From your morning cup of coffee or tea to a delicious milkshake, cow’s milk is widely used in every Indian house. It has high amounts of protein and calcium too. However, there’s emerging research highlighting health risks associated with high consumption of milk , hence milk alternatives might be preferred. There are other reasons for the switch of milk too, these are lactose intolerance, allergies, potential health risks associated with milk, environmental concerns, and a shift to a plant-based lifestyle due to the cruelty linked with the dairy industry.
Choosing the best alternative to milk can be an overwhelming task and you can find yourself spending a significant amount of time in the milk aisle of the grocery store completely confused. Factors like the nutritional profile, cost, and taste preferences need to be considered while choosing the best milk alternative.
Here are the top five alternatives to milk.
1. Soy milk: Soy milk is a popular milk alternative and is an extract of soybean.
Pros: Nutrient wise, soy milk is very similar to dairy milk. It is the least processed and has the highest protein content among all alternatives, containing all eight amino acids. It is low in saturated fat, cholesterol-free, and is rich in thiamine, manganese, fiber, and potassium.
Cons: Not everyone will enjoy its bean-flavored taste. It contains high phytic acid which might cause digestive problems. Excess intake of soy can be a problem for individuals with thyroid conditions. It contains isoflavones which have been linked to reproductive problems.
2. Almond milk: Almond milk is made from water and ground almonds and is considered good transition milk as it has a neutral flavor.
Pros: It has no cholesterol and is recommended for people with high blood sugar levels. Commercial almond milk is a low-calorie beverage and is ideal for people looking to lose weight. It is rich in minerals like phosphorus, copper, iron, magnesium, and is an excellent source of vitamin E.
Cons: It contains a very low amount of protein (one gram per serving) and calcium compared to other milk alternatives. It is not suitable for individuals with thyroid conditions and contains tyrosine which may lead to migraine headaches.
3. Coconut milk: Coconut milk is extracted from the flesh of ripe coconuts and has a creamy texture.
Pros: It contains medium-chain triglycerides which aid in weight loss. It is rich in potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and is loaded with vitamin E, C, B. It contains a high amount of lauric acid which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cons: Certain brands of coconut milk might contain guar gum which may lead to digestive problems. It is a source of abundant saturated fat and is not recommended to people with high cholesterol. Consumption of high amounts of saturated fat can also lead to cardiovascular diseases.
4. Rice milk: Rice milk is made from water and milled rice
Pros: It is a good choice for individuals with lactose intolerance or almond/soy allergies. It is rich in vitamin A, vitamin D and promotes cardiovascular health. It also contains powerful antioxidants like manganese and selenium.
Cons: It is highly unsuitable for individuals with high blood sugar as it contains a large amount of starch. It is not rich in protein (two grams per serving) and calcium. It contains a higher level of inorganic arsenic which when consumed in excess can lead to long-term health problems.
5. Hemp milk: Hemp milk is plant-based milk extracted from hemp seeds.
Pros: It contains a small amount of tetrahydrocannabinol. It is rich in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. It is a good source of amino acid arginine which prevents heart disease. It is also high in polyunsaturated fats which can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels.
Cons: It takes some time to get used to its strong nutty flavor. It is low in protein and calcium and has a high amount of sugar. It contains cyanocobalamin which can decrease the potassium level in the blood.