Got (Dairy-Free) Milk?

Got (Dairy-Free) Milk?

Friday, October 28, 2022

LiveWell, Nutrition

The question, “Got milk?” now comes with a follow-up question: “What kind of milk?” Due to dietary allergies, intolerances, diet preferences and environmental concerns, many people are turning from cow’s milk and drinking plant- and nut-based milk alternatives. The number of people with dairy-related digestive issues continues climbing. Experts estimate that 68% of the world’s population struggles with lactose absorption. 

Thankfully, in recent years, a plethora of milk replacements have become available and accessible. Dairy-free milk products span from soy, coconut, almond, oat, rice, pea, hemp and quinoa bases. These diverse dairy-free products come in various brands, product types and flavors, which also means a variety in nutritional value. 

Dairy-free milk alternatives are not equal in nutritional value 

In April 2022, McGill University published a new study comparing the nutrition in cow’s milk to the four most common milk alternatives: almond, rice, soy and coconut milks. While cow’s milk came out with the highest nutritional value, researchers recognized unsweetened soy milk as the most nutritious dairy-free milk option. 

In the McGill University study, researchers found that pea- based drinks contained the most phosphorus (which helps create, maintain and repair tissues and cells), selenium (which helps make DNA and protects against infections) and zinc (which helps create DNA, builds proteins and supports a healthy immune system). 

The study also showed that soy milk contained the most magnesium (which supports our muscle and nerve functions) and protein. 

Pick your milk options carefully 

Nutritional value varies from brand to brand amongst dairy-free milks. Even within the same alternative milk base and the same brand, there are differences. That’s why it’s important to read labels carefully. While manufacturers may fortify some dairy- free milks with vitamins and minerals, others come with added sugars or artificial sweeteners. For example, many almond and hemp milks contain 13 g of sugar per cup. Paying close attention to labels will help you milk the most nutrition out of your milk alternative.