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Are plant milks good for you?

In cultures around the world, plant milk from nuts, seeds, grains, and beans, have been extracted for their nutritional value in foods and beverages. In medieval times, almond milk became a staple in kitchens because it stored longer than cow’s milk, and Spanish horchata has remained a popular drink for centuries. Today, plant milks provide the perfect dairy substitute—cruelty-free, hormone-free, lactose-free and cholesterol-free. As you compare the plant milks below, bear in mind: Different brands vary in sugar, fat, carrageenan (seaweed-derived thickener), nutrients, and sodium content. So choose wisely, or better yet, make your own plant milks without any additives and sweeteners. 

Almond Milk
A close second to soy in popularity, almond milk is made with toasted ground almonds. It contains less calories than soy milk, but also less protein, so you’ll need another primary protein source. The light, nutty flavor works well in French toast, mashed potatoes, creamy curries, and shakes.

  • Nutrients: niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, vitamins B6, C, E; calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc; fiber; protein
  • Fat and calories: about 2.5 grams fat (polyunsaturated, monounsaturated) and 30 calories per cup
  • Make your own
Coconut Milk
Made from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts, coconut milk imparts a light sweetness and creaminess ideal for smoothies, coffee creamers, and coconut rice. Thicker and more nutritious than coconut water (from immature green coconuts), coconut milk is high in fat, so try a “lite” version. Its lauric acid fights viruses and bacteria, while its medium-chain fatty acids kill the bacteria that cause arterial plaque, and it fortifies your skin and hair.
  • Nutrients: antioxidants, antimicrobial lipids, lauric acid, vitamins B, C, E; iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium
  • Fat and calories: about 48 grams of fat (43 grams saturated!) and 445 calories per cup
  • Make your own
Hemp Milk
Made from hemp seeds, this milk brings a slight grassy flavor and darker hue to smoothies, shakes, and puddings (great in a banana/chocolate shake!). While lower in protein than soy, it’s a source of complete protein with all 10 essential amino acids; contains four times more omega-3s than soy, and is low in saturated fat.
  • Nutrients: B vitamins; calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium; fiber; protein (3 grams per cup)
  • Fat and calories: about 5 grams of fat (5 to 1 grams saturated) and 140 calories per cup
  • Make your own
Oat Milk
Oat milk contains less protein but more fiber than others, with no saturated fat. The subtle grain taste is perfect for pouring over cereal, baking in breads, or for recipes needing a lighter-flavored substitute. Gluten-intolerant? Buy gluten-free oats and make your own oat milk, which is super easy and inexpensive. Watching your weight? Oat milk’s the lowest in fat, sugar, and calories.
  • Nutrients: antioxidants, vitamins A, B, E; calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium; fiber; protein (4 grams per cup)
  • Fat and calories: about 2.5 grams of fat (unsaturated) and 130 calories per cup
  • Make your own
Soy Milk
Since 202 B.C, in China’s Han dynasty, soy has reigned as the ultimate plant milk for its high protein content, creamy taste, and silky consistency. Today, it’s often used to make vegan “cheese,” as found in Veestro’s Veggie Lasagna and Enchilada Casserole, and Oatmeal Breakfast Pie. Check product labels for non-GMO.
  • Nutrients: choline, folate, vitamin K; fortified with vitamins A and D; magnesium, potassium; fortified with calcium; protein (8 to 10 grams per cup)
  • Fat and calories: about 3.6 grams of fat (0.5 grams saturated) and 105 calories per cup
  • Make your own

Learn more about 5 simple ways to cut out dairy.

Sources: “How to Choose Your Plant Based Milk? Vegan Milks 101,” The Vegan Woman 
Jessie Szalay, “Almond Milk: Nutrition & Benefits,” Live Science 
Kari Hartel, “Almond Milk: What Is It and Is It Good for You?FitDay 
Jody Braverman, “The Health Benefits of Coconut Milk,” 
Tanya Brown, “The Health Benefits of Coconut Milk,” SFGATE
Sara Ipatenco, “What Are the Benefits of Hemp Milk? 
Laura Shultz, “The Benefits of Oat Milk (with Recipe),” Care 2
Soymilk, original and vanilla, with added calcium, vitamins A and D,” SELFNutritionData

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