4 Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes for Vegan and Lactose Intolerant

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

4 Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes for Vegan and Lactose Intolerant

I have a love-hate relationship with dairy milk. I love drinking dairy milk so much that my mom can no longer count the number of times she caught me drinking even evaporated milk straight from the can. Besides milk, my heart also flutters at the sight of dairy-based products like cheese and ice cream ^_^ However, my love affair with all things dairy has one obstacle – my super sensitive digestive system. I have lactose intolerance which means that I’m unable to digest the sugar (lactose) in dairy milk. This condition often leads to diarrhea and stomach pain whenever I consume milk.

There are many people like me who have intolerance to dairy milk (a.k.a. cow’s milk). In addition to that, there are also vegans who prefer to exclude dairy milk from their diet due to ethical reason that it is a by-product of an animal (namely, the cow).

Fortunately, there are a couple of dairy-free milk alternatives that are available in the market (most of them you can also make on your own). These substitutes vary in taste, cost and nutritional value (see table below for comparison).

Cow’s Milk
146 cal
7.9 grams
7.9 grams
12.8 grams
Soy Milk (Unsweetened)
80 cal
7 grams
4 grams
4 grams
Coconut Milk (Unsweetened)
45 cal
0 gram
4 grams
0 gram
Almond Milk (Unsweetened)
35 cal
1 gram
2.5 grams
2 grams
Oat Milk (Unsweetened)
177 cal
2.5 grams
5 grams
28.8 grams
Nutritional Value per 1 Cup (240 ml) of Milk

Here are the most common non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk.

1. Soy Milk

Soy milk is a plant-based milk made from soy beans. It is a popular beverage in most Asian countries (particularly in China) and is often used in cooking savory dishes (e.g. Savory Soy Milk Soup). It has a slightly sweet and beany flavor which some people might don’t like, especially if you’re not a fan of eating tofu.

In terms of nutrition profile, soy milk contains same amount of protein as cow’s milk but half the amount of calories, fats and carbohydrates. Indeed, it is a healthier substitute to dairy milk although there has been some controversies about soy possibly causing breast cancer due to its isoflavones content – a plant estrogen. As we know, high levels of estrogen in the body have been linked to breast cancer. Don’t be scared though because unless you drink a gallon of soy milk every single day, soy milk will not increase your risk of breast cancer.

When buying soy milk, make sure that you choose unsweetened, organic and non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) variants. If you want the purest and freshest soy milk, you can also make your own.

2. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made from water and grated coconut flesh. There are two types of coconut milk available in the market. One type is in milk-carton packaging and is thinner in texture. This is the type of coconut milk that you can drink just like a regular milk. The other type is packaged in can and is thicker in consistency. This type is often used in Southeast Asian and Indian cooking to thicken soups and sauces.

If you’re trying to lose weight, coconut milk is the best milk to include in your diet. It has less calories and fats than cow’s milk and has no carbohydrate. However, it has zero protein which is a disadvantage for people who are working out and building muscles.

If you want to make your own coconut milk at home, here is a simple tutorial.

3. Almond Milk

Almond milk is derived from whole almond nuts and is known for its distinct nutty flavor. Among all the dairy-free milk alternatives in this list, almond milk has the lowest calories and fat content, making it an ideal choice for people who are dieting. However, it contains very little protein compared to cow’s milk. Almond milk also contains phytic acid which is a substance naturally found in almonds. Phytic acid absorbs iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium. For this reason, it is recommended to drink almond milk in moderation because too much phytic acid in the body can lead to deficiency of those minerals mentioned.

Since almond milk is a bit pricey (especially if it’s an imported brand), you can save more money making your own by following this guide.

4. Oat Milk

Oat milk is a mild, slightly sweet milk made from steel-cut or rolled oats. Among the different non-dairy, vegan milk, oat milk has the closest resemblance to cow’s milk in terms of taste and texture. It is for this reason that some coffee shops in the US have transitioned from soy milk to oat milk in their lattes.

Since oat is a type of cereal grain, oat milk has higher calories and carbohydrates than cow’s milk. So if you need a drink that could boost your energy, oat milk is highly recommended, thanks to its high carbs content. Oat milk is also high in fiber, specifically beta-glucan – a soluble fiber that helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar level.

If you have extra bag of steel-cut or rolled oats in your pantry, then you may want to try making your own oat milk which is a lot cheaper than store-bought version.

When buying non-dairy milk in the supermarket, it is important to take a look at the ingredient label. Make sure that it doesn’t have unnecessary additives like sugar and thickener (e.g. carrageenan). Moreover, choose non-dairy milk that is fortified with calcium and vitamin B12, since these vitamins and minerals that are found in cow’s milk are absent in most plant-based milk.

Have you tried other dairy-free and vegan milk substitutes that are not on this list? Share them on the comment section below.

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