I guess you can call me an equal opportunity milk drinker. I’ll drink cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk, and, lately, other mammal-free options.

March 23, 2010

I guess you can call me an equal-opportunity milk drinker. I’ll drink cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and my go-to, soy milk. Lately, I've been experimenting with other mammal-free options including almond, hemp, and rice milk.

They are not “milk” in that someone is squeezing liquid out of nuts or grains. The new options are dairy-free, lactose-free, saturated fat–free (for the most part), and cholesterol-free, so they appeal to vegetarians, those who are allergic to dairy products, or non-discriminating milk buyers like me. Manufacturers make them by reconstituting the “flour” that results from pulverizing soy, hemp, almonds, or rice.

So how do they stack up nutritionally compared to skim milk? You may be surprised that the original soy milk, almond, and hemp products are actually lower in calories than skim milk. However, rice milk and flavored nondairy options are generally higher in calories (120 or more) and added sugars (15 or more grams) compared to skim milk.

Because they are plant-based products, you can expect that some of the beneficial phytonutrients present in soybeans, almonds, and hemp seeds will be present in these products as well.

The first ingredient of many is water, so most contain less protein than cow’s milk, but also have a gram of fiber and no saturated fat. All are now fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients, so they provide key vitamins and minerals that women get by drinking skim milk.

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My faves? I find the taste of almond milk refreshing and less nutty than soy milk, but I also like soy milk because I’ve been drinking it for years and am used to it. Rice and hemp are my least favorites to drink straight up, but I would not have any problem having them on my cereal or in my tea.

Here's a nutritional breakdown for a cup (8 ounces) of the most popular milk-free milks:

MilkCaloriesProteinFat (saturated fat)SugarsOther daily valuesSkim milk (with added vitamin D)9090 (0)1230% of calcium
25% of vitamin DAlmond Breeze Original almond milk (unsweetened)4013 (0)020% of calcium
25% of vitamin D
50% of vitamin EAlmond Breeze Original almond milk (refrigerated)6012.5 (0)730% of calcium
25% of vitamin D
50% of vitamin ESilk PureAlmond original almond milk6012.5 (0)730% of calcium
25% of vitamin D
50% of vitamin ETempt Unsweetened Original Hempmilk6016 (.5)040% of calcium
20% of vitamin D
Contains omega-3 fatty acidsSilk Light Original soy milk7062 (0)630% of calcium and vitamin DRice Dream Original rice milk12012.5 (0)1030% of calcium
25% of vitamin D and B12