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Plant Milk 101: How to Choose One that Suits Your Preferences and Nutritional Needs

Gloria Yan-Yan Tsang

Canadian registered dietitian, newspaper columnist, and author of 5 books; “Eat better, not less” is her motto.

Plant Milk 101: How to Choose One that Suits Your Preferences and Nutritional Needs

Soy milk is no stranger to us, but whether you are vegetarian, lactose intolerant, or simply interested in trying new and alternative products, you may notice that other plant milk options have boomed in the past years. In United States alone, the plant milk sales grew over 60% in the past 5 years. And this trend doesn’t just restricted in America. The global market for plant-based milk is indeed expected to exceed US $34 billion by 2024. While soy remains a popular substitute for us for years, there are many more plant-based milk options we can explore. It may be overwhelming to walk down a grocery store aisle nowadays. But rest assured, depending on your purpose, there’s always a plant milk that suits your taste preference and nutritional needs.

To Replace Cow’s Milk as a Source of Protein: Soy Milk

1. To Replace Cow’s Milk as a Source of Protein: Soy Milk

A cup of cow’s milk provides about 8 grams of protein; so if you are choosing a plant milk as a substitute, choose soy milk. Natural soy milk usually provides 6 to 8 grams of protein per cup, and it ranks the highest in protein content among other plant milk options. Go for unsweetened version if possible.

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2. To Provide Calcium: Choose “Calcium-Fortified”

Plant milk is not a rich source for calcium. So if you are choosing one to replace cow’s milk as a calcium source, choose any one kind as long as it has been fortified with calcium. The label may say “calcium-fortified”, “enriched with calcium” or something similar. If unsure, check the the back label; the ingredient list will have at least one calcium ingredient (such as calcium carbonate), and the nutritional facts label may list calcium content. A cup of calcium-fortified plant milk usually provide 250 to 300 mg of calcium, a level similar to what a cup of cow’s milk can provide.

3. As a Coffee Companion: Almond milk and Oat Milk

Any kinds of plant milk can be added to your morning cup of java, but both almond and oat milk seem to work nicely with the taste profile without too overpowering. If you have a home espresso machine or a milk frother, both milk can be frothed up quite well, making them a good companion when making cappuccino or latte.

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4. For Individuals with Multiple Food Allergies: Rice Milk

If you have multiple food allergies, rice milk seems less likely to cause an allergic reaction. As rice milk naturally tastes sweeter, it is generally well-accepted among kids and seniors. However, since it contains almost no protein, make sure to provide other high-protein foods to complement.

5. To Add Creaminess in Home Cooking: Coconut Milk

Don’t be confused by coconut milk with canned coconut cream. The former is a drinkable beverage usually found in the plant milk aisle, while the latter is a thick creamy product used in cooking and is usually stocked in the sauce or condiment aisle. Among most plant milk selections, coconut milk tends to have a relatively higher fat content, making it a great add-on to soup or sauce when creaminess is needed.

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If you still haven’t found one that you like, don’t give up. There are still more plant milk options, like cashew milk, hazelnut milk, and others you can try. And keep trying, you will find one that suits your preference.

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Gloria’s Nutrition Corner

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