Cow’s milk is so universally accepted as the best milk there is. Whether it be because of its universal availability or that we grew up on it in school lunches, every other milk is referred to as an “alternative” to cow’s milk. With that said, you may be wondering if any of the alternatives taste better than traditional cow’s milk.
Soy and almond milk are considered among the best-tasting milk alternatives. Soy milk could be described as the original milk substitute and is incredibly nutritious. Almond milk is a strong contender for its naturally sweet taste and has many commercially available brands that are inexpensive and available in unsweetened or sweetened versions.
Of course, comparing non-dairy alternatives to the traditional and widely enjoyed cow’s milk isn’t entirely fair. All milk alternatives have different health benefits and different taste profiles that could suit your needs better than soy and almond milk. Below, we’ll discuss the large variety of milk types available, their similarity to cow’s milk, and their benefits.
What Milk Alternatives Are Best?
Considering your milk’s health benefits could be essential for your diet or just for peace of mind when choosing the best milk. As a strong baseline for consideration, in an 8-ounce serving of whole milk, there are 149 calories, 8 grams of protein, and about 12 carbs. Whole milk is also naturally a great source of calcium, B vitamins, and vitamins A and D.
There are countless milk alternatives out there; these are milk alternatives considered among the best:
A lesser-known milk alternative, hemp milk is made from ground hemp seeds. Hemp milk doesn’t contain any of the psychoactive components that are found in the Cannabis Sativa plant.
It contains healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 unsaturated fats; it contains a higher amount of these nutrients than the other plant-based kinds of milk that are more widely popular, with 0 carbs, 3 grams of proteins, and only 60 calories per 8-ounce serving.
Hemp milk has a nutty flavor, with a creamy consistency. It is thicker than skim milk and can be used easily in cereal, coffee, tea, and other beverages to replace cow’s milk.
Almond milk is considered an incredibly tasty non-dairy milk alternative option for people who choose not to drink cow’s milk or cannot drink cow’s milk. There are both unsweetened and sweetened options for almond milk, so depending on your needs for alternative milk, almond milk has options to choose from.
Almond milk is an excellent natural source of vitamin E, but it is low on protein compared to other milk alternatives. This milk alternative has only 41 calories per 8-ounce serving and 2 grams of carbs in its unsweetened option. Almond milk, of course, also tastes a little nutty and has a hint of sweetness to it.
Canned coconut milk is often only intended for cooking or baking and is higher in fats with a distinctly more coconut flavor. However, the coconut milk in a carton is blended with water to give it a consistency similar to cow’s milk.
Coconut milk is safe for people with tree nut allergies, and for every 8-ounce serving, there are 46 calories, only 1 gram of carbs. Some brands are fortified with vitamins B12, D, and A. They vary among brands, so when looking for a coconut milk alternative, make sure to compare labels.
Coconut milk does have a hint of coconut flavor to it, but it is also sweet and a little floral. It can come in both a thicker texture and a thin texture, depending on preference.
Soy milk comes the closest to cow’s milk nutritionally. This is likely why it is considered one of the best dupes for cow’s milk and is so widely loved as a milk alternative. It has a higher amount of protein than many other milk alternatives at 6 grams per 8-ounce serving. This option contains 105 calories, 12 grams of carbs, and vitamins B12 and Vitamin D for every 8-ounce serving.
When it comes to soy milk, some brands offer organic soymilk made with non-GMO soybeans and free of pesticides and herbicides. Soy milk is much like cow’s milk in texture.
Other Milk Alternatives
Of course, these are far from the only options when it comes to milk alternatives. Depending on your dietary needs or other contributing factors considering other milk alternatives may be good to consider. Especially if the flavor is your only intention, countless options may taste just as good if not better than cow’s milk that may not have made this list.
Other milk alternatives to consider are:
- Rice milk
- Oat milk
- Cashew milk
- Pea milk
- Hazelnut milk
- Peanut milk
- Walnut milk
Each of these tastes a little different, but many milk alternatives are nutty in flavor. Of course, the milk alternatives such as almond milk, hazelnut milk, and peanut milk shouldn’t be your replacement if you have a peanut or tree nut allergy.
Which Milk is Best for Your Health?
There has been plenty of research on the health benefits of cow’s milk, but the findings have often been conflicting. It has been proven to help develop healthy bones in children between ages one and three, but when we get to adults, the research becomes a little blurry.
Some studies have found that women who drink more milk were at a higher risk for a fracture. However, it is important to point out that there is also the possibility that the correlation goes the other way, meaning that women who are prone to fractures are more likely to drink milk.
The research on the hormones in milk and various other concerns concludes that drinking moderate levels of milk is not harmful, according to nutritional epidemiologist Jyrkia Virtanen.
Milk alternatives, such as those on this list, are often fortified with nutrients naturally occurring in cow’s milk. The truth of the matter is, though many of the milk alternatives can be equal sources of proteins or other vitamins, there is hardly a true replacement for cow’s milk. There is, however, also no reason to believe that you need to replace cow’s milk in an adult diet entirely.
It is generally accepted that the healthiest kinds of milk are:
- Cow’s milk
- Low-fat milk
- Cashew milk
- Soy milk
- Almond milk
- Coconut milk
- Hemp milk
- Oat milk
- Pea milk
There is no replacement for cow’s milk in children’s diet, and switching a child to an alternative should be considered carefully before done. An adult diet can be changed more freely, especially when there are ethical reasons for switching or dietary restrictions.
Additionally, there is no real replacement for the taste of cow’s milk, but there are enough milk alternatives out there to experiment with when you are looking for the best fit.
When choosing the best tasting milk or milk alternative, in the end, it’s all about personal preference and your dietary restrictions more than anything else.