Oat milk, almonds, dairy or soy? A dietitian breaks your ‘milk’ option

A visit to the supermarket presents shopkeepers with huge numbers of milk. And being away from the domain of modern hipsters, plant-based milk substitutes are going mainstream.

These options may be appropriate for those who are intolerant to dairy milk, or who have ethical or other personal preferences. They are lower in saturated fat and energy than dairy milk, but are low in protein (except soy) and calcium (unless fortified). Some are also high in added sugar.

As milk is best, there is no simple answer. Dairy milk comes out on top for nutritional quality, although soy is a good option from a nutritional point of view. And it should be noted that these options are not technically milch, as they have not been obtained from mammals.

Nevertheless, the nutritional quality of different options varies greatly, so it is important to pay attention to these differences when choosing.

dairy Milk

Milk provides us with important nutrients including calcium, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D, riboflavin (B2), zinc, phosphorus and iodine. The quantity and quality of cow’s milk protein is high, with nine essential amino acids, both whey and casein. Milk plays an important role in bone health and is a particularly rich source of dietary calcium.

Research examining the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium has determined the best absorbed calcium source dairy milk and its derivatives.

Although dairy foods contain some saturated fat, the fat in dairy does not appear to be highly problematic for heart health. A large study featuring people from 21 countries published in 2018 found that dairy intake was associated with a lower risk of heart disease and death.

Although dairy milk has a high nutritional value, there is no reason why people need to drink it if they choose not to. All of the nutrients in milk can be obtained elsewhere in the diet.


If you are looking for a dairy-free alternative, soy is a good option (although some people may be intolerant to soy). This ground is made from soybean or soy protein powder, water and vegetable oils and is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals including calcium.

A 2017 study found that soy milk is significantly superior to almond, rice and coconut varieties compared to other nutrients.

Available in full-fat and low-fat versions, soy is a good source of plant protein, carbohydrates, B vitamins, and is fortified with calcium that nourishes it similar to dairy milk.

The ability of the body to absorb and use excess calcium in soy drinks is approaching dairy milk. One study indicated that calcium from fortified soy drinks was absorbed at 75 percent efficiency of calcium from dairy milk, although there appears to be limited data on this.

It typically contains more protein than other plant-based alternatives, and contains healthy unsaturated fat and fiber.

It also contains a compound called phytoestrogen. Phytoestrogens are natural plant compounds that mimic the body’s own natural estrogen but to a lesser extent.

Initially there was some speculation based on earlier animal studies about the possible adverse effects of phytoestrogens on breast cancer and hyperthyroidism risk. However, studies in humans do not support this.

In contrast, there is some evidence to suggest that they may exert protective effects against some cancers. A review study from 2019 found that soy intake is more beneficial than harmful.

In a position statement on soy, phytoestrogens and cancer prevention, the Cancer Council of Australia supports the consumption of soy foods in the diet, but does not recommend high-dose phytoestrogen supplements, especially for women with current breast cancer. .


Nut drinks such as almonds consist mainly of ground nuts and water. Despite being a good plant source of almond protein, almond drinks are significantly lower in protein and calcium than dairy milk. Consumers should take care of the almond drink to ensure that essential nutrients are found elsewhere in the diet.

In a 2017 survey of widely available commercial almond milk, the consumer group Choice found that almond drinks contain only 2–14 percent almonds, with water being the major element. It is low in energy and saturated fat and contains some healthy unsaturated fats as well as vitamin E, manganese, zinc and potassium.

Sugar is often added to almonds. Conditions for tracking include those indicated as organic rice syrup, agave syrup, organic evaporated sugarcane juice, raw sugar, or organic corn maltodextrin. If you can then it is best to look for varieties without a license.

Almond drinks may be suitable for those who are intolerant to both dairy milk and soy, but are not suitable for people with nut allergies.

If you are using almond milk as an alternative to dairy milk and want similar nutritional benefits, aim for fortified with a calcium close to 115-120mg per 100ml (similar to dairy milk) View with.


Oat milk is made by mixing oats and water and peeling off the liquid. It is a source of fiber, vitamin E, folate and riboflavin. It is low in fat and is naturally sweet, containing twice the carbohydrate of cow’s milk, so it may not be suitable for people with diabetes.

It is low in both protein and calcium, so look for a fortified brand. It is not suitable for people with gluten intolerance, nor is it a sufficiently adequate option for young children.


Coconut milk is low in protein and carbohydrates, and high in saturated fat. Some brands have added sugar. Like a nutty drink, it does not contain calcium naturally and is not a suitable substitute for dairy milk for nutrition.


The rice drink is made from milled rice and water. It is naturally high in carbohydrates and sugars, and has a high glycemic index meaning that glucose is quickly released into the blood, which may mean it is not suitable for people with diabetes. It is also particularly low in protein and needs to be calcium fortified.

Of all the alternatives to rice milk, it is the least likely to trigger allergies. However, it is not an appropriate milk substitute especially for children due to its low nutrient quality.

Finally, when deciding which plant-based alternative to drink, you should choose fortified and preferably non-irrigated varieties. Also, look for those with a calcium content that is as close to 115-120mg per 100ml (or 300mg per cup) as possible, as it is similar to dairy milk.

Your choice should also take into consideration your overall diet and nutritional requirements. This is particularly important for children, adolescents, older adults, and those following a restricted diet. Finally, factors such as taste, taste, texture, and mouth feel are all important considerations. chit chat

Leah Dowling, Lecturer in Dietetics, Swinburne University of Technology.

This article is republished from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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