This Is The Best Dairy-Free Milk Option When It Comes To Nutrition
For various reasons, more people than ever are swearing off cow’s milk and leaning into dairy-free alternatives to blend into their smoothies, lighten their coffee and make their oatmeal. Look to lactose intolerance, blame it on the vegans or point fingers at the environmentalists if you want. But also understand how the nutritional profiles of these milk options stand up against good old cow’s milk.
A recent study from McGill University compared the nutrients in the four most commonly consumed non-dairy milks — soy, rice, coconut and almond — to traditional dairy milk to determine, scientifically speaking, which alternative offers the most comparable nutrition. And much to our surprise, soy milk easily snagged first place, thanks to its high protein content and bounty of isoflavones (an anti-carcinogenic component of human health).
The remaining three had pretty clear pros and cons. Rice milk is ideal for folks with dairy, nut and soy allergies, but its carbohydrate content is especially high without other nutrition markers matching it. Coconut milk is light on the calories, but most of them come from fat and it’s very low in protein. And almond milk is loaded with monounsaturated fatty acids, but it needs to be consumed along with other complementary foods for the body to take advantage of these essential nutrients.
Now, it must be said that cow’s milk is the most nutritious of the five options by far. It has a wholesome collection of protein, carbs and fat, and its anti-microbial effects assist the immune system in some major ways. But we know it isn’t a reasonable solution for a lot of people out there. And up to this point, very little research has addressed the benefits and drawbacks of various kinds of plant-based milk, so these findings can at least help to better educate the anti-dairy folks out there from a nutritional standpoint.
We’re not in love with soy milk because isoflavones, while often beneficial, can also disrupt our endocrine systems and have adverse effects on developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune functions. This risk is especially high for women. But hey, those struggles aren’t nutrition-based, and that’s the metric we’re evaluating here.
So if you really want to get the best bang for your non-dairy buck, it might be time to ditch the almonds and coconuts and stick to soybeans, the milk alternative that has been around for more than four decades now. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
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