Navigating the Milk Aisle
Hi everyone! Check out this piece I wrote for The Newsette!
It seems like nowadays almost anything can be made into a milk source (add it to the list of confusing topics!) and it can definitely be tough to navigate which one to choose. I am grateful for all the innovation in the non-dairy milk industry because I (along with the majority of human beings) cannot digest dairy and prefer to avoid that bloated, uncomfortable feeling that would ensue whenever I attempted. Sure, milk is a source of calcium and protein but there are so many non dairy sources of calcium AND the non dairy options are usually calcium fortified.
While I love that there are a variety of options for people who choose to avoid dairy, the products on the shelves typically include added sugars and preservatives that significantly decrease all of the natural benefits. Try to choose “unsweetened” options and check the ingredient list to ensure it has primarily real food. If you have the time, I suggest even trying to make your own! This is the best cashew milk recipe that I have found:
Homemade Cashew Milk:(about 4 servings)
- 3/4 cups raw, unsalted cashews
- 3-4 cups filtered water, plus more for soaking the cashews
- 1.5 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- dash of salt
- Place the cashews in a bowl filled with water and soak for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Drain and rinse
- Combine the soaked cashews with the filtered water in a blender. If you prefer a creamier texture, stick to 3/4 cup of cashews to 3 cups of water. You can always add more water to thin it out.
- Add the honey and vanilla and blend on low for about 2 minutes or until smooth
- Strain the milk using a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth. You can save the solid remains to use as a cashew spread!
- Pour the cashew milk in a jar and refrigerate. It should last 3-4 days!
Now back to store bought non dairy milk options as I understand not everyone has the motivation to make their own (I understand!)
Everyone has their own opinion of which version tastes best, so I’ve provided a breakdown below of the most popular plant-based milks with each one’s benefits & disadvantages -
Benefits: The main ingredients in almond milk are almonds and water, both of which your body loves. Almonds contain healthy fats and important minerals like calcium and iron - when made at home it’s the perfect delicious + healthy option!
Disadvantages: Almond milk contains very little protein compared to other options. There are also very few almonds in the packaged products, so most of the vitamins and minerals you see on the label are added by fortification (not terrible, but it’s just not as good as getting them from whole foods). It’s also often made with carrageenan, an additive that can be hard to digest and may cause inflammatory responses in some people so try to find one without it!
Benefits: Oat milk is the new kid on the block and all the rage right now. It has a delicious taste that most people are really falling for - especially those allergic to nuts. It’s also a bit higher in protein compared to almond, cashew, coconut, and rice milk.
Disadvantages: Oats (like wheat & other grains) can cause an inflammatory response and cause discomfort in some people. It’s high in carbohydrates AND sugar per cup (never an ideal combo!) It also has added rapeseed oil which contains high amounts of euric acid, a toxic fatty acid - something to stay away from for sure. Those who have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance should absolutely read the labels to be sure it was made with certified gluten-free oats.
Benefits: Cashew milk is similar to almond in many ways, since cashews contain similar healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. IIt has a similar nutty flavor with a slightly creamier texture. It’s definitely the easiest to make at home, since it doesn’t even need to be strained post-blending.
Disadvantages: Similar to almond, it’s low in protein
Benefits: Just like coconut oil, coconut milk is filled with healthy fats as well. It’s also rich in important B vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium. It’s definitely the creamiest of the alt-milks, so lots of people love it in coffee or in baking.
Disadvantages: If you’re buying the canned kind, all of that good fat means it’s very calorie-dense, so make sure to consider portion size. The kinds sold in cardboard cartons alongside nut milks is more watered down, making it less calories!
Benefits: Soy milk takes the win when it comes to protein, and many people prefer the slightly thicker texture to nut milks.
Disadvantages: Soy is a complicated ingredient and many experts disagree on its health benefits and/or risks. The main thing to remember is that almost all of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified. If you happen to love the taste and want the protein, be sure to go organic on this one!
Benefits: Hemp has much more protein than the nut milks (still slightly less than soy) and contains healthy omega-3s.
Disadvantages: Like almond, the packaged version often contains carrageenan, and most of the vitamins and minerals on the label are added via fortification. The flavor is a little stronger than other milks and some may not love the grassy taste.
Benefits: Rice milk is an older and more outdated version compared to other alternative milks, but it does happen to be the least allergenic.
Disadvantages: It’s low in protein, low in beneficial vitamins and minerals, and high in carbs. It’s generally watery and bland as well.