Healthiest Alternatives To Cow's Milk

Cow’s milk has gained a bad rep in recent years, after being linked to everything from acne to eczema to weight gain, with some studies even suggesting that drinking too much of the white stuff could contribute to an early death. Yikes. It’s even banned in the latest healthy eating trend doing the A-list rounds, the Paleo Diet, for the simple reason that our ancestors would never have touched it.  

“It makes no sense to me that we are the only species to drink another’s milk. The hormones within it are enough to make a calf grow into a big cow – we don’t need that in our bodies,” says SheerLuxe Wellness Panel member Natasha Corrett, Founder of Honestly Healthy

No wonder the market for milk alternatives – or mylks – has boomed (by 155% in just two years), and you’re just as likely to see almond, soya and coconut blends sitting on display in your local supermarket as the semi-skimmed these days. 

Perceived as healthier than cow’s milk, these alternatives can be poured over cereal and added to coffee just like the real stuff, but are they really as beneficial as we think?

Whether you’re lactose intolerant or simply want to follow the likes of Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Aniston in saying no to dairy, read on for our expert guide to the pros and cons of each option...
 

Oat Milk

Pros: 
“While oat options contain significantly less protein than dairy or soya milks, they do include beta glucans, which have been found to help control cholesterol levels.” – Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist

“One glass actually contains more calcium than a glass of cow’s milk, and there’s no saturated fat.” -  Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist

Cons: 
“Because oat milk is made from a grain, it’s higher in carbohydrates, so may not be ideal if you’re trying to lose weight. Also, some oat milks can be sweetened with added sugar and contain other nasties so always read the label carefully.” – Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist

“Be warned, most oat drinks aren’t suitable for those with gluten intolerance.” – Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist
 

Rice Milk

Pros: 
“This is my favourite option, as rice milk is mild and neutral in taste, making it great for baking.” Natasha Corrett, Founder of Honestly Healthy

Cons: 
“Rice drinks have a very low protein content and are usually made from white rather than wholegrain varieties, so are low in fibre too. This gives them a high glycaemic index, meaning their carbohydrates are quickly turned to sugar and absorbed into the blood, so I would not recommend using them as an everyday alternative.” Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist
 

Soya Milk

Pros: 
“One of the easiest to find in shops and cafés, soya options contain a similar amount of protein to dairy, with a good profile of amino acids.” Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist

“Soya milk contains no cholesterol and is high in omega-3 fatty acids, plus one glass a day has been shown to reduce waist size by 1.25 inches after just four weeks.” – Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist

Cons: 
“There’s lots of disagreement on soya: some believe it may disrupt hormone levels, as it contains phytoestrogens – plant substances similar to the female hormone oestrogen.” – Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist

“I try and stay away from soya, as it’s very hard to know whether the beans used are GM or not,” warns Natasha Corrett, Founder of Honestly Healthy
 

Almond Milk

Pros: 
“With the exception of those with an allergy, almonds are usually well-tolerated and have a low glycaemic index, meaning they have a relatively small effect on your blood sugar.” Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist

“As well as frothing brilliantly for cappuccinos or matcha lattes, and working well in alternative ice cream recipes, it contains all of the essential fats that our bodies need.” – Natasha Corrett, Founder of Honestly Healthy

Cons: 
“Because almonds only make up about 2% of the ingredients, nut milks contain little in the way of nutrients apart from added calcium and vitamins. The sweetened versions can contain quite a lot of sugar (it can even be the second ingredient after water), so always opt for unsweetened varieties.” – Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist

"The biggest concern when picking out a nut milk is making sure it does not include additives or stabilisers and is not loaded with sugar, so be sure to always read the label," Lily Rogath and Meryl Zises, Imbibery founders and SL Wellness panelists
 

Coconut Milk

Pros: 
“Although coconut milk contains a high amount of saturated fat (over 90%, which is higher than butter), research suggests it can actually decrease bad cholesterol while increasing the good type. The medium chain fatty acids within coconut milk can also help prevent the abnormal blood clotting which leads to heart attacks and strokes.” – Dr Marilyn Glenville, Nutritionist

Cons: 
“Like most milk alternatives, coconut drinks contain less protein than dairy milk, and they may be sweetened – although the sugar content is usually relatively low.” – Shona Wilkinson, Nutritionist 

 

 


 Dairy Free Original, £1.69 | KoKo

Brown Rice Drink, £1.99 | Rude Health

Organic H Healthy Oat Milk, £1.75 | Oat-ly

 


 Almond Unsweetened UHT, £1.69 | Alpro

Chilled Unsweetened Milk Alternative, £1.39 | Alpro

 

 

 

 

Inspiration credits: ManitobaHarvest.Tumblr.Com, Everyday-I-Show.Livejournal.com, TheLaurelOfAsheville.com