What is the big deal about dairy milk? The most well-known benefit of dairy milk compared to other types of milk is its calcium content – it provides one-fourth to one-third of all the calcium children or adults need in one day. Additionally, milk contains a variety of different nutrients, including phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, niacin, and riboflavin, and is an excellent source of lean protein. Finally, research has shown that drinking milk can reduce your chances of dying from heart disease or stroke by as much as 20%. Still, if dairy milk is not your thing – whether due to health restrictions or by choice – there are alternatives.
Made from ground almonds, water, and (in most cases) sweetener, almond milk has become a popular alternative to dairy milk. It has a similar creamy texture but with nearly half the calories per serving. It contains a lot of vitamin E (about 50% of the daily recommended value per cup), but contains far less protein and none of the naturally-occurring vitamins and minerals that dairy milk has, so it’s important to look for varieties that have been fortified.
Possibly the most popular alternative to milk, soy milk is a bean extract of soybeans and is sold in sweetened and unsweetened varieties as well as flavored varieties. It’s nearly the equivalent of milk in terms of its calcium, protein, riboflavin, and vitamins A and D content because it’s often fortified. Its drawback is that it is not accessible to those with a soy allergy and may negatively impact fertility in men.
Coconut Milk most closely resembles the texture of cow’s milk. It can be used for many types of baked foods, is soy- and gluten-free and therefore is safe for those with allergies, and contains more potassium per serving than dairy milk. However, while it has fewer calories per serving than dairy milk, it also has less protein, less calcium, and is higher in saturated fat.
Rice milk is the most hypoallergenic of all the alternatives to milk as it’s free of soy, gluten, and milk. It’s made from boiled rice, brown rice syrup, and brown rice starch and is good for those who are on a diet as it’s low in carbohydrates and protein. However, it is also low in calcium and is thin and watery, so it’s not good for use in cooking or baking.