As a holistic nutritionist and women’s wellness guide, I get so many questions about alternative milks: Should I drink them? Which ones are best? Are there any I should avoid?
So I decided to break it all down so you can make the best decision for you and your individual needs.
Should you consider an alternative to cow’s milk?
One thing to be aware of is that cow’s milk actually causes allergies in many people due to the naturally-occurring lactose. If you notice that you have skin issues or rashes, bloating, painful cramping or other gastric issues, it’s possible you have an allergy to lactose.
Even if you were able to digest lactose as a child, your body naturally stops producing lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in the body, around four or five years old.
Which alternative milk should you choose?
There are so many options out there it can be hard to know which one is best for you. Some things to keep in mind when choosing any alternative milk is to always pick unsweetened, look for one with as few fillers as possible and avoid any with carrageenan. Though made from red seaweed and occurring naturally, numerous studies have found that it’s incredibly inflammatory to the gut.
Pros: Low in fat and calories. Rich in Vitamin E which is good for skin quality and is a great antioxidant. Good healthy fats.
Cons: Low in protein. Contains phytic acid which limits the absorption of iron, zinc and calcium.
Pros: Low in carbs and fats. A good option for someone who has high levels of sugar in the blood.
Cons: Low in protein.
Pros: Low in carbs. Contains MCTs which aid in blood sugar management and hormone balance.
Cons: Low in protein. High in fat and calories so should be consumed in moderation.
Pros: High in Omega-3s, which most North Americans are deficient in. Omega-3s are good for the gut and important for cognitive health. Good protein level.
Cons: Low in calcium.
Pros: Similar nutritional profile to traditional dairy. Contains beta-glucans which are a type of soluble fibre that helps to rid the body of bad cholesterol and is also good for blood sugar management.
Cons: High in carbohydrates.
Pros: Least allergenic of all the alternative milks.
Cons: Very watery so tends to have a lot of thickeners which can irritate the gut. High glycemic so is quickly absorbed by the system. Not recommended for diabetic or pre-diabetic.
Pros: High in protein.
Cons: Possibly interferes with women’s estrogen receptors which could lead to breast cancer or gonad issues.
My overall recommendation: Mix in traditional dairy on occasion if you can stomach it and if you enjoy it and try to use an alternative milk more regularly. My favourites are cashew, coconut, hemp and oat.