Milk is a complete food as it contains nutrients such as calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, potassium, and other essential compounds. Since our childhood, we are advised to drink milk but not everyone can enjoy these benefits. In some individuals, their small intestines don’t produce enough lactase, an enzyme responsible for the digestion of lactose (milk sugar) and this causes lactose intolerance.
Also, those who have adopted a vegan lifestyle don’t consume any product obtained from any animal in any form.
Almond milk is a good alternative for such individuals, and also for those who don’t like consuming dairy milk as a matter of choice.
Although almond milk is good plant-based milk that can be used in place of dairy milk, it is better to keep other options in mind.
To get almond milk in abundance, we need to grow a lot of almonds and a single almond needs about 1.1 gallons of water.
California which produces about 80 percent of the world’s almond corp faces draught now and then, which affects the production of almond and the almond milk.
With that being said, let’s talk about some of the best substitutes for almond milk.
Major Almond Milk Substitutes
(1) Coconut milk
Coconut milk is one of the best almond milk substitutes. It is being used for cooking and baking, and also as a coffee creamer because of its thick and creamy texture ( in moderation though as they are high in saturated fats and calories).
Coconut milk is made from the water and white flesh of the brown coconuts. It is very suitable for those who want to reduce their carb intake as it has almost no carbohydrate. It has half of the calories in comparison to the cow’s milk and its protein content is also less.
About 90 percent of the coconut milk’s calories come from saturated fat, including the one known as medium-chain triglycerides which are known for reducing appetite, for assisting weight loss and for improving blood cholesterol level. This makes it suitable for people with obesity.
However, for individuals with high protein requirements, coconut milk is a bad choice.
Studies have also found that coconut milk reduces the level of LDL cholesterol from our system and thus improves our cardiovascular health.
Although, coconut milk is beneficial for us, people with FODMAP intolerance ( a food intolerance caused by a bacteria in the colon which is responsible for fermentation of carbohydrates)
(2) Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is another substitute for almond milk and has a nutty flavor. It is made from a mixture of cashew nuts or cashew butter with water.
Because of it’s rich and creamy texture, and the sweet and subtle nutty flavor it has made its position in the kitchen as it is being used for thickening smoothies, as a coffee creamer, and even in desserts.
Drinking one cup ( 240 ml) of unsweetened cashew milk provides 25-50 calories of energy with very low fat ( 2-4 grams) and almost no protein (0-1 gram protein) or carbohydrates(1-2 grams).
This milk is not an ideal choice for those who have a high protein requirement. They can go with soya milk or oat milk.
However, because of its low-calorie value, cashew milk is a good choice for people with obesity, and also for people with diabetes because of its low carbohydrates level.
(3) Soy milk
Another substitute for almond milk is soy milk. It is high in protein and low in saturated fat, and is made from soybeans, water, sugar, added flavoring.
Sometimes artificial thickeners and vegetable oils are also added to improve the consistency and flavor of the soy milk.
Drinking one cup (240 ml) of unsweetened soy milk provides 80-90 calories of energy along with 4-4.5 grams of fat, 7 to 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
In terms of nutritional value, it is very close to cow milk with added benefits ( half calories in comparison to cow milk as well as reduced fat and carbohydrates level).
It contains all the essential amino acids which the body can’t produce on its own and must get from diet. This makes soy milk one of the best plant-based sources of protein.
However, soy is a controversial food. It contains a large number of isoflavones ( polyphenolic compounds) that affects the estrogen receptors in the body and also affects the functioning of the hormone.
There is no need to worry as long as you are enjoying soy products including soy milk in moderation. How much soy milk you can safely consume also depends on your current health, age, gender, your lifestyle and eating habits.
Just like coconut milk, soy milk is also not recommended for people with FODMAP intolerance or those who are in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet.
These individuals can safely consume soy milk made from the soy protein isolate as it doesn’t have FODMAP ( short-chain carbohydrates that cause gas and bloating in some people).
(4) Rice milk
Next in our list is Rice milk, which is made from milled white rice or brown rice, and water. Like other non-dairy milk, thickeners are added to the rice milk for enhancing taste and texture.
The enhance texture and the taste makes it suitable for use in desserts and oatmeal.
In terms of nutritional value, it is similar to that of cow milk as one cup (240 ml) of rice milk provides around 130-140 calories of energy along with 2-3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and about 27-38 grams of carbohydrates. The carbohydrate level in rice milk is almost twice the cow’s milk.
Rice milk has the least amount of allergens and this makes it suitable for the people with nuts allergy and even for those who have an intolerance to dairy, gluten or soy.
However, people with diabetes should be careful about their rice milk consumption as Rice has a high glycemic index ( 79-92) which means it releases sugar into the bloodstream at an extremely fast rate and this can cause a sudden spike in the blood sugar level.
Also, it is not an ideal choice for the growing kids as they have high protein requirement which rice milk can’t deliver.
Another point of concern is the presence of a high level of the inorganic arsenic compound in the rice milk. This toxic compound is present naturally in the environment and long term exposure to this toxin can increase the risk of various health problems such as cardiovascular problems and cancers.
Because of these associated concerns, it is advisable not to rely solely on rice or rice milk. Adding a variety of grains in your diet is equally important.
In a normal scenario, rice milk is not a problem but one should be careful and talk with the doctor before giving rice milk to infants, toddlers, pregnant women and the people with diabetes.
(5) Oat milk
Oat milk is another excellent substitute for almond milk which you can easily make at home and is super cheap in comparison to almond milk.
In general, oat milk is made from a mixture of soaked oats and water. However, it is common for manufacturers to add gums, oils, and salt to the mixture to get the desired taste and texture. These added ingredients are what give it a creamy texture to make smoothies creamier.
Oat milk has a sweet and mild flavor and can be used just like cow’s milk, along with the cereal or in smoothies.
One cup (240 ml) of Oat milk has about twice the carbohydrates( 19-29 grams) in comparison to cow’s milk. However, it has almost half calories ( 140-170 calories), 4.5-5 grams of fat and 2.5-5 grams of protein.
Oat milk is also rich in beta-gluten and dietary fibers that form a thick gel when it passes through the gut.
This beta-gluten gel binds with the cholesterol and slows down its absorption in the body. By doing so, it reduces the level of bad LDL cholesterol from our body and thus reduces the risk of various cardiovascular problems such as heart attack, heart stroke, irregular heartbeat and so on.
The dietary fiber in oat milk is also good for our digestive health and for controlling the excessive appetite as it gives a feeling of fullness to our stomach.
(6) Hazelnut milk
Hazelnut milk is also a good alternative to almond milk. It has a similar texture to almond milk and is used in desserts and smoothies.
It is known to improve cognitive functions due to the presence of vitamin E and folate in it. The thiamine and the manganese present in the hazelnut milk improve metabolism and thus helps with the weight loss.
The dietary fibers in the hazelnut also a significant role in maintaining our digestive health as it helps and other digestive problems such as abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, gas and bloating, etc.
This milk is also good for cardiovascular health because of the monounsaturated fatty acids that lower the level of bad LDL cholesterol from our system and increases the level of good HDL cholesterol.
(7) Quinoa Milk
Another healthy substitute for almond milk is quinoa milk which can easily be made at home.
To make quinoa milk, boil some quinoa in water and let it cool at home temperature. Once cooled, blend the mixture with water.
Quinoa milk has a creamy texture and it can be used for making smoothies creamier.
Quinoa milk provides numerous benefits to us due to the presence of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibers, etc. in them.
Some of the interesting facts about quinoa are as follows;-
- It is antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory due to the presence of quercetin and kaempferol in them.
- The soluble fibers in the quinoa help with the weight loss, improve digestive health, lowers cholesterol level and also helps regulate our blood sugar level
- Quinoa is gluten-free which makes quinoa milk a good choice for people with gluten intolerance.
- Excellent source of protein due to the presence of almost all essential amino acids. This makes it a suitable choice for vegans and vegetarians.
- Improves metabolic health
(8) Flax Milk
Flax milk is another plant-based milk that can be used in place of almond milk. It is made by cold pressing flax seeds and mixing the oil so obtained with water. In terms of consistency, it is very thin in comparison to the almond milk.
It is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and has almost no protein or fiber. Although some manufacturers add protein to the milk during the manufacturing process.
Because of its light texture, it is best used as a substitute in baking. It can also be poured over cereal, smoothies, and coffee.
(9) Macadamia Milk
Macadamia milk is a new entry to the market and is made mostly of water and about 3 percent of macadamia nuts.
In comparison to most non-dairy milk products, macadamia milk has a rich and creamy texture which makes it delicious on its own and also in the coffee and smoothies.
It is good for weight loss as it has about one-third calorie ( about 50-55 calories per 240 ml) in comparison to cow’s milk. The low carbohydrate level in the macadamia milk makes it a suitable product for people with diabetes and for others who would like to reduce their carbohydrate intake.
It is a rich source of monounsaturated fatty acids that lowers blood cholesterol level, controls blood pressure and minimizes the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Points To Remember
As we can see there are many healthy substitutes for almond milk. These non-dairy products can easily be used as a replacement to almond milk and also helps our health in one way or another.
However, while opting for any non-dairy milk, it is better to keep the following points in mind
- Added Sugar- Addiction to sugar is worse than cocaine and food manufacturers know this very well. This is the reason we have “added sugar” added to almost everything we get from the market. Even non-dairy milk products are not safe from this. So, while buying any almond milk substitute, take a look at the label and always go with the unsweetened and unflavored variants.
- Calcium Level- Calcium plays an important role in the growth and development of our bones and makes them stronger. However, unlike cow’s milk, most non-dairy milk, including almond milk and its substitutes are low in calcium. To overcome this shortcoming, non-dairy kinds of milk are fortified with calcium. While selecting any of the milk from the list, make sure that it has 120 mg of calcium per 100 ml of milk.
- Lack of Vitamin B12- It is not just calcium, but the almond milk and its substitutes also have a low level of Vitamin B12. It is an essential vitamin for our system and the immune system and is mainly found in animal products. If you have decided to substitute the animal product such as cow’s milk with the almond milk or other plant-based milk, make sure you pick up the milk which is fortified with vitamin B12
- Additives- As mentioned earlier in the article, some manufacturers add vegetable gums and other additives such as carrageenan to milk to improve the thickness and texture of the milk. In general, these additives are not unhealthy but there are some points of concern, and if it doesn’t suit you, it is better to avoid them.
- Allergies- If you are allergic to any of the ingredients of these different milk, or if you have any kind of intolerance to those ingredients. Soy intolerance, gluten intolerance, and nut allergy are very common, and it is important to look at the label before buying any of these substitutes.
The information contained in the post is for general purposes only and shouldn’t be considered as medical advice or as an alternative to medical advice. Although I’ve tried my best to keep the information contained in this post as accurate and updated as possible, I make no guarantee of the accurateness of the same.
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