There are a ton of nondairy milks to choose from, but which one is the healthiest?
To find out, researchers from McGill University recently conducted an experiment, published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology, to determine the nutritional value of plant-based milk beverages.
To do so, they compared the health benefits of the four most popular alternative milks, including soy, almond, coconut and rice. They examined the number of calories and amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates found in each. They also looked into the vitamins and minerals the substitutes contained.
While they said cow’s milk still has the most nutritional value, with 8 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat and 11.5 grams of carbs, soy is the most comparable for overall balance. It’s “a clear winner,” they wrote in a statement. It has more protein than all the other milk options analyzed, with 7 to 12 grams and 95 calories a glass. Scientists also credited soy milk for its phytonutrients, which have been linked to reducing cancer risk.
Almond milk is low in protein and carbohydrates, but it has fewer calories, with 36 per serving. It also is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids, which can help with weight loss and management. Previous studies have also shown that it can reduce cholesterol.
As for coconut milk, it’s low-calorie, too, but has no protein. Plus, the calories are mostly from saturated fats. And rice milk also has few nutrients. In fact, the researchers said “consumption of rice milk as an alternative to cow’s milk without proper care can result in malnutrition, especially in the case of infants.”
Dairy is one of the most common allergens among infants and children, the study explained, so many parents steer away from cow’s milk. Furthermore, lactose intolerance affects up to 75 percent of all adults, and those with the condition look to other alternatives.
Although the researchers believe their findings are strong, they said want to continue their investigations “to understand the effects of various conventional and novel processing methods on the nutritional profile, flavor and texture of these alternative milks.”