You’ve seen them everywhere. There has been a huge rise in popularity of nut milks and other dairy-free alternatives in recent years, due to skyrocketing lactose allergies and alarming health concerns involved with the dairy industry. With there being so many options, it may be challenging and overwhelming for someone to make the switch to a nut based dairy alternative.
I find some to be delicious alternatives that can be used for any dish or drink. With so many options, your choice of alternative milk all depends on what you’re going to be using it for. Here at The Cooking Bar, I will break down the milk alternatives, let you know from personal experience about my preference and inform you on the health benefits of each option.
Many of you may be asking, why bother? I like my milk from the cow, why should I make the switch? There is a lot of benefits to switching to a dairy free alternative, the main one being your overall health. Almond milk is the largest dairy-free alternative in the United States and for good reason.
One cup of almond milk has 62% less calories and 88% less carbohydrates compared to one cup of cow’s milk. Although it does contain substantially less protein, it is rich in several vitamins and minerals especially vitamin E. Switching to a nut-based milk will not only help you lose weight but can also be good for your heart. Eating or drinking just 5 ounces of nuts per week drastically reduces your risk of heart disease.
For years I enjoyed latte’s, bowls of cereal and ice cream all with regular milk. Only to find that as I got older, I started to develop intense stomach pains. I could not figure out what was wrong with me. I’ve drank regular milk my whole life and not had a problem until now. Lo and behold, a lactose allergy. In fact, the simple switching from regular milk to almond milk in my latte, coconut ice cream and avoiding cereal all together, made me feel so much better. I’m not alone in this endeavour.
By the year 2024, a study based on the global non-dairy milk market shows us that it is expected to reach revenues of more that 38 billion dollars. Now that is a huge umbrella of products, far too many to list off in this article. That being said, let’s cover a few I have experience with.
5 whole milk alternative for cooking
My personal favourite. Great for everyday use and very popular in European coffee shops. I believe oat milk to be the most neutral tasting, it will not make your coffee taste like a handful of nuts. Oat milk is one of the most nutritious plant-based options, containing more calcium than cow’s milk. All while being very low in fat and being a good source of vitamin A, iron and fiber. It is also said to be the most beneficial to the environment. Almond milk requires 14.5 liters of water to produce just 1 almond, while to produce one pound of oats it requires one-sixth the amount of water and resources needed to produce one pound of almonds. Oats also use 80% less land to grow than dairy milk.
As previously outlined, almond milk is low in protein, carbohydrates and calories. Also containing less saturated fats and more unsaturated fats, all signs that are good for weight loss. Almond milk has also been known to contain added calcium to better resemble the nutritional facts of cow’s milk, however some people have been known to not be able to nutritionally absorb the added calcium. I’ve noticed that when I used to add almond milk into my hot coffee it would separate, to combat this companies have been adding “gums” also known as emulsifiers, such as xanthan gum.
Very luscious, cashew milk proves to be one of the most delicious and creamy of the dairy free alternatives. If you are making it at home, cashew milk can be a very good source of healthy fats, protein, vitamins and minerals. Just 240ml and 28 grams of cashews contains a lot of health benefits but is very high in calories. Cashew milk is very popular in a lot of vegan and vegetarian recipes due to its richness; it is a suitable substitute for heavy cream.
I believe soy milk has its place, but it shouldn’t be used for everything. It has a strong soy taste like tofu, it’s delicious in a soy chai tea latte but I don’t believe translates well into western food culture. All over Asia and especially in Japan soy milk is the only dairy alternative. It is a much higher source of calcium and protein than cow’s milk, while having slighter less calories.
Coconut Milk is a very healthy alternative. Known to boost your immune system, lower cholesterol and promote weight loss.For me, I only cook with it. It’s very popular in Southeast Asian cultures in dishes like curry and smoothies. It is made by blending the white flesh with the water of the coconut, you can purchase completely natural coconut milk with no additives.
Milk brands we recommend
- Pacific Foods Fair Trade Cashew Milk
- Califia Farms – Oat Milk, Original Barista Blend
- Califia Farms – Almond Milk, Unsweetened
- Pacific Foods Soy Milk
- Pacific Foods Organic Coconut Unsweetened Original
Other milk alternatives
I’ve outlined the five most popular dairy alternatives available for purchase in western culture. Other options include:
- Rice Milk
- Hemp Milk
- Macadamia Milk
- Quinoa Milk
What has been outlined are all great options. They are better for your health and the environment rather than drinking cow’s milk. The companies that are making these dairy-free options are trying to improve their product, by putting in additives and emulsifiers that aren’t necessarily good for you. I recommend trying to make your own nut-based milk and experimenting with different nuts to find a variety that works best for you.