A growing array of milk alternatives are popping up on grocery shelves. While soy may be the original favorite, it’s only one member of the “in” crowd shaking up the dairy industry. Oat milk achieved such intense popularity in 2018 that New York experienced a city-wide shortage, with some people paying more than $200 to procure a 12-pack on Amazon. Here, we highlight some of the most prominent non-dairy contenders.
This OG substitute is made by soaking and blending soy beans and straining out the remaining pulp. It’s a good source of protein, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, and is suitable for people with lactose, milk protein, or gluten intolerances. However, because soy milk contains isoflavones, which have a similar chemical structure to estrogen, drinking too much can impact the effect of estrogen in our bodies.
This tropical-tasting milk combines water and the white flesh of brown coconuts. While magnesium, iron, and potassium make this option a nutrient powerhouse, full-fat coconut milk is also high in calories—with a considerable percentage coming from saturated fat. It also has the lowest protein and carbohydrate content of non-dairy milks.
Almond milk is a mixture of finely ground almonds and water. In comparison with cow’s milk, unsweetened almond milk has less than a quarter of the calories and no saturated fat. It’s also a natural source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against disease-causing free radicals. On the downside, many almond milk brands contain only 2 percent almonds, making it a less concentrated source of the nutrients, like protein and fiber, found in whole almonds.
This creamy alternative comprises pea protein isolate, water, and other emulsifiers like algal oil, sunflower oil, and guar and gellan gums. Its protein content is comparable to cow’s milk, and the algal oil also provides DHA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid with beneficial ties to immunity, heart health, and cognition. Because it’s made with sunflower oil, pea milk also contains omega-6 fatty acids that, in excess, have been linked to inflammation.
High in protein and fiber, this trendy contender contains beta-glucan, which can help lower cholesterol and blood-sugar levels and may increase satiated feelings after a meal. But, oat milk can have up to double the carbohydrates as cow’s milk and only half the protein.