Vegan milk, like other plant-based alternatives, has quickly become a popular consumer choice. Since plant-based milk is the savvy option for our health, the animals, and the environment, the demand for quality products only increases.
But what kind of non-dairy milk is the best for your requirements? It seems like every day we hear about a new kind of vegan milk available. We’re fortunate to live in a time where the products are plentiful, but the choices are overwhelming.
After doing some digging, we weighed all the pros and cons of each milk alternative. While we did eventually crown one milk the ultimate winner, we want you to know all your options, so here’s what we found.
Why Switch to Plant-Based Milk?
Still undecided about whether you should switch to plant-based milk? If you’ve grown up drinking dairy milk, it probably seems second nature. The dairy industry has done a decent job of convincing people that cow’s milk is essential for humans.
Let’s explore why non-dairy milk is the superior choice:
Dairy cows live a painful life in a constant cycle of impregnation, birth, and milking. When their calves are born, they are taken away from their mothers so that humans can use the milk created for the baby. Those calves are frequently dehorned, castrated, and/or branded without painkillers. Calves are then overfed to reach an unnaturally heavy weight for slaughter. With plant-based milk, your dollar doesn’t go towards supporting any of this cruelty.
Better for Our Health
Dairy milk contains saturated fat, and high levels of saturated fat are linked to heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, dairy consumption is also linked to certain cancers, cognitive decline, and early death.
Plant-based milk contains less saturated fats, no hormones, and no antibiotics.
Dairy milk is not as environmentally friendly as plant-based milk. Besides the excessive land use needed to farm them, cows produce greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide.
One liter of cow’s milk requires 1,050 liters of water, while one liter of soy milk needs only 297 liters! Evidently, vegan milk is the kinder choice for our animals, our bodies, and our planet.
What Are the Milk Alternatives?
Once you’ve decided to switch to plant-based milk, you have another choice before you. What kind of non-dairy milk is right for you? If you’re new to vegan milk, the wide variety of options might surprise you.
Most people have heard of soy milk, one of the first non-dairy milks to appear in coffee shops. Almond, cashew, hazelnut, and coconut milk are also well-known dairy alternatives, although not as high in protein as soy.
Three of the more recently popular options are oat, hemp, and flax milk. While oat milk is full of fiber, it also has more calories than most vegan milk. For those prone to food allergies, rice or pea protein milk may be the answer.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all milk perfect for every person, you can shop for a product that best serves your interests and needs. All of our suggestions are easy to find in stores and are shelf-stable products.
We recommend purchasing shelf-stable products as these allow you to stock up, save space, and cut costs. Also, with their extended shelf life and no refrigeration requirements, you’ll have less waste.
Best Milk for the Environment – Soy & Oat
When it comes to eco-friendliness, soy and oat milk come out on top. Besides requiring less land and water than other milks, they also contribute to fewer emissions.
A solid option for soy milk is Silk’s Shelf-Stable Unsweetened Organic Soymilk. It’s made from whole-harvested soybeans grown in the U.S. and is certified USDA organic.
Best Milk for Coffee – Soy & Oat
Emerging as winners again, soy and oat milk tend to work best in coffee. Other milks are prone to overpowering the taste of the coffee. Since the manufacturing process plays a role in the milk’s texture, you can opt for milk specifically designed for coffee.
Oatly makes a Barista Edition Oatmilk that’s perfect for creating a foamy latte. For a slightly more economical product, check out Califia Farms Unsweetened Oatmilk Barista Blend. While both of these oat milks are made for coffee, they are also delicious on their own.
Best Milk for Vitamin B12 – Soy, Oat & Coconut
Since many people are deficient in B12, we love milk that supplies the valuable vitamin. If you would like to boost your daily B12 intake, try soy, oat, or coconut milk. All three of these provide at least 50% of your recommended daily intake with only one cup.
Our favorite coconut milk is the Organic Unsweetened Coconutmilk Beverage from So Delicious. With a bunch of coconut milk, ice cream, and other tasty products, these guys know what they’re doing.
Best Milk for Protein – Soy & Flax
Looking to pack some protein into your glass of milk? Soy and flax blow most other non-dairy milks out of the water with 8 grams of protein per cup.
For a creamy flax milk, try Good Karma’s Unsweetened Flaxmilk + Protein. Besides the ample dose of protein, it also contains 1200mg of omega-3s per serving.
Best Milk for Calcium – Almond
Calcium is definitely almond milk’s category. Silk’s Shelf-Stable Unsweetened Almondmilk provides 45% of your daily calcium intake. We love that this milk has both zero added sugars and zero saturated fat.
Best Milk for Vitamin D – Soy, Coconut, Hemp & Cashew
It was impossible to pick just one winner for this category as soy, coconut, hemp, and cashew milk all deliver. All four of these kinds of milk offer at least 30% of your recommended daily intake.
Our favorite hemp milk is the Pacific Foods Hemp Vanilla Unsweetened. It has a creamy, nutty flavor and contains all the essential amino acids.
For cashew milk, we recommend the So Delicious Unsweetened Cashewmilk Beverage. It’s only 40 calories per serving, but still full of nutritious goodness.
Best Milk for Iron – Pea & Hemp
Your best picks for a higher iron content are pea or hemp milk. One cup from either of these contains around 10% of your recommended daily intake.
For milk without a nutty taste, try the Barista Style Plant-Based Milk from Ripple. It will foam and froth as good as any milk beverage out there. Whether served hot or cold, it has a velvety texture ideal for blending in any drink.
Best Milk for Weight Loss – Unsweetened
As you can see from our recommendations, we love the unsweetened versions of vegan milk. Sticking to those types will make sure the sugar content of your beverage stays low. Regardless of the plant-based milk you choose, the unsweetened version should have a maximum of 1 gram of sugar.
If you are counting your calories to lose weight, Almond milk wins with just 25 calories per serving (one cup).
Soy Milk Wins
When we researched the various options for vegan milk, we consistently saw soy milk come out as the winner. It has 8 grams of protein, 50% of your daily B12 requirement, 30% of your calcium intake, and 30% of your vitamin D intake. It also does not have any carrageenan, a common additive with inflammatory gastrointestinal consequences.
Besides the nutritional factors, it’s also one of the best kinds of milk for the environment. With a mild flavor that blends nicely into your morning coffee, what’s not to love?
Is Soy Safe for You?
You may have heard that soy milk causes breast cancer, but research from the Mayo Clinic indicates eating a diet rich in quality soy foods actually reduces the risk of breast cancer.
The reason people believed this myth was because of the isoflavones in soy. These nutrients have chemical structures that appear like estrogen. Since high levels of estrogen are linked to breast cancer risk, this made people nervous. However, the phytoestrogens found in soy are not the same as the estrogen found in a woman’s body, and they are safe to eat.
One important thing to note here is that much of the soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified and sprayed with herbicides. To avoid this problem, make sure to buy certified organic soy products.
Still Not Sure Which Milk Alternative is Best For You?
We’ve compiled the nutritional value of the most popular brands so you can choose for yourself what is the best vegan milk for you.
So, do you have a favorite kind of vegan milk? Tell us about it in the comments. To your vegan success!