10 Best Plant Based Milks
Health and Wellbeing
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Health and Wellbeing
The popularity of plant based milks have skyrocketed over the past decade. More and more people are choosing plant based milks over dairy for many different reasons. Whether it’s for environmental reasons, health reasons, animal welfare reasons or nutritional value, there are plenty of delicious and healthy alternatives to dairy. Each of these plant based milks have their own nutritional profile and vary in terms of calcium, protein, carbohydrates, fats and minerals content. Here are some of the best plant based milks to try.
Soya milk is the classic alternative to dairy milk. It’s made by soaking soybeans that are ground into a liquid and then boiled. It’s the most popular plant milk and is the only one that contains the same amount of protein as cow’s milk. Many manufacturers add calcium and other vitamins to soy milk, so it’s a nutritionally adequate alternative to dairy. Soya milk has been linked to lowering blood pressure and bad cholesterol, or LDL levels. You can find soya milk in other flavours like banana, chocolate or vanilla.
Oat milk is made by soaking and blending whole oats with water. It has a creamy texture and a delicious oaty taste. It’s a healthy option, as it’s naturally sweet so doesn’t typically contain any additional sweeteners. It’s also high in fibre which lowers bad cholesterol levels. Oat milk is often fortified with vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, iodine and riboflavin. However, many oat milk brands aren’t gluten free so if you have an intolerance it’s worth reading the label first.
Hemp seed milk is made from the seeds of the hemp plant which are blended with water. The texture is similar to cow’s milk and has an earthy, slightly nutty taste. Hemp seed milk is a healthy option as the seeds are a good source of calcium. It’s also low in carbohydrates and high in unsaturated fats like omega-3 fatty acids. People who have nut allergies find hemp seed milk a good alternative. Hemp seed milk isn’t as readily available as other dairy alternatives and which makes it more expensive. It also doesn’t cause a ‘high’, as cannabinoids are found in the flowers rather than the seeds.
Almond milk is made by soaking and blending almonds with water. Almond milk has a mild and slightly nutty flavour and is a good alternative for people with milk allergies. Although it’s a common dairy alternative, almond milk is nutritionally different to soya or dairy milk. It has much less protein, has fewer calories, less saturated fat and is high in vitamin E which is important for healthy skin and strengthening our immune response. Make sure to choose the unsweetened version as the sweetened version usually has a lot of added sugar.
Pea milk is made with pea protein extracted from yellow split peas. The protein is then mixed with water, sunflower oil and added micronutrients. It has a similar taste and texture to other plant based milks. It’s much higher in protein compared to other dairy alternatives and is often fortified with minerals like calcium and potassium. It requires less water to produce compared to dairy milk and some other plant based milks, so it’s perceived to be more environmentally sustainable.
Rice milk is made by boiling white or brown rice, pressing it through a mill and then straining into a liquid. When it’s processed, carbohydrates are split into sugars which gives rice milk its naturally sweet taste. If not enriched or fortified, rice milk doesn’t have a high nutritional value compared with other plant based milks. However, it’s hypoallergenic and is suitable for those who have nut allergies. You can find rice milk that’s been fortified with protein and micronutrients like vitamin B12, calcium, iron and vitamin D.
Cashew milk is made by soaking unshelled cashew nuts in water, blending into a paste and then straining to form a rich, creamy, nutty milk. It’s quite a healthy option, with high amounts of vitamin E, low carbohydrates and high levels of unsaturated fats. This makes it a good option for people who are watching their fat intake. It also boosts immunity and improves heart, eye and skin health. However, many of the cashew nuts’ nutrients are lost when processed into milk, so it’s often fortified with additional vitamins.
Hazelnut milk is made by taking whole hazelnuts and roasting, soaking and blending them with water. It has a sweet, rich taste which makes it a popular choice for adding to coffee, hot chocolate and baked goods. Hazelnut milk is high in calcium and folate and is often recommended to pregnant women as folate can help reduce the risk of central neural tube defects. When choosing hazelnut milk, opt for an unsweetened option as the sweetened ones can nearly double the amount of sugar.
Coconut milk is widely available and is one of the more common plant based milks. It’s made by mixing the flesh with water and straining the liquid. You’ll usually find coconut milk in cans, and they are often used in cooking both savoury and sweet recipes. Although it has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, it’s low in protein and high in unsaturated fats. Meanwhile, coconut water is the thin version which is the clear liquid found in green, unripe coconuts. This is great in a cup of coffee or poured over cereal.
Macadamia nut milk has only recently arrived on the scene compared with other nut milks on this list. It’s made by blending soaked macadamia nuts with water. It has a smooth texture and milky creaminess, making it ideal for smoothies, coffees and even stirred into soups as it has a light and mild flavour. Macadamia nuts are rich in nutrients and plant compounds, and have health benefits such as improved digestion, heart health and blood sugar control. They’re also low in carbohydrate and high in monounsaturated fats.