05 Sep A Guide to the Best Dairy Free Milks
Whether for health or ethical reasons, more and more of us are shunning traditional cows milk in favour of dairy free alternatives. A piece of research from Mintel found that almost a quarter (23%) of us regularly consume non-dairy milk alternatives. There’s a big difference in quality when it comes to milk alternative products. Some are surprisingly highly processed. They can contain undesirable additives and low levels of the ingredient that the milk is supposedly based on. In 2015 a false advertising lawsuit was filed against the makers of Almond Breeze almond milk by consumers who were upset about the fact it only contained 2% almonds. On the other hand there are also some fantastic tasting, minimally processed milk alternatives made that use just a few simple ingredients.
Which dairy-free makes the best cappuccino? Which is best plant milk if you’re on a low carb diet? Find out here…
WHAT ARE THE HEALTHIEST DAIRY-FREE MILKS?
When it comes to choosing the healthiest dairy-free milk, there are several factors to consider. It’s important to avoid ultra processed products with long lists of additives like emulsifiers and stabilisers. Nutritional value and sugar content are also key considerations.
Soy milk is relatively high in protein compared with other dairy free milk alternatives. Pea milk is a relatively new dairy free milk alternative that provides protein, is low in sugar, and contains iron. Oat milk is a top favourite and it’s no surprise, given it’s sweet and creamy flavour. However, oat milk can be quite high in sugar compared to other plant milks. Good almond milks are low in sugar and a good source of vitamin E. Finally, coconut milk are typically a good source of healthy fats and can be used in a variety of drinks and savoury dishes.
There are many factors to take into consideration when choosing the best dairy-free milk for you. Here’s our breakdown of each option.
Currently the most popular of the dairy-free milks. Homemade almond milk can be made simply by blending together almonds and water (a small pinch of sea salt and vanilla bean extract are optional) before gently pressing the liquid through a muslin cloth.
Almonds are a natural source of vitamin E and almond milk is low in carbohydrates making it ideal for anyone on a low carb diet. Make sure you choose unsweetened almond milk as some varieties do contain added sugar.
Watch out for some bigger brands of almond milk which contain a very low percentage of almonds and have unnecessary additives.
Most commercial rice milks are made by pressing soaked brown or white rice through a mill.
Rice milk is the least likely of all dairy-free milks to cause an allergy, as it doesn’t contain common allergens such as nuts or soya. You can find rice milks that are fortified vitamins with like B12 and calcium but whilst boosting the nutrient content, these nutrients are not naturally occurring.
Even unsweetened rice milks can be quite high in naturally occurring sugars so be careful when it comes to how much you’re drinking. We don’t recommend rice milk for those on a low carb diet.
The process of soya milk production varies quite significantly amongst commercial brands. Some go through multiple steps of industrial processing whilst more traditional soya milk is made by simply soaking soya beans and blending them with water.
Soya milk has the highest protein content of the dairy free milks. A 200ml serving of soya milk typically contains 6-7g – the same amount of protein in cow’s milk. Soya milk creates a good foam when steamed and many coffee experts believe that it’s the best option for use in cappuccinos.
Soya products can have an oestrogen-like effect in the body and if consuming large amounts, this may disrupt hormonal balance. If you choose to eat soya products, we would always recommend opting for organic as soya can be exposed to high pesticide usage during it’s farming.
Coconut milk (the type that comes in a carton, not canned) is a great dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk. It is produced by grating coconut flesh and then soaking it in hot water. The coconut cream then rises to the top. This is squeezed through a cloth to produce the coconut milk.
Coconut milk is higher in fat than other milk alternatives, however these fats have health benefits. Like coconut water, coconut milk also contains some electrolyte nutrients.
If you like the taste of coconut, try replacing cows milk with coconut milk.
Oat milk can be easily made at home. Simply soak the oats in water and then sieve the liquid through a muslin-like cloth. Beware of big brand, shop bought oat milks. Like many other dairy free milks, they can be highly processed and filled with undesirable additives. Read our post on the truth about oat milk for details on what to look out for on the carton.
Quality oat milks contain naturally occurring beta glucans – a component of the oat cell wall which has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Oat milk is one of the sweetest of the dairy-free milks. Even the unsweetened ones contain the equivalent of around a teaspoon of sugar per 100ml. Therefore we recommend consuming oat milk in moderation and avoiding it if you are following a low carb diet.
Try: Plenish Oat Milk.
Whichever dairy free milk you choose, always take a moment to check out the ingredients on the back of the carton. The less ingredients, the better. If there are any ingredients that you don’t recognise then you’d probably do best to avoid that particular product. Finally, always opt for organic where possible.
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