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Not Milk? A Guide to Non-Dairy Milks


Holy cow! Or in this case, holy plants! When it comes to non-dairy alternatives to cow’s milk there are gallons of plant-based options to choose from. Rice, nut, hemp, soy, coconut, oat… where’s a non-dairy milk beginner supposed to start? Well, begin by skimming cow’s milk off your grocery list—for good.

Cow’s milk can be seriously lact-ing healthwise. (Okay, done with the milk puns. Promise!) Chock-full of fat and cholesterol, cow’s milk is meant for calves to guzzle up, not for humans to drink. Yes, that’s right. Cow’s milk is not meant for human consumption. Add to that the artificial ingredients, preservatives and hormones pumped into conventional milks at grocery stores and the glass is no longer looking half full. It’s empty of health and eco benefits.

Taking the non-dairy plunge is easy. Check out this guide to today's trendy dairy-free milks to get you started.

Soy milk

Long popular among vegans and the lactose intolerant, this mild non-dairy milk makes one mean, creamy latte.


  • 25 grams of soy protein a day, along with a low cholesterol, low fat diet, may decrease the risk for heart disease, according to the FDA.
  • Soy milk fortified with vitamin D can give you a good daily dose of this important mineral.
  • Studies suggest soy milk has cholesterol-lowering benefits.
  • Soy milk is rich in protein and calcium and contains no saturated fat.


  • Studies suggest that eating large amounts of soy can be harmful. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which are estrogen-mimicking compounds. These compounds have been linked to breast cancer, infertility and growth disruption in infants and children, but studies are ongoing. As with anything, err on the side of everything in moderation.
  • Soy milk products are often made with genetically modified soy beans. In fact, 91 percent of the soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified. Try to always choose USDA-certified organic varieties.
  • Many people have soy allergies.

Coconut milk

This heavenly, unimaginably creamy milk works great as a base for ice cream and tastes delicious plain for a sweet treat.


  • Um, it’s so scrumptious. (I'm a bit biased. Coconut milk is hands down my favorite non-dairy milk.)
  • Coconut milk contains low levels of cholesterol and sodium.
  • It’s easily digested for those with lactose intolerance.
  • Coconut milk contains medium-chain fatty acids. One of the particularly amazing fatty acids, lauric acid, promotes brain development and bone health, and is antiviral and antibacterial.
  • Coconut milk contains 50 percent of your reccommended daily allowance for vitamin B12. This vitamin ensures that red blood cells get enough oxygen to the body. Commonly found in meat and dairy products, this vitamin is particurally important for vegetarians and vegans, who may not get enough of this vitamin through diet alone.


  • Coconut milk often contains additional additives. Avoid these unneccessay substances by making your own or buying organic.
  • Making your own coconut milk will cut down on the un-eco-friendly processing and packaging of store-bought brands. As a tropical fruit, though, unless you live in areas where coconuts are locally grown, (Florida, Hawaii,) making your own coconut milk often can quickly add to your carbon footprint.

Almond milk

Made with ground almonds mixed with water, almond milk is easily the most popular nut milk. Its smooth, nutty flavor adds an extra yum factor to oatmeal and cereal.


  • Almond milk is loaded with antioxidants.
  • It’s full of nutritious protein, fiber and other vitamins and minerals.
  • You can easily make your own nut milk using almonds, cashews, walnuts or hazelnuts.
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From the Organic Authority Files


  • Watch out for added artificial sweeteners and flavorings in almond milk.
  • Almond milk is lacking in B vitamins.
  • Obviously, it's not a good option for those with nut allergies.

Rice milk


  • Your waistline will thank you. Rice milk is low in fat and calories.
  • Its sweet flavor makes rice milk a good replacement for cow’s milk in baking.
  • Making your own homemade rice milk requires just two ingredients: Rice and water.


  • Rice milk lacks important nutrients including vitamins A and C and protein.
  • Conventional rice milks are often manufactured in energy-guzzling plants.

Hemp milk

No, not marijuana milk. This milk is made with hemp seeds from a variety of the Cannabis plant that contains the lowest levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.


  • This superfood drink is chock-full of omega fatty acids, protein, calcium, vitamin A, vitamin E and other nutrients and minerals.
  • It contains no cholesterol.
  • Its thick texture makes it perfect to add to coffee or to use in cooking.


  • Hemp milk can have an aftertaste, depending on the brand.
  • Because most hemp is grown in Canada, where it's legal, it could have a high carbon footprint due to travel, depending on where you live.

Oat milk

This sweet, thin milk is an excellent substitute for skim milk. 


  • Oat milk is cholesterol-free.
  • It contains high levels of fiber, vitamin E and folic acid.
  • Oat milk contains phytochemicals, which are antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and certain cancers.
  • Making your own homemade oat milk is easy. All you need are oats and water!


  •  Those with gluten allergies can't drink it.

image: rosipaw

Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson

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