Got Milk? Non-dairy alternatives


The dairy industry has done such a great job that I’m sure you pictured someone with a milky white moustache while reading the title. Milk does a body good, right?

While most people tolerate cow’s milk and goat’s milk without problems, some folks have trouble with dairy. They might be lactose intolerant, meaning that they have trouble digesting the milk sugar lactose, which causes them a growly, irritated stomach and diarrhea. Others might have a true allergy to milk proteins, which can affect mucous membranes and lead to ear, sinus, stomach and respiratory problems, or even anaphylactic shock.

The good news is that there are lots of other options. And while they might never live up to your childhood memories of a chocolate chip cookie and a cold glass of milk, most of them are pretty tasty, and healthy too.


1. Soy milk is a long time favorite and resembles the taste of regular milk. Soy is in the top six category for food allergies, so it may not be a good choice for certain people. You can do a challenge test and strictly avoid all forms of soy (read labels!) for one week then drink soy milk on the last day and track how your body feels over the next 48 hours. You can also have a blood test to check for soy allergy. Soy milk is a great source of vitamins and minerals. It has 8-10 grams of protein per serving.

2. Coconut milk is rich in essential minerals, including potassium, manganese, selenium, copper, even zinc and iron, but has less protein and calcium than dairy. It has a 5 grams of saturated fat per serving. It has a nice texture and bakes well.

3. Rice milk is a very common alternative option. It is considered the most hypoallergenic and tends to be more economical than other options. Rice milk enjoys a healthy blend of carbohydrates and protein, boasting a very minimal amount of fat per serving. Rice milk has higher carbohydrates and lower protein levels compared to dairy. It is thin and watery, so not well suited for use in cooking or baking.

4. Almond milk is a creamy and slightly sweet. It has healthy omega-6 fats and is also rich in antioxidants including a 50% serving of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E. Containing only 30 calories per serving, it has less protein than dairy.

5. Flax milk is rich in calcium and alpha linoleic acids, a group of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to decrease the effects of inflammation on the body. It might be a good choice for someone with an autoimmune condition or severe acne.

6. Oat milk is a very nutritious milk made from the grains of the oatmeal cereal. Oat milk has 4-5g of protein per serving and is high in soluble fiber, which promotes healthy digestion and promotes “regularity.” It is usually fortified by Vitamin. One caution, most oats are not considered gluten-free.

7. Macadamia nut milk is hard to find, but very tasty. Although high in fat per serving, it is loaded with antioxidants and omega-6 fatty acids.

8. Cashew milk is also harder to find than rice, coconut, and oat milks, but has good taste and creaminess. It is high in protein and calcium.

7. Hemp milk is a good alternative for those allergic to soy, nuts and gluten and is made from hulled hemp seeds, water and usually some sweeteners. It contains a good amount of protein and has an excellent fatty acid profile, but is lower in calcium, unless fortified. It contains a good serving of thiamin, niacin, calcium, potassium and fiber. FYI, it is green!

8. Hazelnut milk is another tasty option, and is becoming the rage in LA coffee houses according to an article in the Los Angeles Times. It has good protein and healthy fat content.

9. Quinoa milk is made from a protein rich grain that was prized by the Incas.

10.Pea milk is new concoction and I’ll bet you can’t say pea milk without giggling. It is made from yellow split peas imported from France. I wonder if we can find them a good North Dakota source! It’s made by Ripple Foods and launched at Whole Foods in April. Pea milk has the same protein content at 2% cow’s milk and 20% fewer calories. It also has omega-3 fatty acids, iron and vitamin D.

I‘ve spared you a discussion on sunflower and potato milk, but that’s out there too! The best thing to do is to head to the grocery store and do your own taste test. Check out The Plant-Based Dairy Alternatives Guide by Sharon Palmer, RD for a comparison chart detailing serving size calories, protein, fat, sugar content and flavor profile of several of the milks mentioned above.

See what you like and if it makes sense for you and your body to substitute a dairy milk alternative.


~Dr Sue

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