Regular cow’s milk is a staple in many people’s diets. People consume it with their cereal, coffee, tea, smoothies, and pre-workout drinks. Although cow’s milk is a popular choice, some people can’t or choose not to drink it because of dietary restrictions, intolerances, or personal preferences. Fortunately, there are plenty of non-dairy substitutes for cow’s milk, and this article aims to highlight the best ones.
Did you know that lactose intolerance affects about 25-40% of adults worldwide? Tens of millions of Americans are lactose intolerant, which can cause cramping, diarrhea, bloating, and gas. Surveys found that lactose intolerance is more common in American Indians, Ashkenazi Jews, Latinos, and African Americans. In fact, lactose intolerance affects 80% or more of some of those groups!
From a nutritional standpoint, many non-dairy alternatives can be very beneficial. Nut and seed milks are often rich in heart-healthy fats, but you have to make sure to read the nutrition labels. Unfortunately, plant-based milks can contain added sugars, natural flavors, and lots of preservatives. Do your best to buy unsweetened varieties, as opposed to flavored or sweetened ones. You can even make your own non-dairy milks and avoid preservatives! You just need a blender, a nut milk bag or cheesecloth, and a jar for the liquid.
In its simplest form, oat milk comes from a blended mixture of oats and water. Manufacturers add gums, oils, salt, and more preservatives for a more desirable texture and flavor. Oat milk is naturally sweet and is very similar to cow’s milk, and can be used in the same way as cow’s milk. It goes great in coffee, cereal, or smoothies! Oat milk contains beta-glucan, which binds to cholesterol as it passes through the body. This can help lower LDL cholesterol, the type that’s associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Made from cashews and water, or cashew butter and water, cashew milk is a thicker non-dairy milk that goes great in smoothies or coffee. Cashew milk contains fewer than one-third of the calories of cow’s milk, half the fat, and way less carbohydrates. Because it has a low protein content, it may not be the best non-dairy milk substitute for people who want to increase protein intake. With only 25-50 calories per cup, though, unsweetened cashew milk is a great beverage for people who are watching their waistlines.
Perhaps the most notable of plant-based milks, almond milk has a light texture and sweet, slightly nutty flavor. Just like oat milk, you can directly substitute almond milk for cow’s milk in myriad recipes. Although it contains more calories than cashew milk, almond milk is one of the lowest-calorie non-dairy milks available. Additionally, almond milk is a great source of vitamin E, a group of antioxidants that protect the body from oxidative stress.
Macadamia Nut Milk
Macadamia nut milk has a richer, smoother, and creamier consistency than most non-dairy milks, and tastes great in recipes or on its own. It is more calorically dense than other plant-based milks, so it may not be a great option for calorie counters. Because macadamia nut milk is low in carbohydrates, it may be a great option for people with diabetes, or those who want to watch their carb intake. Macadamia nuts are also rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which are highly beneficial for reducing blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
Quinoa is an edible seed, although it’s commonly thought of as a grain because of how people use it. It is highly nutritious, gluten-free, and rich in quality protein. Although quinoa has risen to popularity as a superfood, quinoa milk is a newcomer to the non-dairy milk market. Quinoa milk exhibits a slightly nutty flavor that is a little sweet, making it great for cereal and porridge. It contains a similar number of carbs to cow’s milk, but fewer than half the calories. The nutritional profile is very well-balanced when compared to other non-dairy milks.
Sold in cartons and cans alike, coconut milk is made from water and the white coconut meat. Coconut milk has a creamy texture and a sweet, subtle coconut flavor, especially if you buy the unsweetened varieties. Coconut milk has the lowest protein and carb content of the non-dairy milks, so it may not be great if you want to increase protein intake. However, it is a great option for keto enthusiasts because it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These are healthy fats that may increase feelings of fullness, helping to reduce appetite and improve blood cholesterol levels.