Coconut milk, soymilk, rice milk and almond milk: Do you want to know which dairy-free milk is the most nutritious? Here’s how all the newfangled “milks” stack up nutritionally against cow’s milk.
One Cup Serving (skim): 80 calories, 0g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 8 g of protein, 30% DV Calcium and 25% DV Vitamin D. Milk also offers potassium, phosphorus, vitamins A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, and niacin.
Glass Half Full:
Cow’s milk is loaded with nutrients and it’s also a natural good source of whey protein, a high-quality protein with all of the essential amino acids (“building blocks”) your body needs. Whey protein is also one of the best sources of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), including leucine, which has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.
Sour Stat: About 25% of the U.S. population is unable to digest lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk. While some health experts recommend modifying the types and amounts of dairy for acceptance, seeking an alternative source of milk may be another option.
Bonafied Bonus: Whole and 2% milk contain unnecessary saturated fat so always choose skim or 1% low fat milk; your heart and waistline will thank you.
One Cup Serving (original flavor): 100 calories, 4 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 6 g protein, 30% DV calcium and 30% DV vitamin D. Soy milk also offers vitamin A, iron, riboflavin, folate, vitamin B12, potassium and magnesium.
Glass Half Full: Soy protein has earned the FDA’s stamp of approval in supporting heart health recommending 25 grams of soy protein per day.
Sour Stat: According to the American Cancer Society, research shows no benefit or harmful effects when no more than three servings of soy are eaten per day as part of a healthy diet. Higher doses of soy however may have “estrogen-like” effects that may impact risk for certain estrogen-dependent tumors. The society recommends that breast cancer survivors avoid high doses of soy which can be found in powders and supplements.
Bonafied Bonus: Soymilk is also 100% lactose free and is available in a convenient shelf stable container.
One Cup Serving (original flavor): 80 calories, 5 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 1 g protein, 45% DV calcium, 25% DV vitamin D, 50% vitamin B12.
Glass Half Full: Coconuts are a source of medium-chain fatty acids and while inconclusive, there is some research revealing that MCFAs may play a role in increasing metabolism.
Sour Stat: All of the fat found in coconut milk is the unhealthy, saturated type. And while coconut milk makers defend that it’s made up of MCFAs vs. long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs), the jury is still out on whether or not there is a difference in how these fatty acids affect LDL cholesterol levels.
Bonafied Bonus: A lactose-free option, coconut milk also provides 50% more calcium than is found in cow’s milk and is unique in providing 50% of the Daily Value of vitamin B12.
One Cup Serving (original flavor): 60 calories, 2.5 g fat, 0g saturated fat, 45% DV calcium, 25% DV vitamin D and 50% DV of vitamin E. Almond milk also offers riboflavin, vitamin B12 and zinc.
Glass Half Full: Lower in calories and offering 50% more calcium than cow’s milk, this almond drink has a lot of offer the milk department. Like many of the other non-dairy sources, almond milk is 100% lactose free.
Sour Stat: Almonds are a tree nut which is one of the eight most common food allergies; a list that also includes proteins in milk, eggs, peanuts, soy, fish, shellfish and wheat.
Bonafied Bonus: Almond milk is unique in its vitamin E offerings meeting 50% of the DV. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant shown to help support your heart and brain.
One Cup Serving (original): 120 calories, 2 g fat, 0g saturated fat, 1 g of protein, 30% DV calcium, 25% vitamin D, 25% DV vitamin B12. Rice milk also provides phosphorus.
Glass Half Full: Rice milk is dairy and nut free to it’s a great option for anyone with these specific allergies.
Sour stat: The highest calorie option at 120 calories per cup, rice milk is also on the low end of protein.
Bona fied Bonus: Rice milk offers shelf stable options.
One Cup Serving (original): 100 calories, 6 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 2 g of protein, 30% DV calcium, 25% vitamin D, 25% DV riboflavin, 25% vitamin B12. Hemp milk also provides phosphorus and magnesium.
Glass Half Full: Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the edible part of the same plant used to make marijuana but it doesn’t contain any of the drug that will lead to the munchies. Hemp milk offer omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and provide 10 essential amino acids, making it a good vegetarian source of protein.
Sour stat: Providing only 2 grams of protein per cup, hemp milk is on the lower end of the protein spectrum.
Bonafied Bonus: Hemp milk has a thicker, nuttier taste compared to soy or cow’s milk.
1 cup serving: 50 calories, 2.5g fat, 0g saturated fat, 0g protein and 7g sugar
Glass Half Full: Show your heart some love. Flaxmilk provides 1110mg of Omega-3s per serving and Omega 3’s help to reduce your risk of heart disease, help support healthy brain function and may even help fight depression. Flax is one of the best plant sources of Omega-3 fatty acids (the oils in flax seed are over 50% alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)). And most people don’t get enough so drink up.
Sour Stat: Evaporated cane juice is the second ingredient listed following the cold pressed flax oil, providing 7g of sugar per serving in the brand reviewed. AHA recommends keeping added sugars to XX.
Bonafied Bonus: Flaxmilk is gluten, lactose and dairy free. It’s also a great option for those following a more restricted diet like vegans.
Kelly Plowe, MS, RD
This post is from Appetite for Health contributor, Kelly Plowe, MS, RD. Kelly is the nutrition communications manager at Paramount Farms, the world’s largest grower-marketer of pistachios.