One of the top questions I get as a holistic nutritionist is “What's the best non-dairy milk out there?” It’s such a great question given that 65% of the world's population is unable to tolerate lactose, the naturally-occurring sugar in milk , and a number of people are allergic to casein, the protein in dairy.
Even if you can tolerate dairy, you may find plant-based milks to be a delicious and healthy choice for you and your family!
There are so many great and not-so-great varieties out there, which I will break down here! We looked at five popular kinds of plant-based milk: almond, cashew, coconut, hemp and oat, and have divided each according to taste and texture, nutritional benefits, best use and favourite brands. Making your own is a healthier route since you control what goes into your milk, but I understand it’s not always possible – that said, once you do it for yourself, you’ll see how quick and easy it is!
Please note: Nutritionally, plant-based milk is not a direct substitute for cow's milk. If you've been drinking cow's milk solely for the purpose of calcium, you will not get the same amount of calcium in plant-based milk unless it's been fortified. That being said, you can certainly eat a dairy-free diet and get adequate levels of calcium so long as you eat a wide variety of foods such as beans, nuts, seeds, fish, vegetables and more.
Here are some tips to consider when shopping for plant-based milk at the supermarket:
It's not nutritionally necessary to be slurping back these plant-based milks, so enjoy them in moderation, say in a smoothie or with your tea
Check out the ingredients list on this container of shelf-stable almond milk from a popular brand:
And here's the simple, readable ingredients list from a refrigerated almond-cashew-coconut milk I found at my local health food store:
Pop quiz: which one do you think I chose? And, more important, which one would you choose?
I prefer to make my own plant milks and have a few joyous recipes for you to try. (As I mentioned, it's super simple to do!) When buying, I prefer more local, artisanal brands that don't have many icky additives (i.e. Mylko, Village Juicery and Greenhouse Juice in Toronto). Check out your local health-food store for artisanal brands and share them with the Joyous community in the comments below!