Diet: Choosing Your Plant-based Milk

There are now many plant milk options available for those who wish to replace dairy milk for allergy and other health reasons, or lifestyle changes – thankfully these have become easier than ever to find in almost every supermarket. According to, plant-based milks are becoming increasingly popular. A recent report from Innova Market Insights in the United State, provides some figures that help illustrate this increased popularity. Sales volumes there are forecast to reach $16.3 billion dollars in 2018, more than double the the $7.4 billion sales recorded in 2010.

Probably the first mainstream milk to appear on shelves was soya milk. soya milk, which is produced by soaking dried soyabeans, grinding them in water, boiling the mixture and then filtering out the residues, actually originated in China possibly as early as 202 BC. soya milk began started its emergence into the public’s consciousness in the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s. However, much of the more recent growth of plant-based milks has been due to the popularity of almond milk which went from “virtually zero” in the mid-2000’s to more than $1 billion in the United States in 2016, says Innova. The UK took much the same course and almond milk is now the leading plant-based alternative to dairy.

If you haven’t perused the dairy counter at your supermarket lately, you might well be surprised at the sheer number of other plant-based milks available to you now. We each have unique nutrition needs, so which plant milk you choose will likely be based on a variety of factors. Obviously, you will want it to taste good, but also if you will be using it as you would diary milk in cooking, then you’ll also need to know how well it perform in your favourite dishes? You will possibly also want to check for calories, protein content, and calcium fortification – so here’s a quick overview for you:

Soya Milk: Soya milk has about 8-10 grams of protein per cup (about the same or slightly more than dairy milk). It is usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D. According to, soya milk can generally be substituted cup for cup for a recipe that uses dairy milk, but it will scorch if cooked at too high a temperature, so be sure to stir (just as you would when cooking dairy milk). However, because it is low in saturated fat, you may need a little extra thickener if you are using soya milk in puddings and custards (3 Tablespoons of cornstarch, are advised by the website.)

Almond Milk: These are often lower in protein, but also often lower in calories as well. Again, many commercial products are fortified with calcium, so read labels carefully. Almond milk can be used in many recipes to substitute for dairy milk, but not in pudding recipes, says The Joy of Cooking.

Coconut milk: Coconut milk is often used in Indian cooking, but is now becoming a popular plant-based milk beverage alternative. It is naturally sweet and creamy, but be aware that coconut is higher in calories and does contain more fat than other plant-based milks.

Other Nut Milks: More and more nut milks are making their way into mainstream supermarkets, including Cashew, Macadamia and Hazelnut. Like Almond milk, these are often lower in protein than dairy milk.

Rice Milk: Rice milk is often thinner than other plant-based milks, and often low protein. Many brands also add sugar to sweeten as well, but it is a great option for those who may be allergic to either soya or nuts.

Hemp Milk: Hemp is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids and contains 10 essential amino acids – a bonus for those who are unable to digest soya milk, is that hemp milk does not contain the oligosaccharides that can sometimes lead to gas and bloating.

Oat Milk: This milk may not be the most readily available in your area, but it has been described as being the most creamy. It again does not have a lot of protein, but it does often contain fiber and is fortified with calcium and iron.

Flax Milk: This is a newer milk that has begun to pop-up on shelves in some areas. The The ‘Good Karma’ brand lists 5 grams of protein and 1200 mg omega 3 fatty acids. This also is a good option for those allergic to soya or nuts.

Pea Milk: Another newcomer, the American brand ‘Ripple’ brands says that a one-cup serving has the same protein content as cow’s milk and is low in saturated fat. It is also advertised as having 50% more calcium than almond milk.

Make you own Plant-based milk

A general point is that many plant-based milks add sugar to provide sweetness and some may also contain sodium. One way to manage such ‘additives’ is to make your own. Publishers “Vegan Woman” offers this template for making your own plant-based milk:

1 cup nuts, grains or seeds
4 cups water
1-2 dates for sweetness
vanilla or almond extract or any other flavour you enjoy

Soak the nuts, seeds or grains overnight in water to cover. Drain and discard the water. Place the soaked nuts, seeds or grains in your blender and add the 4 cups of fresh water. Blend for several minutes until the mixture is smooth. Pass though a strainer or special nut milk bag (the left-over nut pulp can be used in baking). Return the strained milk to the blender and add the dates and any additional flavours you’d like and blend until smooth. Nut milks will keep for 3-4 days in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

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This article is based on an original article that appeared in the ‘Emax Health’ health journal on 22nd August, 2017. It has been edited for style and content to take account of the later date of publication here. The article is intended for general information and should not be taken as medical advice. In particular, if you have an on-going health condition, you should consult your family doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes that may impact on your condition. The article appears here under CCL copyright rules. The original author is Denise Reynolds RD, a registered and licensed dietician.

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