If you have decided to ditch the dairy in your diet, your body will thank you. Between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, and the consumption of dairy products has been linked to everything from increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancers to ear infections and diabetes. Fortunately, plant-based milks provide a convenient and healthful alternative to cow’s milk. And if you are currently making the transition to a dairy-free diet, you will find that going dairy-free has never been easier. Soy, almond, hemp, coconut, and rice milks, among others, are taking over the dairy case—and claiming supermarket aisles all their own. There are dozens of brands of plant-based milks and hundreds of options to choose from to meet everyone’s individual tastes and nutritional needs. So how do you choose the best dairy-free milk for your diet? Read on to find out.
Due to the overwhelming selection of plant-based milks available, it can be difficult to decide which plant-based milk to choose. In most cases, what to choose comes down to personal taste preferences. Experiment with a variety of dairy-free milks to see what pleases your palate. Coconut and soy milks tend to be sweeter and creamier in consistency. Almond, hemp, and hazelnut milks have a slightly nutty flavor to them. And rice milk tends to be more mildly sweet and thin in consistency. Differences can be noted not only among varieties of dairy-free milks, but also among brands; so experiment to find which plant-based milks please your tastebuds.
Nutrition may also play a role in determining which dairy-free milk you choose. Like cow’s milk, many varieties of dairy-free milks are fortified with nutrients including vitamins A and D. Soy and hemp milks are great choices for those wishing to boost protein in their diets; both soy and hemp are complete proteins providing all nine essential amino acids. Many non-dairy types of milk are also fortified with calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron. So if you are looking to give your diet a little nutrient boost, non-dairy milks may provide the nutrients you need. Be sure to read food labels to assist in selecting a fortified product to meet your needs.
Choosing dairy-free milk may also be influenced by how you plan to utilize the milk. In general, most recipes calling for cow’s milk can easily be substituted with any plant-based milk. Almond, hemp, soy, coconut, and rice milks can easily be used in baked goods. Soy, coconut, and hazelnut milks are great substitutes for cream in coffee due to their thicker consistencies and flavors. And soy and rice milks are wonderful additions to sauces and soups. Again, most choices come down to personal taste preferences, so feel free to experiment to find the perfect dairy-free milk for your needs.
Check out our favorite plant-based milks below:
1. Almond Milk
Almond milk doesn’t taste anything like dairy milk, offering its own unique light and nutty flavor. This yummy dairy-free beverage provides us with minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, as well as antioxidants selenium and vitamin E. Almond milk is versatile and can be used in baking, hot drinks, smoothies, as well as drunk alone. It is sometimes flavored with chocolate or vanilla. Read our guide to Almond milk to learn more about popular brands or make it yourself, you will be surprised to learn how easy it is! In fact, many recipes taste much better with almond milk than dairy milk, like these cinnamon rolls or this breakfast parfait with chia seeds. But our favorite is these Raw Raspberry and Banana-Peanut Truffles!
It is also important to note that with almond milk, if you purchase or make an unsweetened variety, even with vanilla for flavor, that there is NO sugar and virtually no carbs. Dairy milk is full of sugar.