The healthiest dairy milk alternatives

Written by Endeavour College of Natural Health | 11 February, 2021

Once upon a time, if someone asked for milk in their coffee it was safe to say there was only one or two choices at the most. These days, quite the opposite is true.

We have an abundance of choices when it comes to milk – almond, soy, oat, macadamia and everything in between. Whether you’re looking beyond dairy milk because of dietary preferences or due to health concerns, you may be left wondering where to start.

Never fear! We have put together a list of the most common dairy milk-alternatives and their respective health benefits. We’ll leave the final choice up to you (or your health professional) but hope that this article can serve as a jumping off point.

Almond milk

In terms of dairy-free alternatives, almond milk has truly made its mark in the supermarket aisles. A popular choice among the plant-based and vegan community, almond milk has a rich and nutty flavour and is reasonably easy to make at home (just almonds and water). You can also find a variety of flavoured almond milk options, but these often contain a lot of sugar.

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  • Good source of Vitamin E
  • Light in texture
  • Low in calories

An easy way to introduce almond milk into your routine may include pouring it into your morning coffee, adding it to a bowl of oatmeal or using it in a smoothie.

Soy milk

Soy milk is made by soaking, grinding and blending soybeans with water. As it has quite a distinctive taste, this option may take some getting used to but, if given the chance, can provide a good boost of nutrients to your diet. One thing to note is that soy allergies are among the more common, so those who fall into the allergy or soy-sensitive category may want to steer clear[AU1] [SF2] .

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  • Good source of potassium and Vitamin K
  • More protein than other dairy-free milks
  • Can be fortified with calcium and other vitamins

Other than using it in your coffee or breakfast and dessert recipes (which is where many dairy-free milk alternatives shine), soy milk can add creaminess to a soup or a rice pudding.

Oat milk

If it isn’t obvious by now, many dairy-free milk options are made from simple ingredients and, in their purest form, are narrowed down to just two. Oat milk is no exception! Made by soaking and blending oats with water, oat milk is a great option for people with common allergies such as nut and soy.

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  • Good source of fibre
  • Calcium and mineral fortified varieties available
  • Naturally sweet flavour

An oat milk latte is something that you may be familiar with via your local café, but oat milk is also great in a smoothie, a bowl of oatmeal/cereal, and can be used when baking.

Tip: keep in mind that many of the readily available dairy-free milk varieties may contain preservatives, thickeners, sugars, and various other ingredients to improve stability and lengthen shelf life. A general rule of thumb is the shorter the list of ingredients, the better!

Rice milk

Rice milk is made from rice and water and can act as a convincing dairy-milk substitute in recipes that call for a splash of liquid. Rice, by nature, is higher in carbs and calories than some of the other dairy-free milk varieties on this list, but this shouldn’t deter you from giving it a try!

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  • Good source of B vitamins
  • High carb but low protein
  • Least allergenic dairy-free milk variety
  • Sweet yet mild flavour

How can you use rice milk in your cooking? Use it for a rice milk pudding, or try it out in this chocolate donut recipe.

Coconut milk

Many of you may already be familiar with coconut milk as it can commonly be found in Thai, South East Asian and Indian cooking. Whether it be the canned variety (usually consisting of just coconut flesh and water) or the one found in a carton (fortified with vitamins and minerals), coconut milk is a versatile dairy-free milk alternative that can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes.

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  • Good source of MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides)
  • High fat, low carb option
  • Rich and creamy texture

So, you’ve got a can or carton of coconut milk – now what? Add it to a savoury curry, use it in a chia seed pudding or try it out in this banana maca bread recipe.

There are plenty of other options available these days (cashew, macadamia, quinoa and more) but these are five of the most common and moderately priced dairy-free milk varieties.

Whichever milk you put into your shopping trolley, it’s important to remember that everyone has different dietary and health needs – what’s right for some won’t be right for others, so it’s best to speak to a registered health professional before making the switch.

References:

Yianna Y. Zhang, Jaimee Hughes and Sara Grafenauer (2020). Got Mylk? The Emerging Role of Australian Plant-Based Milk Alternatives as A Cow’s Milk Substitute. MPDI. https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/12/5/1254/pdf

Sai Kranthi Vanga and Vijaya Raghavan (2018). How well do plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow’s milk? Journal of Food Science and Technology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756203/#

Harvard School of Public Health (2019). The Nutrition Source – Almonds. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/almonds/

SBS Food (2020). If you can't drink cow's milk, what's the healthiest alternative? https://www.sbs.com.au/food/health/article/2020/05/11/if-you-cant-drink-cows-milk-whats-healthiest-alternative


Endeavour College of Natural Health

Endeavour College of Natural Health is Australia's largest Higher Education provider of natural medicine courses.

The College is known as the centre of excellence for natural medicine and is respected for its internationally recognised academic teams and high calibre graduates. Endeavour offers Bachelor of Health Science degrees in Naturopathy, Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine, and Acupuncture, a fully online Bachelor of Complementary Medicine, Undergraduate Certificates, a Diploma of Health Science and massage courses.

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