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Dairy-free drinks. Image by: Getty Images: AlexPro9500
We needed help demystifying the seemingly endless list of milk alternatives, so we went to the experts for real talk on dairy-free drinks.
Whether you're lactose intolerant, vegan, or just like the taste, there are plenty of reasons to experiment with adding milk alternatives to your diet. But with more varieties than ever before, how do you know which option is best for you? We asked two registered dietitians, Carol Harrison and Crystal MacGregor, for the skinny on dairy-free drinks.
Why does cow's milk get a bad rap?
Carol Harrison: Some people are worried about hormones or antibiotics in milk. But the truth is, growth hormones are not approved for use in dairy cattle in Canada. As well, The Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports compliance for veterinary product residues in milk is greater than 99 per cent.
Crystal MacGregor: Cow’s milk is a nutritious and safe choice. Non-dairy beverages are actually not suitable for children under the age of two because they do not contain enough calories, protein and fat to support children’s needs.
Which beverage is closest to cow’s milk in terms of nutritional profile?
CM: Soy is the closest to dairy in protein per serving at 7 grams of protein per cup. When possible, choose organic versions, as many conventional soy milks can come from genetically modified soybeans, which may contain higher levels of pesticides and fertilizers.
CH: The only beverages I consider nutritional substitutes for cow's milk are goat’s milk fortified with vitamin D and soy beverages fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
What are some things a person should consider when choosing a dairy-free beverage?
CM: If choosing a non-dairy alternative for a source of protein it is important to note that not all are created equal—most nut milks such as almond, coconut and cashew milk contain less than 1 g of protein per cup.
CH: Aim for 30 per cent daily value calcium and 45 per cent daily value vitamin D. Also choose unsweetened options to curb unwanted added sugars.
Check out our slideshow of popular dairy-free drinks, with pros and cons from our experts.
Pros: Almonds naturally contain vitamin E and minerals such as magnesium. It contains no saturated fats and is typically low in calories.
Cons: Almond milk is low in protein. Look for ones that do not have added oils.
Pros: Cashew milk is creamy, sweet and less nutty tasting than other nut milks. It makes a great addition to oatmeal and savoury dishes like curry.
Cons: Cashew milk is very low in protein and is not suitable for those with a tree nut allergy.
Pros: Great for those with, nut soy, and dairy allergies.
Cons: They are often higher in sugars, and added oils. Look for whole brown rice in the ingredients list.
Pros: Contains healthy natural saturated fats, and is lower in carbohydrates and calories than cow's milk and other plant-based beverages.
Cons: Higher in fat than other nut milks.
Pros: A good source of heart-healthy omega 3 fatty acids. The watery consistency makes it a smooth addition for coffee and shakes.
Cons: Low in protein like other nut and seed milks and many are yet to be fortified with calcium or vitamin D.
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