What’s the Best Nondairy Milk Alternative?

“Soy and nut milks have more healthy fat properties than cow’s milk,” said Dr. Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Coconut milk, like cow’s milk, It is high in saturated fat, which raises cholesterol levels. Soy milk and various nut milks without added sugar — such as almond, walnut, peanut, cashew, hazelnut, and macadamia nut milk — as well as hemp and flax milk are high in heart-healthy unsaturated fats, and also tend to contain fewer calories than cow’s milk. Oat milk, no added sugar, rich in fiber, And the calories are similar to cow’s milk.

Soy milk is the only non-dairy alternative that matches the eight grams of protein in cow’s milk per cup. But Dr. Willett said protein deficiency is not a concern in the United States, especially for adults. However, if you’re looking to get a lot of protein out of milk, check the labels on different products, as amounts vary widely between alternatives to cow’s milk.

Ms. Romano and Dr. Willett also suggest checking labels to look for alternatives fortified with calcium and vitamin D, which may help with bone health. “We definitely need vitamin D,” Dr. Willett said, although we probably don’t need the high levels of calcium that many Americans think they need. “When we look at dairy products directly, we don’t see that higher consumption of dairy products reduces fracture rates in terms of the evidence,” he said.

They also advise watching for plenty of added sugar in flavored milk alternatives. Ideally, there will be no added sugar in the product, but generally aim for less than 10g per serving.

One final consideration: the planet. “It’s important to look at everything through the lens of a healthy and the lens of the environment at this point in time,” Dr. Willett said. Dairy production is associated with high levels of greenhouse gas emissions and requires a lot of water. “So for the ecological footprint, alternative milk is really desirable.”

Sophie Egan Author of How to Be a Conscious Eater: Making Food Choices That Are Good for You, Others, and the Planet (Workman, 2020).

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