By Robin Beaudoin
What ever became of the milkman? Old-fashioned raw, organic, grass-fed cow’s milk is full of calcium and vitamins, and has been linked to improving digestion, healing autoimmune disorders, and boosting overall immunity. The FDA and CDC both recommend against consuming raw milk, and agree that immune-boosting claims are untrue. Raw milk can also host a long list of pathogens and E. coli, so raw milk is not legally sold for human consumption in Tennessee.
Conventional pasteurized cow’s milk and dairy products are, on the other hand, linked to early death from testicular and prostate cancer, and have been linked to breast cancer. Dairy farmers now milk their cows about 300 days a year. For much of that time the cows are pregnant, and as pregnancy progresses, the estrogen content of their milk increases. Since hormones are fat soluble, nonfat and skim milk are lower in hormones.
In addition, a milk sugar called lactose causes an upset stomach for many, and increasingly common milk allergies have some turning to alternatives to cow’s milk. The vegan diet also does not allow for any dairy milk, so alternative nut or grain-based “milk” beverages are substituted. Just how does one milk an almond anyway?
It tastes like dunking an almond cookie in a glass of 2% milk. The texture is like soy milk, with a very slight grain, and (surprise) an almond color. Unsweetened vanilla is ideal for cereal or drinking, but use original flavor and substitute cup-for-cup for cooking or baking. Almond milk is not recommended for use with pudding mixes. Our favorite brand is Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla. It has an average of 45 calories, less than one gram of protein, two grams of fat, and 40% of daily RDA for calcium.
It gets a bad rap for containing a high estrogen count as far as plants go. Soy contains a thousand times less estrogen than our bodies make, so if you are not currently under treatment for estrogen-fed cancer, go ahead and enjoy your soy. Look for the USDA Organic or non-GMO Project label on soy products, as soybeans top the list of regularly genetically modified foods. Low fat and unflavored, soy milk boasts around 70 calories per cup, five grams of protein, two grams of fat, and up to 45% of the RDA for calcium. Not too shabby, soy! Kids loved the chocolate version of soy milk, which has about 90 calories per serving.
Unsweetened coconut milk (not to be confused with electrolyte-replacing coconut water, or coconut cream) is texturally matched to dairy milk. The flavor is of watered-down coconut, and its color is white like skim milk. Vegans love coconut milk for mixing into soups and sauces, but it was lackluster with cereal or when sipped through a straw. Coconut milk contains around 60 calories, no protein, five grams of fat (mostly saturated), and 35% of the RDA for calcium.
Relatively new to the scene, oat milk is another great vegan alternative, derived from soaked oat groats. The texture and flavor are comparable to rice milk — another lightly sweet grain-based beverage. Per serving, oat milk contains 140 calories, two grams of fat, one gram of protein, and 35% RDA of calcium.
If you can get past the stout, grassy flavor of hemp milk and to the skim-milk like texture, you’ll reap the rewards of the hemp seeds’ omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which benefit both the heart and brain. Hemp milk averages 100 calories per cup, two grams of protein, six grams of fat, and contains around 30% of the RDA for calcium.
Unsweetened rice milk is naturally sweet, with a very pleasing flavor. This is one of the least allergenic beverages, as rice allergies are rare. Enriched versions offer more nutrients; they are fortified with B12, iron, and added calcium. We like Enriched Rice Dream, and with 90 calories, one gram of protein, two grams of fat, and up to 30% of the RDA for calcium, it is a delicious alternative.