A Basic Guide to Cow-Free Milk

April 21, 2015
by Kristina Bravo for Thrive Market
A Basic Guide to Cow-Free Milk

Got milk? Probably, and it didn’t necessarily come from a cow.

These days, producers offer myriads of options for vegans, the lactose intolerant, and those concerned about bovine growth hormones and climate change. With alternatives aplenty, making a choice can be difficult. Here’s the lowdown on five kinds of plant-based milk.

Soy Milk

Traditionally favored by the lactose averse, soy milk is what’s left after soybeans are soaked, ground, and strained. Unfortified soy milk contains less protein and calcium than cow’s milk. But t this faux-dairy lacks in bone-strengthening nutrients it makes up for in isoflavones, plant chemicals that many scientists believe can help reduce heart and cancer risks. (Soy consumption has been linked to breast cancer, but such claims have been generally disputed.)

One serving of soy milk also has about 80 fewer calories than regular milk and is low in saturated fats.

Almond Milk

What’s better than a dairy alternative that’s low in saturated fats? One that has none. As reliable as soy milk has been for centuries, almond milk has for the past few years put a damper on soy’s popularity. It’s estimated that almond milk sales increased by 39 percent last year as revenue for drinkable soy continued to drop. Besides containing saturated fats and more calories than almond milk, market researchers chalk up soy milk’s fading popularity to another factor: It’s just not hip. “Nuts are trendy now,” Marketresearch.com’s Larry Finkel told Bloomberg. “Soy sounds more like old-fashioned health food, like tofu, and could probably benefit by a reinvigoration of their brand.”

Coconut Milk

As thousands petition Starbucks to start carrying almond milk (Facebook page here for those so inclined), one cow-free alternative recently made it to the siren’s counter: coconut milk. According to the mass coffee purveyor, more than 84,000 votes on MyStarbucksIdea.com made the clamor for coconut milk loud and clear. So what’s all the fuss about? Coconut milk is made from grated coconut meat that’s soaked in water. The remaining liquid may be repeatedly strained with a cheesecloth for a thinner consistency. Coconuts have lots of vitamins and minerals, but don’t confuse the milk with the low-calorie, electrolyte rich coconut water (this is simply the clear juice found when cracking the fruit open). A cup of sweetened coconut milk packs about 350 calories in saturated fat.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is the least likely of all milk products to trigger allergies, according to Real Simple. But this dairy alternative, which is made from milled rice and water, has low amounts of nutrients. It also contains more natural sugars than regular milk, with almost no protein.

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk isn’t made from the same hemp varieties used to produce marijuana, according to Oregon-based Living Harvest Foods, and it doesn’t contain the ingredient THC (the chemical that gives pot its psychological effects). What it does have are omega-3s, the heart-healthy fats abundant in fish. Although it’s not yet clear whether the omega-3s in hemp have the same cardiovascular benefits as those found in seafood, the fortified version of hemp milk has calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D—the same nutrients regular milk provides. Hemp seeds also have similar nutritional values as flax seeds.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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This article is related to: Almond milk, Coconut milk, Dairy-Free, Vegan, Milk, Rice milk, Soy milk, Hemp milk, Lactose intolerant

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  • Apryll Walker

    Good options, although our family's favorite option lately is rich, low calorie, creamy Cashew Milk.

  • Denise Brown

    Unfortunately, a lot of dairy-free milks have the food additive carrageenan. Even though touted as being beneficial because it is obtained from seaweed, it is found to cause ulcers and cancer in animals in over 40 studies. According to Dr. Ron Grisanti from the Functional Medicine University, it triggers inflammation in the human colon, promotes IBS, and breast cancer. It also changes detoxification in sulfur pathways and is part of the cause for diabetes, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.

  • rivkatoy

    Thank you Denise Brown for your post! It is amazing what the FDA allows in our food!! I am lactose intolerant and thought I was switching to a better milk product for me when I was buying organic almond milk and coconut milk but I even had a worse problem with those! Then my doctor told me to read labels and be sure to buy only products without carageenan which is a known problem in addition to being potentially very dangerous as Denise posted. I found that carageenan is in every boxed 'milk' product I had and most of the brands in the dairy case but I finally found a coconut milk in the dairy case at Trader Joe's with no carageenan. Problem solved! Either make your own nut milk or find out which ones at the store do not have it...there are not many. Most yogurt contains it too as do many other products in the dairy case especially.

  • http://www.jvolpemd.com Judith Volpe MD

    how about offering soy milk

  • Mrs. Yoder

    I wish that Thrive Market cared enough about our health than to hire someone who wasn't a total bozo (looks like someone they hired on odesk from the Philippines to write something for $6/hr, but I'm guessing). Even the US government is finally buying a clue about saturated fats and how they're...good for you. Pushing soy milk (can you say endocrine disruptor?) over something like coconut milk really burns me. Can they scrap this article and do it over?

  • https://bit.ly/andrewlowe ᴀɴᴅʀᴇᴡ ʟᴏᴡᴇ

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zPMIPgkG9E