Which Plant-Based Milk is Best?

Plant-based milks - Oatly organic oat milk and soy milk

I’ve been on a detox this week: I’ve been replacing dairy products with plant-based milk alternatives. Why? Well, on top of the fact that regular cows’ milk being high in saturated fat – almost 50% of it is pure fat – it’s something I find uncomfortable thinking about.

Personally, I just don’t like the idea of how milk is farmed. No judgement on how you feel about milk – just so long as you know how and where it comes from. (I’d recommend watching Food Inc. if you want to know more). It’s why I stopped eating meat, and I’ll try to avoid dairy products from now too.

Long story short, all of this led up to me to standing the supermarket, debating which milk alternative is the best in terms of nutrients. Who knew there were so many types! So many brands! So much price difference!

Which Plant-Based Milk Is Best?

So after some fervent research, and trying different a load of plant-based milks, here are my findings:

1. Almond Milk

There’s been quite a fuss about almond milk recently – it’s easy to make at home, contains such a low amount of saturated fat and it also boasts a good amount of calcium as well as vitamins D and E, and other added ones in shop-bought almond milk.

However, there are the questions of deforestation caused by almond farming, also the question of carrageenan being added to some shop-bought varieties. (Carrageenan is often found in almond milk, as well as in coconut milk, a stabiliser coming from red algae or seaweed that may cause digestive problems).

In terms of taste, almond milk is a thin plant-based milk, that has a slightly nutty flavour. It can be a little bitter in tea, so I prefer it in smoothies or other flavour-rich recipes.

Alpro Unsweetened Almond Milk

Ingredients: water, almond (2%), calcium (tri-calcium phosphate), sea salt, stabilisers (locust bean gum, gellan gum), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), vitamins (riboflavin (B2), B12, E, D2)

Nutrition per 100ml:

  • Energy 14 kcal
  • Carbohydrate 0.2g
    • of which sugars 0.1g
  • Fat 1.2g
    • of which saturates 0.1g
  • Protein 0.5g
  • Salt 0.13g
  • Fibre 0.3g
  • Calcium 120mg (15% RDA)
  • Vitamin D 0.75µg (15% RDA)
  • Vitamin B2 0.21mg (15% RDA)
  • Vitamin B12 0.38µg (15% RDA)
  • Vitamin E 1.8mg (15% RDA)

2. Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is great for the paleo diet, but it has a very high fat and especially saturated fat content in comparison to other milk alternatives. However, as this saturated fat naturally comes from coconuts – one of the only plants to product saturated fat – it’s not all bad.

Saturated fat from coconuts contains a high amount of lauric acid, which increases high-density lipoprotein, the “good cholesterol”. Nevertheless, it’s recommended you watch your intake of it.

Coconut milk has a slightly thicker mouth-feel, and often a sweeter taste. It’s more palatable in tea than other nut plant-based milk, so I like to use it in my drinks and other recipes.

Below I’ve looked at Koko’s Coconut Milk, which contains added calcium, vitamin B12 and vitamin D, making it a good alternative to cow’s milk.

Koko Fresh Milk Alternative

Ingredients: filtered water, coconut milk (8.4%), grape juice concentrate, calcium phosphate, emulsifier: sucrose ester, thickener: carrageenan, sea salt, vitamin D2, vitamin B12, colour: natural carotene

Nutrition per 100ml:

  • Energy 28 kcal
  • Carbohydrate 2.4g
    • of which sugars 2.1g
  • Fat 1.9g
    • of which saturates 1.7g
  • Protein 0.3g
  • Salt 0.1g
  • Fibre 0.5g
  • Calcium 120mg (15% RDA)
  • Vitamin D 0.75µg (15% RDA)
  • Vitamin B12 0.38µg (15% RDA)

3. Oat Milk

In comparison to all of the other milk alternatives (except soy), oat milk tends to have an exceptionally high amount of protein per 100ml. However, this is also true of its carbohydrate and sugar content, but considering it contains only water, oats and a little sea salt, it’s pretty close to perfect in terms of all natural ingredients. Oat milk even boasts beta-glucans, which help maintain normal blood cholesterol levels.

Oat milk definitely has my favourite taste and feel when drinking, and it’s even palatable drunk straight. I like using it in my hot drinks, and even froth it on my coffee machine for making lattes and similar frothy drinks.

The one part you may have to decide upon is whether you want it organic oat milk or not – as Oatly themselves have admitted, their organic version cannot contain added calcium or vitamins, therefore removing its ability to be a true milk alternative in my mind.

(Plus, Oatly were recently invested in by Blackstone, a company linked to deforestation and the meat industry – so choose another brand if you’re environmentally-focused, or consider making your own oat milk!)

Oatly Organic Oat Drink

Ingredients: oat base (water, oats 10%), sea salt

Nutrition per 100ml:

  • Energy 35 kcal
  • Carbohydrate 6.5g
    • of which sugars 4g
  • Fat 0.5g
    • of which saturates 0.1g
  • Protein 1g
  • Salt 0.1g
  • Fibre 0.8g
  • Calcium 0mg (0% RDA)
  • Beta-glucans 0.4g (30% RDA)

4. Rice Milk

Organic rice milk also suffers from the same lack of calcium and vitamins as organic oat milk; there is none without having them fortified, therefore removing its organic properties.

Furthermore, as a plant-based milk it is exceptionally high carbohydrate and natural sugars content in comparison to the other alternatives. Plus, certain brands such as Rice Dream have added sunflower oil too.

In terms of taste, rice milk has a pleasant, sweet taste, and is relatively runny. It can split in hot drinks, but I don’t mind it as much as almond milk.

Rice Dream Organic Milk Alternative

Ingredients: water, rice (14%), sunflower oil, sea salt

Nutrition per 100ml:

  • Energy 47 kcal
  • Carbohydrate 9.4g
    • of which sugars 4g
  • Fat 1g
    • of which saturates 0.1g
  • Protein 0.1g
  • Salt 0.1g
  • Fibre 0.1g
  • Calcium 0mg (0% RDA)

5. Soy Milk

Soy (or soya) milk is the most popular milk alternative, based on its high protein content and added calcium and vitamin D fortification. However if we’re going all organic and non-GMO, these additions aren’t possible, making it a poor competitor for being a milk alternative. Relative to the others listed here, it also is low in carbohydrates and fat.

Soy milk has the second-best taste in my opinion, coming behind oat milk only. This is definitely a personal choice though – my boyfriend hates soy milk! I don’t mind it on cereal or in tea or coffee, but it’s worth trying before passing judgement.

Alpro Organic Soya Wholebean Milk Alternative

Ingredients: water, hulled organic soya beans (5.9%), organic apple juice concentrate, sea salt

Nutrition per 100ml:

  • Energy 32 kcal
  • Carbohydrate 2.4g
    • of which sugars 2.4g
  • Fat 1.7g
    • of which saturates 0.3g
  • Protein 3.0g
  • Salt 0.14g
  • Fibre 0.5g
  • Calcium 0mg (0% RDA)

The Best Plant-Based Milk: Oat Milk

Plant based milk

In terms of taste and health, oat milk is my recommendation. However, if you can, go for a brand that’s using oats grown locally to you, and isn’t supported by big dirty investment firms (looking at you, Oatly!)

Is It Worth Choosing Organic Plant-Based Milk?

In my research, I’ve looked at the organic alternatives where possible. While I would usually encourage you to opt for organic, in this case it can often come at the cost of fortifications such as vitamin d and calcium, which are naturally occurring in cows’ milk.

With organic, I tend to think of the production chain of our food, and the farmers and field workers who have to handle our food before being processed – these men and women have to come into contact with chemicals that we ourselves don’t want to touch or ingest. And applying simple rules of economics, the more we demand organic products, the cheaper and more numerous they will become! But in this one, isolated case, I’ll be opting for fortified, non-organic plant milks.

I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a milk alternative that uses a combination of organic ingredients with fortified calcium and vitamins – and please do let me know if you come across one!


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