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The wide variety of milk alternatives provide individuals with milk allergies, lactose intolerance or dietary restrictions with choices that better suit their dietary needs or preferences.
But are milk alternatives as good for you as the real thing? One cup of whole milk provides 146 calories, 8 grams of fat, 8 grams of protein and 13 grams of carbohydrates. Cow milk also contains several essential vitamins and minerals including phosphorus, calcium and vitamin B, cementing the high nutritional value of cow milk.
Let’s look at how a few popular milk alternatives compare in nutritional value and why they might be appealing to individuals who are unable to or prefer not to consume cow milk.
Soy milk is made from soybeans or soy protein isolate and water. It has a mild creamy flavor that varies by brand and contains 80–90 calories, 4–4.5 grams of fat, 7–9 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates in one cup. The high protein in soy milk makes it a good choice for individuals looking for a high protein alternative to cow’s milk, as soy milk is one of only a few plant based sources of complete protein that provides all essential amino acids.
Milk Alternative #2—Almond Milk
Almond milk is made from almonds or almond butter and water has a slightly sweet and nutty taste. One cup of almond milk has 30–35 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 1–2 grams of carbohydrates. Almond milk is significantly lower in protein, calories and carbohydrates in comparison to cow milk, making it a good alternative for individuals looking to cut back on their caloric intake. Almond milk is also a good source of vitamin E, although a lot of the nutrients raw almonds provide are removed during the blanching process. If you purchase almond milk, look for brands that use a high percentage of almonds in their product for greater nutritional value.
Coconut milk is made from the water and flesh found inside of coconuts and has a creamy texture and a mildly sweet coconut flavor. One cup of coconut milk contains 45 calories, 4 grams of fat, no protein and almost no carbohydrates, making it a good option for individuals looking to cut back on carbohydrates or load up on healthy fats. In addition, coconut milk is high in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs)—a type of saturated fat that can help assist in weight loss and helps improve blood cholesterol.
Oat milk is made from a mixture of oats and water and has a naturally sweet and creamy flavor. One cup of oat milk contains 140–170 calories, 4.5–5 grams of fat, 2.5–5 grams of protein and 19–29 grams of carbohydrates. Oat milk has been shown to help reduce high cholesterol, making it a good option for individuals who are at a high risk for heart disease or really anyone who wants to lower their cholesterol. Oat milk is one of the less expensive milk alternatives and is also very easy to make at home! Oat milk is my personal favorite milk alternative. I put it in oatmeal, coffee, smoothies and so much more. I included one of my favorite recipes to use oat milk with to (hopefully) inspire some of you to give it a try!
Yields two servings
Combine the oats, protein powder and chia seeds in a bowl. Mix to combine. Add enough oat milk to fully saturate the oats - about one cup. You can add more or less depending on how runny you like your oatmeal.
Add vanilla extract and mix again to combine. Refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours. Mix oats, top with fresh fruit and enjoy! You can also add honey or maple syrup if you would like your oats sweeter.
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