With all the alternative milks, it is important to read the labels. Many contain added sugar or preservatives. Carrageenan, a preservative made from seaweed, can be particularly troublesome because it has been linked to inflammation, gut irritation, and even cancer. Look for milks with the least amount of ingredients (or better yet, make your own).
Soy Milk: Soy milk is a protein-rich alternative milk but it is low in calcium. Soy has also been controversial in part because of disputed claims linking the phytoestrogen-rich soy to increased risk of breast cancer. However, it is rich in vitamin B and has 10% of your recommended daily intake of folic acid, a B-complex vitamin. Given that most soy in the US is a GMO crop, if you are going to consume soy milk, make sure it is organic. Also, many people are sensitive to soy so you will have to try it to see if it causes any symptoms like digestive upset or bloating for you.
Almond Milk: Almond milk sales have climbed over the past few years, as it has been touted as a healthier alternative to dairy milk and soy milk. It contains fewer calories than soy (90 calories in 8 oz.), no saturated fat or cholesterol, about 25% of your daily vitamin D, and almost half of your daily vitamin E. Many almond milks have added calcium, making them more calcium rich than dairy milk.
Rice Milk: To make rice milk, rice is milled and then blended with water until it transforms into a liquid. This process converts the carbohydrates in the rice to sugar giving the milk a naturally sweet taste. This sugary alternative is very low in nutrient value unless vitamins and calcium are added to it. It’s the least likely to trigger allergies, but contains almost no protein.
Hemp Milk: Hemp milk is made from hemp seeds and water. Hemp milk contains 4 grams of digestible protein and is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, B-12 and folic acid. It also contains magnesium, potassium, iron and magnesium, all essential nutrients for a healthy diet and immune system. It has a rich, creamy taste.
Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is created when the meat of the coconut is grated and then pressed through a nut milk bag. The fatty cream that is released can be blended with water to create coconut milk. The nutritional content of coconut milk varies depending on how many other ingredients have been used to make it. In general, coconut milk can be high in fat and low in protein.
These are just some of the most common alternative milks on the market. What is your favorite?
Photo from flickr.