Generations have been raised on cow’s milk, with a bit of goat’s milk mixed in in some areas of the world. There might even be a sampling of yak, buffalo, horse, sheep and even reindeer to choose from. In recent years, however, a flood of non-animal milk options has hit grocery store shelves.
This is partly due to a strong vegan movement interested in limiting animal products. The influx is also attributed to a rise in dairy allergies. Whatever the reason for the cutback on animal dairy, the market has provided with common alternatives like soy, almond and coconut milk. But there is an array of vegan milk options beyond those, each of which brings a different taste, texture, flavor and nutrient profile.
You may have seen this one as it explodes in popularity. It’s becoming easier to find and it’s often highly rated by consumers. Hemp milk comes from the hemp plant, the cannabis cousin to marijuana. The hemp plant is useful from top to bottom as it’s turned into oils, fibers, seeds and now milk. It’s a nutritious option with only around 70 calories per cup and few carbs. Yet it offers a complete protein with all the essential amino acids. Taste testers report the flavor is nutty and slightly sweet, even in the unsweetened form. The thin texture is a good substitute for 1% or skim milk, but it’s not as heavy as a cream for coffee.
Yes, it’s a thing. No, it doesn’t taste like peas. Made from yellow split peas, pea milk is low in sugar and calories. It may not be quite as healthy as the peas it starts from, since some of the nutrients are lost during production. However, the fortified options add some back in. The flavor is described as mild and the texture is watery and thin.
Quinoa is a grain that made a name for itself when it was discovered as a superfood several years ago. However, quinoa milk is fairly new to the market and can be challenging to find. Quinoa is gluten-free and high in protein. With its slightly nutty and sweet flavor, it pairs well with cereal and oatmeal.
It’s not too surprising this one would come to market considering the popularity of almond milk. Macadamia milk brings a creamier texture than most non-dairy milk options with a thicker consistency that holds up as an addition to milk, foods or smoothies. Macadamia milk contains one-third of the calories, about half the fat of cow’s milk, and is lower in protein and carbohydrates.
Also a nut milk, cashew milk is another thick option for hot drinks and food additions. Also like other nut milk, many of the nutrients are lost in the process. However, it contains fewer calories, fat and protein than macadamia milk. It also roughly has the same amount of carbohydrates. This is a top choice for home production since it’s easy to make.
It’s a new kid on the block and it’s taking a starring role. Now being offered at major coffee chains and readily available in many markets, more and more people, both vegan or not, are trying it out and giving it rave reviews as the best milk alternative.
Most vegan eaters will tell you there isn’t one substitute for all situations, and that’s likely the case with oat milk. Yet its mild, creamy, sweet flavor melds well with grains and works as a straight substitute in recipes. Oat milk is easy to make at home and is a nutritious option. It naturally contains calcium, vitamin A and iron. Fortified versions add even more nutrients.
One cup of oat milk contains around 150 calories, which is higher than other alternatives. It also has around five grams of fat and a relatively high two and a half to five grams of protein. It’s also higher in carbohydrates than other options, with 19 to 29 grams. Compared to cow’s milk, however, oat milk has about the same amount of calories and half the protein and fat. However, it’s about double the amount of carbs comparatively.
Studies have shown health benefits from oat milk, including leveling blood sugar and lowered cholesterol with regular use.
Categories of vegan milk
As you can see, alternative milk products are commonly made from similar groups of foods. We have grain milks, which include oat, rice, quinoa and even barley.
Then we have seed milks, such as those made from chia, hemp, flax, sesame and sunflower. Of course, there are nut milks. In addition to the almond, macadamia and cashew mentioned above, hazelnut is another option. Legume milks are also on the rise, with the mentioned pea and soy, as well as peanut milk.
Then there’s another category of milks that are simply plant-based. For example, you may be able to find potato milk as it increases in popularity. Coconut milk also falls into this category and many more are on the horizon.
With so many options, consumers can eliminate selections they may be allergic to, such as those that contain gluten, nuts or soy and still have options to explore.
Images via Pexels