Milk is considered a complete food that contains calcium, vitamin A, vitamin B12, potassium, and other essential compounds. Since childhood, we are advised to drink milk to stay healthy and enjoy the benefits of milk.
But, what if you are allergic to milk?
Some individuals find it difficult to digest milk as their small intestines don’t produce enough lactase ( an enzyme) for the digestion of lactose ( prime sugar in milk).
And, if you are a vegan, you will be reluctant to try milk from an animal source.
Almond milk is a good alternative for vegans and lactose intolerants.
But, almond milk is expensive and there are many substitutes that you can try.
Major Almond Milk Substitutes
Some major almond milk substitutes are as follows.
(1) Coconut Milk
Coconut milk has a thick and creamy texture.
It is a wonderful almond milk substitute that can be used for cooking, baking, and as a coffee creamer.
Coconut milk is made from the water and white flesh of the brown coconuts. They don’t have any carb and half calories in comparison to cow’s milk of the same weight.
Medium-chain triglycerides in coconut milk reduce appetite, promote weight loss, and `improve cholesterol levels.
Consume coconut milk in moderation as they have high saturated fats and may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems.
Coconut milk has less protein and is a bad choice for people looking for high protein requirements.
Also, coconut milk is unsuitable for people with FODMAP intolerance ( a food intolerance caused by bacteria( responsible for fermentation of carbohydrates) in the colon).
(2) Cashew Milk
Cashew milk is made from a mixture of cashew nuts or cashew butter with water.
It has a rich and creamy texture and sweet and subtle nutty flavor.
Cashew milk is used for thickening smoothies, as a coffee creamer, and even in desserts.
One cup ( 240 ml) of unsweetened cashew milk gives 25-30 calories of energy, 2-4 grams of fat, 1-2 grams of carbohydrates, and almost no protein ( 0-1 grams).
It is not suitable for people with high protein requirements.
Because of its low calorific value, it is ideal for weight loss.
The low carbohydrates in cashew milk help in regulating blood sugar levels.
(3) Soy Milk
Soy milk is made from soybeans, water, sugar, and added flavoring.
It is high in protein and low in saturated fats.
Sometimes artificial thickeners and vegetable oils are added to soy milk to improve consistency and flavor.
One cup of unsweetened soy milk gives 80-90 calories of energy, 4-4.5 grams of fat, 7-9 grams of protein, and 4 grams of carbohydrates.
The nutritional value of soy milk is close to that of cow’s milk with added benefits such as low calories, reduced fats, and carbohydrates levels.
Amino acids in soy milk make it a wonderful plant-based source of protein, and good for individuals with high protein requirements.
However, soy is a controversial food. A large number of isoflavones ( polyphenolic compounds) in soy affect the estrogen receptors in the body and affect the functioning of the hormone.
To stay safe, consume soy and soy products in moderation.
Avoid soy milk if you have FODMAP intolerance or if you are in the elimination phase of the low FODMAP diet.
People with FODMAP intolerance can consume soy milk made from soy protein isolate.
(4) Rice Milk
Rice milk is made from milled white rice or brown rice, and water.
Thickeners are added to rice milk to enhance taste and texture, and it is used for making desserts and oatmeal.
One cup ( 240 ml) of Rice milk provides 130-140 calories of energy, 2-3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and about 27-38 grams of carbohydrates. Carbohydrate in rice milk is almost twice of cow’s milk.
Rice milk has the least amount of allergens and is suitable for people with nuts allergies and those who are intolerant to dairy, gluten, or soy.
However, rice milk is not suitable for people with diabetes as it has a high glycemic index of 79 and releases sugar into the bloodstream at a rapid rate, and causes a sudden spike in blood sugar level.
Rice milk is low in protein, and not ideal for growing kids as they have high protein requirements.
Also, rice milk has a high level of inorganic arsenic, a naturally occurring element present in the environment.
Long-term exposure to arsenic may increase the risk of cardiovascular problems and cancers.
Don’t rely solely on rice or rice milk, and add a variety of grains to your diet.
Consult your doctor before giving rice milk to infants, toddlers, pregnant women, and people with diabetes.
(5) Oat Milk
Oat milk is a cheap substitute for almond milk, and can even be prepared at home. It is made from a mixture of soaked oats and water.
Sometimes manufacturers add gums, oils, and salt to the mixture to improve taste and give a creamy texture to oat milk. Because of its creamy texture, oat milk is used to make smoothies creamier.
It has a smooth and mild flavor.
One cup (240 ml) of oat milk provide 19-29 grams of carbohydrates, 140-170 calories of energy, 4.5-5 grams of fat, and 2.5-5 grams of protein.
In comparison to cow’s milk of the same weight/volume, it has double carbohydrates and half calories.
Oat milk is also rich in beta-gluten and dietary fibers that form a thick gel when it passes through the gut.
Beta-gluten in oatmeal binds with cholesterol and helps with cholesterol management.
It reduces the risk of atherosclerosis and improves cardiovascular health.
Dietary fibers in oatmeal relieve constipation, improve digestive health, and promotes weight loss.
(6) Hazelnut Milk
Another alternative to almond milk is hazelnut milk. Its texture is similar to almond milk and is used in desserts and smoothies.
Vitamin E in hazelnut milk improves cognitive functions. Thiamine and manganese in hazelnut milk improve metabolism and promote weight loss.
Hazelnut relieves constipation and is good for digestive health.
Monounsaturated fats in hazelnut milk reduce LDL cholesterol and improve our cardiovascular health.
(7) Quinoa Milk
Quinoa is boiled with water and cooled to room temperature. Once cooled, the mixture is blended with water to form quinoa milk
It has a creamy texture and is used for making smoothies creamier.
Quinoa milk provides many health benefits due to the abundance of nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, etc.
Other interesting facts about quinoa are as follows.
- It is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory as it contains quercetin and kaempferol.
- The soluble fibers in the quinoa help with weight loss, improve digestive health, lower cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels.
- It is free of gluten and is a good choice for people with gluten intolerance.
- It contains almost all essential amino acids and is a source of protein for vegans and vegetarians.
- Improves Metabolic Health
(8) Flax Milk
Flax milk is made by mixing flax oil ( obtained by cold pressing flax seeds) with water.
It has thin consistency in comparison to almond milk.
It is rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids but lacks protein and fiber. However, some manufacturers add protein during the manufacturing of flax milk.
As it has a light texture, it is used as a substitute in baking and poured over cereal, smoothies, and coffee.
(9) Macadamia Milk
Macadamia milk is made mostly of water and about 3 percent macadamia nuts.
It has a rich creamy texture and is added to coffee and smoothies to make them creamier.
Macadamia milk promotes weight loss as it is low in calories ( 50-55 calories per 240 ml). It has low carbohydrates and is good for people with diabetes and for those who are cutting carbohydrates from their diet.
Monosaturated fatty acids in macadamia milk reduce LDL cholesterol and improve cardiovascular health.
Points To Remember
Keep the following points in mind before adopting non-dairy milk.
- Added Sugar- Prefer unsweetened and unflavored almond milk ( or substitute) over-sweetened variants as added sugar in almond milk ( or other non-dairy milk) may cause obesity, increased risk of cardiovascular problems, and increased risk of diabetes.
- Calcium Level- Calcium is essential for the growth and development of bones and helps with many other functions in our body. Most non-dairy kinds of milk are low in calcium, and to overcome this shortcoming, they are often fortified with calcium. Ensure that you select the milk variant that has at least 120 mg of calcium per 100 ml of milk.
- Lack of Vitamin B12- Most non-dairy kinds of milk lack vitamin B12. Select the milk variant that is fortified with vitamin B12, or ensure that you get the required vitamin B12 through other food sources or supplements.
- Additives- Manufacturers often add vegetables, gums, and other additives such as carrageenan to non-dairy kinds of milk ( such as soy milk) to improve the thickness and texture of the milk. These additives are mostly safe, but if you are allergic to them, it’s better to avoid such milk.
- Allergies- Before trying any non-dairy milk such as soy milk or almond milk, ensure that you are not allergic to the ingredients used in the milk. Soy intolerance, gluten intolerance, and nut allergy are common. If you have any such allergy or intolerance, avoid milk that contains that ingredient.
This article provides general information about the topic and is not be taken as medical advice or as an alternative to medical advice, treatment, and/or diagnosis. Always consult with your doctor before trying out any of the remedies/recipes suggested in the blog post.
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Bharat Sharma is a Delhi-based writer who loves reading and writing research-based topics revolving around health, fitness, and nutrition. His love for writing started during his teenage and continues till date. After his graduation, he worked for GE Money, and IBM, but later found his true love i.e. blogging.