Want To Ditch Dairy? Here’s Your Vegan Milk Guide…

Most of us will remember the adverts on television, the major campaigns in school, and our parents at breakfast and sometimes even dinner telling us to drink our milk if we wanted strong bones and healthy teeth. The reality, however, is a little different, and with so many allergies to dairy in the world today, along with some growing evidence that it may not be as healthy as we think and ethical issues within the industry, there is an increase in demand for vegan milk alternatives. This is a great thing, because, even if you do enjoy cow’s milk, chances are you are consuming too much of it, and, at the very least, you might want to switch to a vegan milk substitute half the time, if not altogether. Let’s take a look at the healthiest and safest options…

Whether you're lactose intolerant, vegan, or just want to cut back on animal products, there are a number of plant-based milk alternatives to choose from...


Why Not Cow’s Milk?

Bloating, cramps and rashes are some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance, but even if you are not allergic to dairy, there is mounting evidence that it’s not the healthy ‘food you drink’ that you think it is. Sure, there are nutrients in cow’s milk, and it does have some health benefits, being a good source of calcium and vitamin D, but a number of scientists are now saying that the pros may not outweigh the cons. Some studies suggest ditching dairy altogether can actually help you strengthen your bones, improve digestion, clear up acne-prone skin, and boost your energy. So, are you thinking you can’t take coffee without milk and love a bowl of oats in the morning? Let’s check out some of the substitute options to make a dairy-free milk change work for you…


Vegan Milk Alternatives

The good news is, there are a number of non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk these days, including soy, almond, hemp, coconut and rice (to name just a few). Some are better than others in terms of health, and some are better in terms of taste. Of course, taste is always subjective, so it depends on what you like. Let’s start by taking a look at the nutritional value of these alternatives, but be aware that vegan milks are often enriched with different nutrients, so nutritional value can vary from brand-to-brand…

milk alternatives

Nutritional Information

We’re looking at the nutritional value of five popular non-dairy alternatives in 240 gram servings – soy, almond, coconut, rice and hemp. All of these are unsweetened varieties, either in their raw form (like coconut milk), or without added sugar, so when you do go to buy them in your local supermarket or health food shop, make sure it says ‘unsweetened’, or, if you are unsure, check the ingredients…

Soy Milk

Calories – 80

Total Fat – 4g

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 85mg

Total Carbohydrate – 4g

Dietary Fiber – 1g

Sugars – 1g

Protein – 7g

Vitamin A – 10% of RDI

Vitamin C – 0% of RDI

Calcium – 30% of RDI

Iron – 6% of RDI

Folate – 6% of RDI

Magnesium – 10% of RDI


If you actually are completely vegan, then soy products can give you a great boost of much-needed protein. It is one of the richest sources of plant-based protein around, and soy milk comes closest to cow’s milk in terms of protein content, providing 6 grams per cup. It is also a good source of potassium while being low in calories and fat. However, soybeans need to be heavily processed in order to be turned into soy products like milk, and more than 90 per cent of soy produced in the US is genetically-modified, with crops being sprayed with Roundup, a herbicide that may be associated with some serious health risks. There is a vast amount of information out there about soy, some studies suggesting soy products cause health risks, others touting their health benefits. At this stage, the evidence is too weak to conclude that soy products can be harmful to adults in moderate amounts. However, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid soy milk. If you do want to try soy milk, don’t drink it in excess (a dash in coffee or tea is fine), and look for enriched versions that provide extra calcium and vitamins B and D.

soy milk

Almond Milk

Calories – 40

Total Fat – 3g

Cholesterol – 0mg

Sodium – 180mg

Total Carbohydrate – 2g

Dietary Fiber – 1g

Sugars – 0g

Protein – 1g

Vitamin A – 10% of RDI

Vitamin C – 0% of RDI

Calcium – 20% of RDI

Iron – 2% of RDI

Folate – 0% of RDI

Magnesium – 4% of RDI

almond milk

As of 2016, this is the most popular plant-based milk in the US, and it does come with a range of health benefits. It is low in calories and fat and relatively high in calcium (although not as high as dairy). And, on top of that, it tastes great, which is probably why it’s such a popular choice. The only downside is that it is processed and watered down, meaning the great source of fiber in the original almond is basically removed, but generally milk is low in fiber, so as long as you are getting that elsewhere in your diet, then you’re not really missing out on anything. Choose unsweetened almond milk, not regular almond milk, because it is packed full of added sugar; and choose enriched varieties, with added calcium and vitamins. Like a lot of vegan milks, it’s actually quite easy to make, which means you can minimize the cost and keep it super natural. But, of course, the downside is, it won’t be enriched or fortified with any nutrients. If you’re not vegan and feel that you are getting plenty of protein and calcium from other food sources, then this is a great homemade option if you want to cut out dairy…

Coconut Milk

Calories – 552

Total Fat – 57g

Cholesterol – 0mg

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