Mooove Over Milk: Comparing Milk Alternatives
You probably have noticed new “milks” popping up at your local grocery store and coffee shop. It’s true, there’s been a huge trend to steer clear of dairy, and with it has come the invention and popularity of milks created from a variety of nuts, seeds, and grains.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a dairy-free philosophy emerge. Not only has there been an increase in dietary tests and food programs that recommend avoiding dairy altogether, like veganism and keto, but people are also growing increasingly aware of the social and ethical implications of the dairy industry. Whether or not you want to avoid dairy or are simply curious about new options, the chart below can help shed some light on the differences between some popular milk alternatives.
With the exception of hemp, many dairy alternatives are naturally lower in calcium but are fortified (artificially enriched) with essential vitamins such as calcium, making them nutritionally comparable to cow’s milk. Note that each manufacturer adds various amounts, so it’s always important to examine the nutritional label on your specific milk. If you’re concerned about getting enough calcium in general, several foods other than milk also have very high calcium content, such as dark leafy greens. For example, one cup of cooked collard greens has approximately 357 mg of calcium, making it about equivalent to a cup of cow’s milk.
Not all milks have an equal impact on the environment. You may already be aware that there are approximately 270 million dairy cows around the world that produce gas emissions, but it’s lesser known that even almond milk production leaves a considerable negative environmental footprint. It takes about 15 gallons of water to produce just 16 almonds, which stresses out the geographies where almonds are produced (primarily California, USA which is currently in a drought). Make sure you educate yourself and consider alternating between different types of milks to ease the demand of a specific industry and reduce your environmental impact. You can also try making your own milk at home or opt to purchase certified organic milks, which can require less pesticides and water during production.
When selecting a new milk, check if it’s labeled unsweetened or sweetened: sweetened milks have added sugar, and you may actually like the natural, unsweetened taste. Don’t sweat if you are unable to find all of these different milk types in your area, you’ll likely be able to order them in an online marketplace, though not always at a cheap price tag.
There’s not a one size fits all when it comes to milk alternatives: each has a unique taste, nutritional profile, and environmental impact. Sample a few and find the one that works for you and your lifestyle. What is your favorite type of non-dairy milk?