Which plant-based milk alternative is most nutritious?

MONTREAL — Milk may do a body good, but what about the non-dairy alternatives? With options from almond milk to soy milk, there’s no shortage of choices for consumers. But is one more healthier than another? According to a recent study, when it comes to plant-based “milks,” soy milk is the best for our bodies.

Plant-based milks are replacing cow’s milk in many American refrigerators these days. In fact, the FDA is planning to crack down on these non-dairy beverages for being marketed as “milk,” but nonetheless, the industry is booming. These cow’s milk alternatives offer many nutritional benefits for lactose intolerant people, but the problem with many of these products is that they don’t always easily replace the nutrients naturally found in traditional dairy milk.

Hoping to give consumers a better idea of which plant-based milk they should try, researchers at McGill University in Canada sought to find the most nutritious plant-based milk on the market.

The nutritionists took samples of four types of plant-based milks: almond milk, soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk. They found advantages and drawbacks in all four, but it appeared that soy milk has the most balanced nutritional profile.

Soy milk contains fewer calories than cow’s milk and rice milk, features about half the fat of cow’s milk (per 240 ml serving), while still carrying about the same amount of protein and less than half of the carbohydrates. Soy milk was also found to contain more calcium than cow’s milk.

Rice milk, by comparison, has more than six times the amount of carbs that soy milk has, but far less protein. Both coconut milk and almond milk have favorable amounts of carbs, but almost no protein.

The biggest knock on soy milk was its “beany” flavor, but the authors agree it beats out the others in terms of health benefits.

The full study was published Nov. 2, 2017 in The Journal of Food Science and Technology.

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