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The Top 10 Plant-based Milk Alternatives

Top plant milks

Gone are the days when your choice of milk was limited to skim, 2%, and whole fat. Now, stocked in every convenience store to coffee shop, we have an abundance of plant-based milk alternatives on offer. It’s not surprising that they’ve become so popular, with 65% of adults worldwide suffering from a form of lactose intolerance[1], and plant-based diets becoming increasingly popular.

With such a variety available, how do we know what the differences are, and which dairy-free product is right for us? Here, we’ve given you an overview of what different vegan milks can offer.

Oat Milk

Created by soaking and blending whole oats with water, oat milk has a creamy texture with an unsurprisingly oaty taste. With lots of fiber, it’s often fortified with vitamins such as calcium, vitamin D, and riboflavin, helping to keep your skin and eyes healthy[2]. A lot of the options available aren’t gluten-free, so if you do have a gluten intolerance, another dairy-free alternative might be a safer bet. For some more information on gluten, take a look at our What is Gluten? article.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is made using soaked soybeans that are ground into a liquid and then boiled to form milk. Soy protein provides all the essential amino acids, and it has been linked to lowering blood pressure and LDL levels (bad cholesterol)[3]. Give our Good Fats and Bad Fats article a read for more information. A soy allergy can be quite common, so many will have to choose another plant-milk product[4].

Coconut Milk

Different to the tinned coconut milk used for cooking, drinkable coconut milk is made by blending grated coconut in hot water and separating the liquid. It’s a great twist for a sweeter tasting coffee, but coconut milk, unlike raw coconut, is lower in fat and contains fewer medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Find out more about MCTs in our Benefits of Medium-chain Triglycerides article.

Almond Milk

One of the most popular nut milks on offer is almond milk[5]. It’s made in a similar way to oat; the almonds are soaked and blended with water to create a nutty, creamy milk. Many are opting to make homemade almond milk too. It’s naturally high in the antioxidant vitamin E, which is involved in keeping our skin healthy and strengthening our immune response[6]. For the healthiest option, make sure to pick up an unsweetened version as the sweetened can have a lot of added sugar.

Cashew Milk

Another cow’s milk replacement is cashew. Created by soaking deshelled cashew nuts in water, blending to a paste, and then straining to a subtle, nutty milk. It’s packed with even more vitamin E than you’ll find in almond milk and normally fewer calories. Much like the other options, a lot of the nutrients in the whole nut are diluted when made into milk, so like other plant-milks it will often be fortified with additional vitamins.

Rice Milk

A great dairy milk alternative for people with tree nut allergies, rice milk is created by boiling brown or white rice, pressing through a mill, and then straining to a liquid. Prior to fortification, rice milk has one of the lowest nutritional values of the plant-milks. It also has the highest environmental impact of all the plant-milks, but this is still under half that of dairy[7].

Hemp Milk

Made from the seeds of the hemp plant, they’re blended with water to create a milk with a similar texture to cow’s milk. Hemp seeds are a good source of calcium, which as we know is great for bone and teeth health. Currently, it’s not as readily available as the other plant-milk varieties which makes it relatively expensive, but it is gaining more popularity.

Pea Milk

Forget petit pois, pea milk is produced using yellow split peas which are ground into flour. The protein and starch are separated, and the protein is blended with water to make the milk. The taste and texture are similar to other plant-milks. The pea milk is often fortified with vitamins such as calcium and potassium, a key electrolyte for the body. Compared to dairy milk, some pea milk manufacturers have been able to use 25% less water when producing the milk, making it better for the environment[8].

Hazelnut Milk

Whole hazelnuts are roasted, soaked and blended with water to create this nutty milk. With it’s sweet, rich taste, it’s great in baking or for giving your coffee an indulgent kick. Similar to hemp milk it’s high in calcium, and hazelnut milk is also high in folate[9]. Hazelnut milk is sometimes recommended to pregnant women as folate can help to reduce the risk of central neural tube defects, like spina bifida, in unborn babies[10]. Make sure to look out for the unsweetened options, as the sweetened and flavoured versions can nearly double the amount of sugar.

Tiger Nut Milk

Unlike the name suggests, tiger nuts aren’t actually nuts. They’re a vegetable with a stripy coating; hence the name. Although, the milk is made in the same way as the nut milks - the tiger nut is soaked and then blended to a creamy milk. They’re naturally sweet and offer a nutty flavor, but without the worry for people with tree nut allergies. The whole tiger nut is naturally high in magnesium, great for energy[11], but make sure to choose the fortified milk as the nutrients will be diluted.

Comparison of plant-based milks per 240ml

Plant milk[12-15] Calories (kcal) Carbs (g) Fat (g) Protein (g) Sugar (g)
Oat 130 25.0 2.0 4.0 17.0
Soy 90 5.0 4.0 9.0 2.0
Coconut 45 1.0 4.0 0.0 >1.0
Almond 40 2.0 3.0 1.0 >0.0
Cashew 50 2.0 4.0 1.0 0.0
Rice 120 23.0 2.5 1.0 10.0
Hemp 60 0.0 4.5 3.0 >0.0
Pea 70 >1.0 4.5 8.0 0.0
Hazelnut 110 18.0 3.5 2.0 13.0
Tiger Nut 134 24.0 4.8 1.4 12.0

 

There’s a huge range of plant-milks available to try, each with something different to offer. If you fancy using them in something other than your coffee, they taste great with our Huel Powder instead of water.

References

  1. NIH. Genetics Home Reference. Lactose intolerance. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/lactose-intolerance].
  2. NHS. Riboflavin. Date Accessed: 24/05/19. [Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b/#riboflavin/]
  3. NIH. Soy. Date accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/soy/ataglance.htm]
  4. Mayo Clinic. Soy Allergy. Date accessed: 06/06/19. [Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/soy-allergy/symptoms-causes/syc-20377802]
  5. Statista. Annual sales value of milk alternatives. Date accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/932707/sales-milk-dairy-free-alternatives-us/]
  6. Rizvi S, et al. The role of vitamin e in human health and some diseases. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 2014; 14(2):e157-e65.
  7. BBC. Climate Change: Which vegan milk is best?. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-46654042]
  8. Henderson A and Unnasch S. Life Cycle Assessment of Ripple Non-Dairy Milk. Life Cycle Associates. 2017. [Available from: https://www.ripplefoods.com/pdf/Ripple_LCA_Report.pdf].
  9. Plus M. NIH. Folic acid in the diet. Date Accessed:06/09/19. [Available from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002408.htm]
  10. Chidambaram B. Folate in pregnancy. J Pediatr Neurosci. 2012; 7(2):81-.
  11. Carvil P, et al. Magnesium and Implications on Muscle Function. 2010. 48-54 p.
  12. Pacific Foods. Plant-based Beverages. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.pacificfoods.com/plant-based-beverages/].
  13. Good Hemp. Creamy Seed Milk. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.goodhemp.com/our-products/ambient-creamy-hemp-milk/]
  14. Sproud. Sproud Original Drink. Date Accessed: 06/09/19. [Available from: https://www.sproud.co.uk/sproud-original-drink/]
  15. Rude Health. Tiger Nut Drink. Date Accessed: 23/09/19. [Available from: https://rudehealth.com/product/tiger-nut-drink/]

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