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5 Alternatives to Cow's Milk
According to The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Americans consume an average of 23 gallons of fluid milk and cream, per person a year. That’s a hefty 376 one-cup servings. It may seem like a lot, but competition from other beverages like soft drinks and milk substitutes have caused a steady decline in U. S. milk consumption since 1945, when the numbers were double what they are now. While some still laud the nutritional value of cow’s milk including calcium, protein, and vitamin D, the effects of allergens and hormones in dairy products are a growing concern. Enter the growing milk substitute business that produces alternatives that look and taste like the real thing. Though widely available, soy milk isn’t the only milk alternative.
The taste of almond milk is obviously nuttier, and thinner than cow’s milk. It is used in many recipes that call for milk, and is also added to cereals and smoothies. Its nutritional value includes selenium, magnesium, and zinc, as well as fortified calcium and Vitamin D. Almond milk runs between about 40 and 100 calories per 8 oz. serving and has half the fat as 2% milk. Available brands include Blue Diamond, Silk, Pacific Natural Foods and a host of health store and organic brands among others.
Sweeter and less versatile in recipes than milk, rice milk is a good alternative for those who are lactose intolerant. It is often fortified with a slew of vitamins and minerals, including the calcium and protein it naturally lacks and runs at about 120 calories per cup. Unsweetened rice milk has more carbohydrates than regular milk. Like almond milk, you can make your own rice milk. But if you opt to purchase it, you can find unsweetened and sweetened varieties, as well as vanilla and chocolate flavors.
Said to be easier to digest than cow’s milk by the National Institutes of Health, goat’s milk has a similar consistency and taste, but is usually higher in calories per serving than 2% milk. Though not officially dairy, goat’s milk does contain proteins similar to cow’s milk and lactose, so those allergic to cow’s milk or lactose intolerant should be careful. Goat’s milk may be harder to find in supermarkets, but health food stores usually carry at least one brand.
Contrary to popular belief, hemp seed products will not give you a high. Though both marijuana and hemp seeds come from the same plant, hemp seed products are edible and legal. Made like almond milk by soaking and ground with water, hemp milk has more fiber and protein. Its consistency is that of rice or soy milk, but may also have a grittiness that turns some people off. In addition to naturally occurring omega-3s and 6s, hemp milk has a good amount of essential amino acids as well. Manitoba Harvest and Living Harvest are two of the available brands.
Unlike the canned coconut milk used in some thai food recipes, coconut milk beverage products are only about 60 calories per cup, about half the calories of 2% milk. It also has a similar amount of saturated fat, which is linked to increased blood cholesterol levels. So Delicious and Imagine’s Coconut Dream are two of the popular brands.
Honorable Mention: Oat Milk
Though very limited in availability and quite obscure to many consumers, oat milk is another alternative to cow’s milk.
What's your favorite milk substitute and why?