Today’s guest post on milk alternatives is by Renee Bradford. You can find out more about her below.
A healthy life is an ongoing journey. Having made a decision to take my health more seriously, I've started looking into the food choices I make. To keep food exciting, I've made it a point to look out for new alternatives to otherwise tried and true food choices.
One of these choices I keep an eye on is milk. When I decided to look for alternatives, I was amazed at the wide variety there was to choose from! I decided to do a bit more digging and find out the pros and cons of non-animal milk alternatives. Aside from the fact that all of these are lactose and casein free, here's what I found:
Pros – Soy milk is a very popular alternative that is readily available. In one cup of soymilk, you're provided with 10 protein grams, 30 milligrams of isoflavones (compounds that can help lowering the risk of certain diseases), omega 3-fatty acids and it is often fortified with calcium, riboflavin, and vitamins A, D, and B12. Soy milk can also reduce the risk of heart disease (when coupled with a diet low in saturated fat), can help keep breast and prostate cancer at bay, can prevent osteoporosis, and even improve menopausal symptoms.
Cons - While soy milk is the most processed and available of all the milk alternatives, it also has its downsides. While one cup is loaded with the many good things mentioned above, it also contains 100 calories and a little over 4 grams of fat. Additionally, there is much debate over consuming large amounts of soy milk and the adverse health effects may pose. Some of these debates include a link between soy consumption and reduced brain cognition, feminizing characteristics in men, and an increased rate of hypothyroidism.
Pros - Aside from the lack of lactose and casein that all non-animal milk alternatives have, almond milk is also devoid of gluten and saturated or trans fat. Almond milk is also very low in carbohydrates and calories (half as much as the calorie content of 2% milk, rice milk, and soy milk). Very high in vitamins (A, D, and E) and minerals (phosphorus, magnesium, iron, potassium), almond milk also carries the health benefits of almonds. Some of these benefits include aiding in brain development, regulation of cholesterol, reduction of heart diseases, skin care, weight loss, and many more!
Cons - Almond milk has very low protein content, with only 1-2 grams of protein in every 8-ounce serving. As it is, eating almond nuts is healthier and more beneficial than ingesting it in milk form. Almond milk is also not safe for consumption for those with allergies to tree-nuts.
Pros - Hemp milk has a plethora of great characteristics. It's a perfect source for omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, vitamins (A, B12, and D), riboflavin and folic acid. Additionally, hemp milk has only 0.5 grams of saturated fat in every serving, and 4.5 grams of good polyunsaturated fat and 1 gram of good monosaturated fat. Hemp protein has also been found to differ from soy protein in that it doesn't have elevated levels of phytates , enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with the absorption of essential minerals. Hemp milk also doesn't have high levels of oligosaccharides that can lead to flatulence and stomach pains.
Cons - With only 4 grams of protein per 8-ounce serving, hemp milk has a largely reduced amount of protein per serving compared to cow's milk, but greater than that of almond milk. It also does not mix well with coffee - in separates when mixed. It is also not as available and easy to find as the other alternatives.
Pros - While made from brown rice, these milks are at par with cow's milk in vitamins (A, D, B12) and calcium while containing less fat than soymilk. Great for building bones because of their high calcium content, rice milk also has low calorie levels and is high in fiber. This in turn helps reduce cholesterol and maintains a balanced blood sugar level.
Cons - Rice milk is low in calorie and fat content but is higher in carbohydrates. As with many other non-milk alternatives, rice milk also has very low protein content (just 1 gram in every serving).
Pros - Oat milk retains the health benefits that oats have. Like whole grain oats, oat milk is high in fiber, lowers cholesterol and does a better job of increasing endurance levels than energy drinks. Oat milk also has vitamins (A, D, E, B12), folic acid, calcium, and other minerals. With the help of phytochemicals, oats also help prevent and fight cancer, heart disease, and stroke. With more protein content than most other non-animal milk choices, oat milk has 4 ounces of protein per serving.
Cons - Despite the many benefits of oats, some oat milk brands or varieties can have high levels of sugar. Also, some oat milk can contain gluten, which is bad news for those who the gluten- free or allergic.
Made by squeezing grated coconut through cheesecloth and hot water, coconut milk is readily available in cans and bottles.
Pros - Coconut milk is often used to treat mouth ulcers, having protective properties against the eruptions of gastric ulceration. Found to be high in lauric acid, which has anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, coconut milk is low in carbohydrates and naturally sweet tasting. The fat it contains is very healthy and is easily converted to energy by the body.
Cons - Containing 5 grams of saturated fat, coconut milk must be used sparingly if trying to lose weight. Coconut milk can be expensive, about two times more than cow’s milk.
Being an important part of anyone's diet, choosing an alternative to cow's milk with is a serious decision. Whether it's for health reasons or political doctrine, knowing the pros and cons of each alternative will allow you to make an informed choice based on your personal needs.
Renee Bradford works for an online marketer of artificial Christmas trees for the home. A wife and mother, she is passionate about teaching her children healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices.