While there's no problem with drinking cow's milk, plant-based milks are becoming increasingly popular across the globe. (In fact, dairy-free products in general are popping up at grocery stores, everywhere.) They pack a powerful, nutritional punch in terms of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, especially when fortified, they are a great substitute for those who can't tolerate dairy, are trying to cut back, or simply don't like the taste.
Luckily, there are several options of plant-based varieties to choose from. Your choice of milk may depend on personal taste preference, and brands can differ in flavor, so once you've picked the type you want, you may need to go through a few cartons.
And, take note: check the labels. "Keep an eye on the sodium content of your milk. Plant based milks may be high in sodium. Select those with less than 100 mg sodium per serving," says Becky Kerkenbush, MS, RD-AP, CSG, CD—Member of the Wisconsin Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.
These are Kerkenbush's top picks, but other plant-based milks include barley, flax, cashew (any nut can be made into milk), and quinoa, so feel free to browse those, as well.
With, 8-10 grams of protein per cup, it's the most protein-rich of all the plant milks, says Kerkenbush. "Choose those fortified with Calcium and Vitamin D which will have 30% of daily calcium and 25% of Vitamin D recommendations," she says. Of course, avoid this milk if you have a soy allergy.
With only 1 gram of protein per serving, it's not a lot; however, it's an excellent source of calcium and vitamin D and you can find almond milk brands that are fortified with more protein. You'll find more than 30% of daily calcium and 25% of Vitamin D recommendations in a serving, and there's very little fat, carbs, and sugars when unsweetened, she says. (FYI, you can always make your own almond milk, too.)
You might not want to make coconut milk your go-to milk every day, as it's very high in calories and fat. A tip: the canned version will have more calories and fat than the boxed, which is watered down. Still, it's "3 times higher in saturated fat than cow's milk, so use sparingly," she says.
Coconut milk goes nicely in curry or it can add some bold flavor and texture to soups or baked goods, like pancakes.
This milk has some good-for-you fats you won't want to pass up. "A good source of Omega-3 fatty acids and usually well digested," it's a nice milk to have on hand, she says. Plus, it fulfills the 30% of daily calcium and 25% of Vitamin D recommendations and contains 10 essential amino acids, she says.
With 7 grams of protein per serving, at least 30% of daily calcium and 25% of Vitamin D recommendations, and zero carbs and sugars, it's an excellent plant-based milk to drink, for whatever you need. It tastes pretty creamy, so it'll work well in just about any recipe that needs a bit of depth and richness.
Often made from brown rice, it'll have the most calories per serving, with 120 calories per cup, she says. And, the carbs are pretty high, too, with 25-33 grams of carbohydrates in 1 cup, as well. With 2 grams of fat, and no saturated, it's not bad in that aspect; however, there's zero to only 1 gram of protein per serving, depending on the brand.
With only 1 gram of protein per serving, it's not the most nutritionally dense; yet, it'll have a creamy texture and flavor that resembles nutella, so it could be great for desserts or sweet coffee beverages. Plus, it's actually pretty high in B vitamins and vitamin E, she says.
With great sources of vitamin E, magnesium, and vitamin B6, it's definitely high in nutrition. However, it does have a lot of calories, with 214 calories for 1 cup, so be mindful. The good news? You'll fill up, as it has 3 grams of fiber per cup and around 6 grams of protein, as well. This milk would taste great in desserts or when mixed with chocolate, as it really does taste like peanuts.
Oat milk actually has the highest amount of fiber, so if you're looking to stay regular or get more fiber in the diet, this could be your winner. It also has "10% of daily Iron needs and twice as much Vitamin A than cow's milk," she says. Still, it's low in protein (only 1 gram) and has 130 calories. We have a feeling this milk is going to get a lot more popular, according to our 2018 wellness trend predictions.