Healthy or Not: Milk and Dairy-Free Alternatives
Patients often ask which milk or dairy-free alternatives are healthiest. It’s important to look for an option that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates/sugar. With grocery store aisles full of different options like almond milk, cashew milk, oat milk, coconut milk, soy milk, cow’s milk and more, it’s not always easy to determine which is best for you. My top choice - Fairlife skim milk or regular skim milk, both provide a great source of protein. For dairy-free milk, , I go with unsweetened soy milk because it’s higher in protein than the other non-dairy options. If you have a soy allergy, unsweetened almond or unsweetened cashew milks are good choices because they are lower in calories.
To help you decide, let’s dissect options starting with a nutrition fact comparison chart:
Overall, skim milk has more protein and less fat. The nut milks are lower in calories, carbohydrates and protein.
If you choose cow’s milk, Fairlife skim milk is a good choice because it’s ultra-filtered. This means that the milk is chilled and flowed through special filters to concentrate the protein and calcium while also removing most of the naturally occurring sugar. The end product contains more protein and less carbohydrates than traditional skim milk and is lactose-free. If you can’t find Fairlife milk, regular skim milk is the next best option.
Soy milk: Dairy-Free
Soy milk is made from soybeans, so there’s naturally occurring protein in it.
It’s best to avoid the sweetened varieties of soymilk - vanilla and chocolate flavored - they have added sugars.
Nut Milk: Dairy-Free
There’s a common misconception that nut milks - almond, cashew, coconut - have a lot of protein in them. They don’t. When choosing nut milks, pick the unsweetened versions, they have a low calorie count per cup.
Oat Milk: Dairy-Free
One of the newer milks on the market is oat milk, which is made from filtered water and oat flour. This is not a top choice for me if you’re looking for a dairy-free alternative because it’s higher in carbohydrates and has a small amount of protein.