Health & Fitness

The Big Milk Debate: The Complete Guide to Alternative Milks

Sworn of dairy? Don’t worry – you can still have some kind of milk in your tea. Here’s a quick guide to non-dairy alternatives.

The nutritional and ethical debate rages on whether we should be drinking cow’s milk.

Nutritionist Cassandra Barns commented: “Cow’s milk can have beneficial properties. As well as being a good source of calcium, protein, and fat-soluble vitamins, consuming milk and other dairy foods has been found to be linked to reduced risk of diabetes and obesity.

“However, many studies have only found this beneficial effect with full-fat milk, and not skimmed or semi-skimmed milk.

“There are also several good arguments against drinking milk. Many people may have a negative reaction to milk and other dairy products, with symptoms including digestive problems, or excessive mucus production – being prone to earaches or a ‘snotty nose’ can be an indication that you have a problem with dairy. It may also cause particular problems for those with skin conditions such as eczema, and other immune system imbalances including autoimmune conditions.”

With coffee shops offering milk alternatives like soya, almond and coconut milk, which milk alternative is right for you?

Here’s our guide to 5 of the best alternative milks:

Soya milk:

Packed with protein, vitamin E and some B vitamins, soya milk is one of, if not the, most popular alternatives and is made from soaked, cooked and ground soya beans.

However, there’s something of a backlash brewing against soya. When consumed in high quantities, it is said to affect the hormone levels in some because of its high content of phystoestrogens, which are similar to oestrogen.

Soya milk is often sweetened too, so look for unsweetened versions.

Almond milk:

Almonds are packed with goodness; think magnesium, biotin (good for healthy hair and skin) and calcium.

Unsweetened almond milk is generally low in calories and carbohydrates too, so it’s a great choice all round.

Be on your guard when buying almond milk though, as many cartons of it are sweetened, so go from being healthy to full of added sugar and other nasties too.

Coconut milk:

Rich in fibre and essential vitamins, coconut milk is lactose-free and is particularly popular among vegans.

It is high in fat, but mostly in a good way, as they are medium-chain fatty acids – these fats are more easily converted to energy by our bodies than other fats.

But with the good comes the bad – it is high in calories, so watch your intake.

Oat milk:

One of the benefits of oats, and oat milk, is that it contains beta glucan, a fibre that’s been found to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

It’s also naturally creamy and sweet, so little need for added additives. Oat milk is also low in gluten, but not gluten-free.

Rice milk:

Cassandra commented: “Even the unsweetened versions are much higher in carbohydrates and sugars than most other milk alternatives: they contain up to 11 grams of carbs per 100ml, versus less than 2 grams in unsweetened nut milks.

“So it is not ideal for most people as a ‘staple’ in their diet.”

In terms of taste, it has a watery consistency and contains added salt but also tastes sweet.




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