There are many reasons for consuming milk alternatives. Allergies, intolerances and vegetarian diet practices are some of the main reasons for going dairy free.
There is a growing variety of non-dairy milk beverages available, made from soy, rice, nuts, coconut and, most recently, hemp. Below is a sampling of some milk alternatives found in our local stores and good reasons to choose each variety.
Soy milk: Soy milk is an emulsion of water, protein and fat. Soy milk has the highest protein content of the non-dairy alternatives. Soy milk does not contain casein protein (the protein in milk), or lactose, so it is suitable for those who are allergic to cow’s milk or who may have lactose intolerance.
Almond milk: Made from ground almonds and water, it is low in fat and cholesterol free. It is lower in protein than cow’s milk. Almond milk is an option for those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk protein or soy.
Rice milk: Typically made from brown rice, rice milk is lower in fat and protein compared to cow’s milk and is higher in carbohydrates. Rice milk is an option for those allergic or intolerant to dairy, soy, nuts, and or gluten.
Coconut milk: Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, the majority of which is composed of medium chain fatty acid (MCFA). MCFA is actually metabolized differently than the long chain fatty acids found in meats, and are being studied for their potential role in heart disease prevention. Coconut milk has a rich texture. It is an option for those who are allergic to soy or nuts.
Hemp milk: Like coconut milk, hemp milk is high in fat. Hemp milk is high in heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fats. It has a strong woody flavor that may take some getting used to. It is good for those allergic to soy or nuts.
Bottom line: Milk alternative beverages are great options, but they do not naturally contain calcium. If you are using these beverages as a milk substitute, look for the ones fortified with calcium and vitamin D added.