The interest in non-dairy milks has sky rocketed. This is for a variety of reasons. Choosing the best milk or plant-based milk can be challenging, with the wide variety of options on the market. While all types of milk are equivalent when it comes to calcium and vitamin D, let me help you compare their nutritional content and outline their respective controversies.
Health Benefits: The unsweetened varieties can be very low in calories, at about 40 calories per cup. Almond milk is also lactose free.
Health Drawbacks: Almond milk contains fewer nutrients than the actual nuts themselves. Almond milk is a poor protein source, at only 1 gram per cup. Sweetened almond milk can be high in sugar.
Controversy: There is some concern regarding the impact almonds have on the environment, as they are a water-intensive crop. In particular, they put a heavy demand on drought-stricken California, where 80% of the world’s almonds are grown. That being said, dairy milk has a greater resource and environment impact compared to almond milk.
Price: $2.77/32 oz*
Health Benefits: The type of fat in coconut milk may have benefits. The saturated fat it contains is a blend of medium-chain fatty acids that, compared to long-chain fatty acids, are stored less in fat tissue, and may increase calorie-burning. Coconut milk is lactose free.
Health Drawbacks: Coconut milk is low is protein, at around 1 g per cup and can be high in calories.
Controversy: Some are cautious of the fat in coconut milk, as it may undesirably increase bad LDL cholesterol. However, it also tends to desirably increase good HDL cholesterol. Research to date doesn’t appear to link coconut milk to actual heart disease risk.
Price: $2.77/32 oz*
Health Benefits: Soy milk is a complete protein source and it contains a good 7 grams per cup. Soy milk also contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3 fatty acid which linked to heart and brain health. Soy milk is lactose free.
Health Drawbacks: Some brands pack up to 160 calories per cup due to the added sugar. Look for unsweetened or original versions.
Controversy: The natural active compounds in soybeans are called isoflavones, which are similar in structure to the hormone estrogen. However, the current consensus among health experts who study soy is that breast cancer survivors can safely eat these foods. Some studies suggest soy is protective against breast cancer recurrence.
Price: $2.67/ 32 oz
Health Benefits: The unsweetened varieties of rice milk can be very low in calories (40 calories per cup). It is an option for people who have allergies to almond or soy milk. Rice milk is also lactose free.
Health Drawbacks: Rice milk has a higher amount of carbohydrates compared to other milks and contains almost no protein.
Controversy: There are concerns regarding arsenic exposure in rice products, as rice takes up arsenic from the soil more readily then other grains do. Arsenic is a human carcinogen.
Price: $2.77/ 32 oz
Health Benefits: Hemp milk contains both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids, which is supplied by alpha-linolenic acid. It is also lactose free.
Health Drawbacks: Although it contains about the same amount of calories as soy milk, is has about half the amount of protein, at 4 grams per cup.
Controversy: There are legal challenges for farmers of hemp seed, although hemp seed itself contains no THC.
$2.77/ 32 oz
Health Benefits: In terms of protein, cow’s milk is the best choice, at 8 grams per cup. The combination of the casein and whey protein it contains is highly effective in repairing muscle damage.
Health Drawbacks: Cow’s milk contains lactose, a naturally occurring sugar which may cause GI upset in some people.
Controversy: There is a perception of growth hormones and antibiotics being present in cow’s milk, however in Canada, dairy cows are not given bovine growth hormones and both organic and non-organic milk meets strict government standards. There is also a large impact on the environment with the dairy industry, a cows releasing methane gas, contributing greatly to greenhouse gas emissions.
Price: $2.33/ 32 oz
*prices in effect on November 1st 2015 at Walmart Supercentres in Ontario