A long-time companion of vegans everywhere, plant-based milks have become a mainstay in refrigerators everywhere. Ranging from lactose intolerance to lifestyle changes, more people than ever are looking for plant-based milk alternatives.
There’s a wide variety of recognized options to choose from as well as some great new varieties that are gaining popularity. Plant-based milks are now made from nuts, grains, legumes, and more, offering a variety of tastes, nutritional content, and viscosity.
Not to be confused with dairy milks, plant-based milks are produced by grinding the nut or bean and adding water and nutrients. The amount of sugar, vitamins, and minerals varies greatly between products, so it’s important to do your research. So, if you’re considering switching to plant-based milk, educate yourself about what you’re buying and the health benefits it may offer.
Below is a list of five plant-based milks worthy of consideration and full of health benefits.
The humble almond is a flavourful nut that appeals to many. Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories, has a low glycemic index, and creates a low impact on blood sugar levels, making it a wise choice for diabetics.
Readily available, almond milk is full of bone-building calcium and is often fortified with even more. Almond milk also contains plenty of vitamin E (up to half the recommended daily value in just one cup!). In addition to having antioxidant properties, vitamin E may help to widen blood vessels, preventing blood clots.
Why choose almond milk?
Low in calories (about 30 calories per 8 oz/250 mL glass), almond milk is a great choice if you’re watching your caloric intake. Found at stores, cafes, and restaurants, it’s a great substitute for those with soy allergies.
DIY Almond Milk
Making fresh, raw almond milk at home is so easy and delicious.
- 1 cup (250 mL) raw almonds
- 4 cups (1 L) filtered water (plus more for soaking)
- 1 Tbsp (15 mL) organic or maple syrup (optional)
- 1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla extract
- Cinnamon to taste (optional)
Place almonds in bowl. Cover with water and soak overnight.
Drain and rinse soaked almonds and place in blender with filtered water. Blend on high until almonds are puréed. The amount of water can be adjusted depending on desired thickness.
Place nut bag (or cheese cloth) over bowl. Pour almond mixture into bag or cloth and squeeze all liquid into bowl. Leftover almond pulp can be saved and added later to oatmeal, granola, or baked goods.
Rinse blender and pour strained liquid back into it. Add remaining ingredients and blend again.
Once combined, pour milk into pitcher and chill in refrigerator.
Consume within 3 days.
Each serving contains: 153 calories; 5 g protein; 12 g total fat 0.9 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 9 g total carbohydrates (4 g sugars, 3 g fibre); 3 mg sodium
Another delicious plant-based option, cashew milk is full of monounsaturated fatty acids and boasts a delicious, buttery flavour. At about 25 calories per 8 oz (250 mL) glass in its unsweetened form, this satisfying nut milk not only tastes great but is also a great source of vitamin E.
Why choose cashew milk?
Like almond milk, cashew milk is a great low-calorie option for those watching their caloric intake. With its rich, creamy flavour, cashew milk is satisfying as well as delicious.
Well known and accepted as a plant-based milk substitute, soy milk is definitely the popular kid on the block. With so many benefits, its wide appeal is not surprising, and it can be found in most places that offer cows’ milk.
Studies have found that whole soy foods, including soy milk, may promote good health by keeping cholesterol levels in check, increasing bone mineral density, and easing menopausal symptoms.
The abundance of isoflavones (a type of estrogen-like plant compound) found in soy is often credited with soy’s multitude of health benefits. Some concerns have been raised about isoflavones and cancer risk; however, eating a moderate amount of whole soy foods as part of a well-rounded diet does not appear to increase cancer risk, and may even have a protective effect.
Why choose soy milk?
With approximately 6 to 8 g of protein in one 8 oz (250 mL) glass, soy milk easily matches cows’ milk for protein content. Great for those who are lactose intolerant, it’s also a good source of minerals like magnesium, selenium, and copper, but contains less calcium than cows’ milk. The fact that it’s widely available in grocery stores, coffee shops, and restaurants makes soy milk a great plant-based milk alternative.
For the most part, you’ll want to choose the fortified coconut milk beverage and not the rich, much creamier canned version. Often lower in protein than some of the other plant-based milk options, coconut milk can still be a good source of magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D.
Coconut milk tends to be higher in saturated fat than other plant-based varieties, and so it makes a good substitute for recipes calling for cream or as your creamy coffee addition. In addition, some saturated fat can help boost the immune system and is an important part of brain development in children.
Why choose coconut milk?
Another great substitute for those with soy allergies, coconut milk is a naturally sweet, creamy and delicious plant-based option that is a great alternative for cream, milk, or yogurt in sweet or savoury recipes.
Although less widely known than its well-liked counterparts, the popularity of hemp milk is on the rise. Produced from the seeds of the hemp plant, hemp milk has a distinctive nutty flavour and a rich, creamy consistency.
While hemp milk contains less protein than soy milk, it contains more than other plant-based varieties making it a good source of complete protein. As with soy milk, hemp milk contains all of the essential amino acids our bodies require.
Hemp milk also contains alpha-linolenic acid, a form of omega-3 fatty acid. Diets rich in these omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Why choose hemp milk?
Hemp milk is a great alternative for those who are lactose intolerant; have milk, soy, or tree nut allergies; and for vegans. It’s also a good source of iron.
Whatever your reasons for choosing plant-based milk, educate yourself on your options and ensure you receive the nutrients you need. With so many exciting options today, you’re sure to find one that fits your lifestyle—and you—perfectly. Milk looks good on you!
Somewhat fresh on the scene, pea milk is a great choice of plant-based milk products, as it actually retains its high level of protein content throughout its production. Made from yellow (not green) peas, pea milk contains a fair amount of iron and omega-3 fatty acids.
Mild tasting, pea milk makes a nice alternative in recipes, tea, or coffee. Pea protein is also rich in certain specialized amino acids called branch-chain amino acids that may help to regulate blood sugar levels and promote muscle growth.