By Asha Kreiling
Whether you’re intolerant, allergic, or simply have grown averse to conventional dairy milk, there are plenty of delicious alternatives. Conventional cow’s milk sold at grocery stores typically comes from industrialized dairy farms where cows are over-milked and live in crowded, stressful conditions. Inflamed udders, disease, infection, and a whole mess of artificial hormones and antibiotics are all unsettling but normal parts of the milk industry. I switched to non-dairy milk over three years ago, and now the thought of pouring regular cow’s milk over my breakfast cereal frankly grosses me out. Here are some plant-based “milks” that make delicious substitutes.
Made from soaked, ground soybeans, soy milk is the most common non-dairy milk. There are copious brands, flavors, tastes and viscosities to suit your palate. (My favorite brand is West Soy.) Soy milk has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk but tends to have less fat and contains no cholesterol. Most soy milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals like calcium and vitamin B12, so it makes a perfectly good substitute for cow’s milk. Unsweetened varieties are good for cooking (for example, in vegan mashed potatoes) while sweetened or vanilla flavors are good for cereal and coffee.
Almond milk might be my favorite non-dairy milk. It tastes like almonds! Blue Diamond’s Almond Breeze is pretty delectable. Almond milk is creamy and has a subtle nutty flavor. It is low in calories and fat, but also has less protein than soy and cow’s milk. It is rich in essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and calcium. I like to drink it plain.
Hemp milk is made from soaked, ground hemp seeds. It is less common at mainstream grocery stores, but you’ll likely find it at health food stores. Like almond milk, hemp milk contains lower amounts of protein in comparison to dairy and soy milk, but the protein it does have is more easily digestible. Hemp milk contains omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids in a healthy three-to-one ratio, as well as other nutrients like magnesium, calcium, fiber, phosphorus, and riboflavin. Living Harvest Tempt and Pacific Natural Foods are common hemp milk brands.
There are various milks made from different grains. Pacific Natural Foods brand carries an organic 7-grain milk made from oats, brown rice, wheat, barley, triticale, spelt, and millet. Plain rice and oat are the most common grain milks. Both are thin in consistency, sort of like non-fat cow’s milk, and have mild tastes. Grain milks have lower protein contents and higher carbohydrate contents than cow’s milk. Grain milks are often fortified with vitamins and minerals, as they are naturally low in essential nutrients.
Often found in a can at Asian markets or most grocery stores, coconut milk is unlike these other milks. It is made from the grated coconut meat blended with water. Coconut milk has a thicker, smooth consistency, which can be attributed to its high saturated fat content. It is mildly sweet and is an essential for cooking ethnic dishes, such as curries, stews and desserts.