Let's Talk Vegan

5 Dairy-Free Milk Substitutes Better Than Cow's Milk

Grocery stores dairy and dairy-free milk selection

Traditionally, milk has had an advantage over other beverages with its impressive nutritional profile, particularly its calcium and protein. Although, there has been a continuous decline of the consumption of cow's milk, which has fallen 40% since 1970. This steady decline hasn’t gone unnoticed by the marketers of cow milk, who have invested more in plant-based products. To put this in perspective, the global non-dairy ice cream market is predicted to reach \$1-billion USD. by 2024.

Hmmm, so why is the milk market declining? This is for many reasons; lactose intolerance, dietary restrictions, health reasons, or overall the growing beverage market. Looking at the health reasons, cow’s milk has about 122 calories, 3g saturated fat, 12g carbohydrates, and 29% calcium per serving. As we will soon see, in comparison to other milk alternatives this calorie intake is quite high.

Types of Milk Alternatives

This transition to plant-based milk alternatives has left the dairy market awash, some dairy-free milk products hitting store shelves include:

  • Soy Milk
  • Almond Milk
  • Coconut Milk
  • Cashew Milk
  • Hemp Milk
  • Rice Milk
  • Flax Milk
  • Oat Milk

Choosing the Right Dairy-Free Milk

With the growing popularity of milk alternatives, choosing the right dairy-free milk can be a bit overwhelming. Especially when deciding what the right alternative is to use in place of everyday dairy products. Not to worry, we are about to go over 5!

1. Soy Milk

Soy milk is made from either soybeans or soy protein and isolate. It is also the most widely available milk alternative, and therefore can be found more often than other milk alternatives in more mainstream settings, such as coffee shops. It is also very creamy but has a mild-to-neutral flavour. This makes it perfect for nearly every recipe that calls for cow’s milk.

Nutritionally, soy milk has the most protein of all dairy-free milk, about 7g per serving. Few plant-based sources are a complete protein, in that they provide all of our essential amino acids. These amino acids aren’t produced by the body, but instead, have to be consumed through diet. This high protein concentration is around the same as cow’s milk but has half the calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

2. Almond Milk

Almond milk is made from almonds or almond butter and water. It is also the most popular of the milk substitutes for its versatility. Almond milk has a slightly sweet and nutty taste, with a creamy finish. It can be used as a milk replacement for most baking recipes or can be had by the glass-yes, it’s that good.

Almond milk is high in calcium (average 30%* per serving) and is a natural source of vitamin E, but is low in fiber and protein (average 1g per serving). If you’re vegan, it also has, on average, 50% of the B12-a vitamin naturally found in animal products. One thing to note, almond milk is actually less nutritious than whole almonds since it is mostly made from water.

Almond milk carton

3. Cashew Cream/Milk

Cashew milk is made from a mixture of cashew nuts or cashew butter with water. It’s rich, creamy but subtle nut flavour is gaining global popularity, and is a personal favourite of mine. Use cashew milk for desserts, sauces, to thicken smoothies, or as a coffee creamer.

Similar to almond milk, cashew milk doesn’t have very much protein but has on average 25 calories, 50% vitamin B12, 45% vitamin D, 2% saturated fat, 30% calcium, among other things.

Carton of cashew milk

4. Hemp Milk

Hemp milk is made from pulverized hemp seeds, but don’t worry you won’t be getting “high” from drinking it. This is because hemp milk doesn’t contain the trichomes that contain THC. It has a thick, creamy texture, with a sweet, nutty taste. This particularly tastes good in cappuccinos and lattes, because it froths better.

Surprisingly, hemp milk is one of the best vegan protein sources in the world, containing 9 essential amino acids. It is also naturally high in omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, along with calcium.

5. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk, you guessed it, is made from coconuts. To be exact, water and the white flesh of brown coconuts are used to make this beverage. As you can imagine, coconut milk has a sweet, creamy flavour. This flavouring tastes best in sauces (or curry), hot chocolate, coffee, soups, and especially ice cream.

Coconut milk actually packs quite a lot of fat and calories, so it should probably be eaten in moderation. It is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals, such as 110% manganese, 22% iron, and 5g of fiber, on average per serving.

Cup of coffee with flower foam

"Got Milk?"

We are constantly told that “milk does a body good” and asked whether we “got milk”, but we now know that we don’t need cow’s secretion to obtain our daily dose of calcium. Instead, we have loads of alternative dairy-free milk products to choose from. The nutritional profile of each dairy-free milk alternative will vary and will appeal to people for different reasons, but one thing is for sure- plant-based milk here to stay.

*All "%" are based on a daily intake of 2,000 calories, unless otherwise specified