative for those who are watching calorie intake.
Soy milk is the most popular alternative to dairy milk. Made by soaking and grinding soybeans, this vegan option is closest to regular milk than any alternative in terms of carbohydrates and protein, without all the fat. Soy milk is also lactose and cholesterol free, making it excellent for heart health, and is a great source of vitamins like A, D, B12 and potassium. However, soy milk lacks the calcium of dairy milk, an essential part of growth and bone health. Many brands of soy milk have to be fortified with missing vitamins and calcium. Also, because of its concentrated levels of protein, it’s suggested that soy milk be consumed in moderation. Be mindful of soy allergies as well, which are more common in children than adults.
Toss it in: This plant-based alternative is great in anything you would put regular milk in, as it has a similar texture and has a smooth, slightly sweet taste to it. It goes great with coffee, but some brands of soy milk may have a lingering after-taste.
Made from ground almonds, unsweetened almond milk is lower than any other alternative in terms of calories. Free of cholesterol, saturated fats and lactose, this vegan alternative is heart healthy and a good source of vitamins A, D and E. However, almond milk lacks protein and unless fortified, has virtually no calcium. It’s also a poor alternative for anyone with nut allergies. Balance out the lack of protein and calcium with other healthy options or go for the fortified versions to get nutrients that almond milk misses.
Toss it in: Almond milk is very versatile, good for smoothies, hot cocoa and other typical dairy milk dishes. Its slightly sweet, nutty flavour adds a nice touch to your morning cereal or oatmeal. It works best for hot coffee when it’s at room temperature.
As hinted by the name, rice milk is made when milled rice is blended with water until it’s a liquid. A naturally sweet, vegan alternative, rice milk is great for anyone with dairy, nut or soy allergies and is lactose free. Also free of cholesterol and saturated fats, rice milk offers a heart healthy choice for those in need. However, rice milk is high in carbohydrates, making it a poor choice for diabetics. Rice milk also has very little protein and practically no calcium or vitamin D, meaning the milk needs to be fortified if you want these nutrients. If you do choose rice milk, balance out your diet with protein and calcium rich foods and try to go easy on the carbs.
Toss it in: While rice milk is too watery for your coffee, it’s a good addition to smoothies, cold cereal and isn’t a bad choice as a stand-alone drink for your kids.