Move Over Bessie! The Scoop on Non-Dairy Milks

Cows-Milk-Carton-1024x682Good old Bessie has competition from milks made from other parts of the farm. Besides soy, almond and coconut “milks,” you might find some new comers at you neighborhood grocery store; milks now made from nuts, seeds and grains are rapidly gaining momentum and market share. But why? What’s wrong with cow’s milk? You know, “Got Milk?” the one that “does the body good?”

There’s been quite a bit of controversy regarding cow’s milk in recent years; there are new arguments that cow’s milk is inflammatory, that humans should not consume milk from another species, and recent studies showing that populations that consume high amounts of cow’s milk have a higher incidence of fractures. There are also concerns about growth hormones and antibiotics. This is all very disturbing to me; when I grew up in Puerto Rico, the government recommendation was for 3 glasses of whole milk a day! In fact, our government recommends low fat dairy as part of our “Healthy Plate,” however, this is very likely more of a political decision, and not necessarily a nutritional one (this is for another day!)

For me, it’s a matter of preference, but I think the availability of theseplant-milks-non-dairy-milk-nut-milks “new milks” certainly makes life easier for those with sensitivity to dairy or those wanting to avoid animal products. Many of these milks are nutrient-fortified to provide some of the same health benefits as cow’s milk. Make sure to always read labels; added sugars, oils, dangerous stabilizers/emulsifiers found to be carcinogenic in animal studies and even arsenic can make these new “healthy milks” downright dangerous!

Below are some of the facts on cow’s milk and how the rest stack up:


Cow’s Milk


Soy Milk

(low fat plain)

Almond Milk

(unsweetened plain)

Coconut Milk


Rice Milk



102 cals

60-90 cals

30-50 cals

40-80 cals

90-130 cals


8.2 gms

4-6 gms

Up to 1 gram

0 grams

1 gm


2.4 gms

1.5-2 gms

2-2.5 gms

4-4.5 gms

2-2.5 gms


31% of daily rec value

20%-45% of daily rec value

30%-35% of daily rec value

30%-45% of daily rec value

30% of daily rec value

Nutrition Perks

Good quality proteins, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D

Nutritionally closest to cow’s milk. High quality protein, low in fat

Lower in calories and fat. Good amount of vitamin E, many are fortified with other vitamins

Not as fatty as the coconut milk in cans, fortified with calcium, vitamin D and some B12

One of the least allergenic milks; little additional nutritional value

Not so great…

Saturated fat and concerns of milk protein allergy, especially in children

Most made from genetically modified seeds. Look for organic

Low in protein. Many made with stabilizer Carrageenan (potential carcinogen)

Read labels!

Has zero protein, still relatively high in fat

May contain detectable amounts of arsenic! Not recommended for children under 5


And a few others…

Hemp Milk: This creamy beverage is made from hulled hemp seeds and water. Don’t worry, it’s free of THC, the chemical in hemp’s cousin, marijuana. It has a nutty flavor and it’s thicker than low fat cow’s milk. It’s a bit higher in fat than cow’s milk, but it contains a good amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, good for heart and brain health. In my opinion an acquired taste, and best used in recipes with strong flavors and spices to mask its flavor.

Oat Milk: Made from soaked oats and water, it has a delicate oatmeal-like flavor and aroma. Make sure to read labels if you are drinking it because you have allergies or intolerance to gluten, sometimes there are other grains containing gluten (like barley) in the products. Used best in sauces to add creaminess.

Goat’s Milk: Nutritionally similar to cow’s milk, and even packs a little more protein and fat, with slightly higher levels of calcium. Another acquired taste, can be a bit tangy (so I read, haven’t tried this one). If you have sensitivity to lactose, it’s probably best to stay away from all other animal milks.

So there you have it, “alternative drinks” at a glance…what’s YOUR favorite?

* Please note I am not endorsing the brands depicted here, they are simply for visual effect…READ LABELS! I buy mostly Whole Foods brand (365) but some Trade Joe’s brands are free of oils and carrageenan as well!

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