Exploring the Pros and Cons of Milk Alternatives 

If you order a latte made with coconut milk instead of cream from your favorite coffee shop, or you pour almond milk on your morning bowl of cereal these days, you’re not alone. After looking at the pros and cons of milk alternatives, many people have moved away from dairy products in recent years and have swapped in plant-based products instead. 

This shift away from cow’s milk has happened for lots of reasons, the biggest of which is probably the growing attention to lactose intolerance. As people age, many find their bodies are not able to digest milk products – or specifically lactose, a type of sugar found naturally in milk and other milk products like ice cream and cheese. When people who have lactose intolerance drink milk or eat dairy products, they might have digestive issues like gas, bloating or diarrhea. About 68% of the world’s population has some form of lactose intolerance, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

Other people have opted for milk alternatives for social or environmental reasons. Some may have adopted a vegan lifestyle, while others have turned away from meat or dairy products. Milk alternatives have become a billion-dollar industry in recent years. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones, and the pros and cons of each.  

Almond milk. Leading the pack of dairy-free alternatives is almond milk. It’s got some good health benefits, according to the Cleveland Clinic.   

Pros:  

  • Rich in Vitamin E. 
  • Lower in calories than cow’s milk. 

Cons: 

  • Avoid if you have a nut allergy. 
  • Low in protein and fiber. 
  • Environmental sustainability is a concern, since 80% of almonds are produced in California, which faces drought issues, according to Earth.org, an environmental think tank. 

Oat milk. This milk alternative has gained in popularity recently. 

Pros: 

  • Considered good for anyone with allergies and food sensitivities, as it is free of dairy, nuts, soy and lactose. 
  • Usually has added calcium, Vitamin A and Vitamin D. 
  • Has more fiber and protein than other milk alternatives. 
  • Low environmental impact. 

Cons:

  • Contains more calories and carbohydrates than other alternatives. 

Soy milk. This has been a popular milk alternative for more than 50 years. 

Pros: 

  • Cholesterol-free. 
  • Low in saturated fat. 
  • High in protein.                                     

Cons 

  • Avoid if you are allergic to soy. 
  • If sweetened, can be high in calories.

Coconut milk. A darling of coffee shop customers and the at-home smoothie crowd, this is currently a hot trend. 

Pros:

  • Low in calories. 
  • Unsweetened versions contain no carbs. 
  • Creamy alternative to dairy. 
  • Rich in Vitamins C and E. 

 Cons:

  • High in fat. 
  • Low in protein. 
  • Considered by some to be environmentally problematic because of emissions related to its production in India and Asia and shipping across the globe. 

Related:

Photo credit: Getty

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