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The Conscientious Consumer: Dairy & Your Health Part 2

October 12, 2014

Last week, I discussed various types of milk available for the health-conscious consumer. This week, as promised, we'll explore some of the milk alternatives out there, and there are many options!

As regular milk is a healthy blend of protein, fat, and vitamins and minerals, many of the alternative milk options strive to provide a similar nutrient profile. I'll discuss the basic types, but you'll find many of these available in various flavors, such as unsweetened, vanilla, and chocolate. 

 


Soymilk

 



Yes, you've heard of this one--it's the most popular. Soymilk is made through ground soybeans added to water, heated, and processed, and usually contains several additives to increase its vitamin and mineral content (such as calcium carbonate, as soymilk does not naturally contain calcium). However, there's been a lot of controversy over whether soy is actually beneficial to your health [1, 2]; as with anything, my strong recommendation is to only buy soy products labeled "Non-GMO Project Verified", as nearly 90% of soy grown is genetically modified. Additionally, it's good to look for brands which market their products as "minimally processed", or "no MSG" if you can find them
 

 

Almond milk


Recently growing in popularity, Almondmilk, similar to soy, is a protein based liquid made from ground almonds and water. It can be made at home quite easily [3]. Some people dislike the distinctive taste, however I will note that if you don't like it, perhaps try a different brand: the flavors will vary subtly. Be careful for controversial additives such as carageenan, a compound derived from algae which thickens the liquid, but could cause health problems [4]. As with any food label, if you see ingredients listed that you don't recognize, go online and do your research. Good food will make your body feel good. Chemicals and toxins can accumulate over time and make you feel poorly.

 

 

Coconut milk

 



As is sounds, coconut milk is made from, what would you expect--coconuts. Again, be careful about the carageenan, and as with the other types, look for the "unsweetened" version if you want to go healthy. Many of these types can have a lot of added sugars, which your body doesn't need. Also, a lot of Indian cuisine calls for "coconut milk"--that's not this stuff. If you want to make a nice curry, find a canned version in an Indian store, or the international section of your local grocery.

 

 

Rice milk

 

 



Some people may love it as a lactose-free, dairy-free alternative, but I find rice milk rather boring. It has a bit of a watery taste, and most types have a lot of brown rice syrup added as a sweetener, and the protein content is lower. Nevertheless, give it a try if you're interested! Everyone's tastes are different, and they say your taste buds turnover every seven years..

 

 

Hemp milk

 



This one's relatively new to most store shelves, and you might be asking, what is it?? Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds, which come from the Cannabis plant, but don't worry--no THC's here! [5] This is my personal preference, although it tends to be more expensive than the other milk substitutes. It has a mild, nutty flavor and a good omega 3 fatty acid chain profile. Definitely recommend it!

 

 

Oat Milk 

 



Ok, I'll be honest--I haven't tried this one yet! Oat milk is also relatively new to grocery shelves, at least in my area, but it's also something you can make at home [6]. It's low in fat and has more calcium than cow's milk. Have you tried it? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Well, there you have it. This is just a list of a few common dairy-free milk alternatives. Be careful cooking with them though--many of them don't behave as cow's milk would, so if you're looking for dairy-free cooking, find a dairy-free recipe. Oh, and I wouldn't recommend adding any of these to omelettes--blech!  However, they make delicious smoothies! (A note of caution--some of these milks, as they do contain proteins, can "curdle" just like cow's milk if you add them to something slightly acidic. I had a bad experience with coconut milk in a blueberry smoothie).


There's other types out there, such as almond-coconut blends, etc. Please share in the comments any kinds that I've missed here, what your favorite type is, or any recipes you've found that you enjoy. To your better health!

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