Milk Alternatives: Soy, Almond, Rice, Hemp and How to Choose One

Despite my good ol-fashioned milk-bashing of a post from last week, sometimes you just need milk.  Thankfully, there are many milk alternatives. When I first went milk-free over 25 years ago (thanks mom!), soy milk was the only option. Thank goodness we’ve come a long way since then! Although I’m not anti-soy milk, I think it’s the least healthy of milk alternatives for a few reasons; it’s typically genetically-modified (unless stated as organic) and is one of the top food allergens. In addition, soy is one of the most commonly used “fillers” in processed food (even in many “health foods”) and I don’t think more of it is a good thing. For me personally, I’ve also found that I now react to soy milk in the same way I do milk — bloating and indigestion (pretty!). Maybe my body has just developed an intolerance over time or perhaps it’s because the quality of soybeans is getting worse as the demand increases. In fact, many companies are now using questionable soybeans sourced all the way from China.

But if real milk isn’t your thing, or you’re looking to diversify your diet, here are a few of the most common milk alternatives and what I think of them:

Soy Milk

  • has a higher dosage of iron and vitamins A and D than dairy milk
  • is a great source of potassium, riboflavin, zinc, vitamin B12, fiber, essential amino acids, and isoflavones
  • is loaded with bio-active components, which have been said to maintain healthy bones, relieve menopausal symptoms and hot flashes, and prevent prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers
  • makes a great latte

Domestically Approved: Any brand that is organic and unsweetened and a 4 or 5 bean rating on the Cornucopia Institutes Soy Bean Rating Scale, a non-bias grading that factors in the quality of soy beans used, where they come from, the type of processing, etc. Eden Foods and Organic Valley are two great choices.

Almond Milk

  • is made from ground almonds and has a naturally sweet taste
  • tastes the closest to cow’s milk
  • is high in antioxidants and vitamin D, which helps our body absorb calcium and build stronger bones
  • studies have shown that the balance of protein, “good” fats, and fiber found in almonds helps you lose weight

Domestically Approved Brand: My favorite is Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almondmilk Unsweetened. It’s the only brand I can find that’s free from carageenan (just a personal preference — the studies are still inconclusive as to whether this thickening agent has negative affects on the body but I’d rather not find out the hard way). Almond milk is my personal choice for milk alternatives because it has a milk-like sweet taste and is low in calories.

Rice Milk

  • contains more carbohydrates than cow milk
  • doesn’t contain significant amounts of calcium or protein unless fortified
  • has a “watery” taste and can be good for small children or adults who don’t like strong flavors

Domestically Approved Brands: I’m not a fan of rice milk because unless it’s fortified, it doesn’t offer you much — and you know how I feel about “fortified” foods. But if rice milk is all you can have, I’d stick with an organic type such as Rice Dream’s Organic Enriched Original.

Hemp Milk

  • is made from the seeds of the hemp plant
  • is creamier than soy or almond milk
  • has a nutty flavor
  • tastes like arse…in my opinion

Domestically Approved Brands: None. Like I said, I think it tastes like arse. But hey, I guess some people like that sorta thing or it wouldn’t still be on the market. You’ll just have to try it for yourself and find out if you’re an arse-lover or not.

Domestically Yours,
Natasha Kay

3 thoughts on “Milk Alternatives: Soy, Almond, Rice, Hemp and How to Choose One

  1. Shauna says:

    I often use coconut milk for baking. It goes well with the coconut flour I often use as well. Almond milk is what I put on cereal, etc.

    • Natasha Kay says:

      I love coconut milk for baking and cooking! I use it as a cream alternative for all my Indian dishes. I tried the beverage version (sold with other dairy alternatives) for cereal but wasn’t too impressed. That was a few years ago so I think I should look into that again! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. SueM! (@Socratic1) says:

    I would never use soy after learning that most of it is GMO. Whey protein is an absolute no, no for me after seeing what it is and how it is processed. Awful! So, my choices are almond, coconut, rice, hemp in that order! Thanks for sharing your knowledge! Follow my FB page at https://www.facebook.com/essanteorganicsworldwide for some interesting healthy information I gather from lots of places. Love to have you post on there!

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