What are the healthiest milk alternatives?
There was once a time when your choice of milk was limited to full-fat, semi skimmed or skimmed cows milk.
Today however there is an extensive range of alternative milks on offer, from almond and coconut to hemp and soya. These are catering to the increasing number of people showing signs of lactose-intolerance as well as those who dislike the taste of traditional milk.
Below we take a look at some of the most popular alternatives to cows milk and the benefits they offer:
Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk which can only be broken down in the digestive system by the enzyme, lactase. Some people do not have this enzyme, and therefore will experience painful cramps, bloating, and diarrhoea whenever they consume high quantities of lactose. Lactose-free milk offers all the positives of cows milk – including the taste and same fat content – but already contains the enzyme which breaks down the lactose.
A great choice for vegans, almond milk is non-animal-derived and is much lower in calories than normal semi-skimmed milk – with just 24kcal per 100ml. Almond milk is very sweet tasting with a hint of nuttiness, and it contains lots of vitamin E which is good for the skin. However, almond milk is much lower in protein than normal milk and sugar is a primary ingredient, so choose unsweetened versions to get the best benefits.
The key thing about soya milk is that it contains the closest protein levels to normal milk – with 3g per 100ml. It is also rich in calcium and low in calories, but taste-wise is very sweet and can leave an after-taste. Soya milk is a great option for people trying to keep their cholesterol levels down as it has low saturated fat and is also suitable for those on a lactose-free diet.
Protein content may be low in coconut milk, but this milk alternative is rich in added calcium and essential vitamins C, E B1, B3 B5 and B6. It is ideal for those with a sweet tooth as it has a strong, tangy taste of sweet coconut. However, with 2g of fat per 100ml, it is higher in fat than semi-skimmed milk.
Hemp milk is a relatively new addition to the alternative milk market, and although it is quite high in fat (2.5g per 100ml) and low in protein, it does provide half of your daily intake of omega-3 per glass. Good Hemp – which is available at Holland and Barrett – is made from a blend of pure hemp seed, water, grape juice, rice starch and seaweed and is completely sugar-free.
Rice Dream is a popular brand of rice milk, which is low in fat and fortified with calcium and vitamins D2 and B12. Protein and calcium content is unfortunately low, but calorie content is very similar to semi-skimmed normal milk. The flavour is light and slightly sweet, and it contains lots of antioxidants that are not found in other milk alternatives. Rice milk is ideal for those who don’t want to drink normal milk, but may have an allergy to soy or nuts.