Milk has been associated with a lot of health problems that include heart disease, allergies and diabetes. For every study that condemns milk, you’ll find one that gives it great praise. You do have other options.

There are a number of alternatives to drinking and using milk. It’s easy to use any of the other beverages to pour over your cereal but it’s a little more complicated if you want to use them in your favorite recipe. The nutrients in most non-dairy milk alternatives, like oat beverage, almond beverage, soy beverage and coconut beverage are not the same as cow’s milk. In fact, few milk alternatives can match the full nutrient package found naturally in real milk. Milk contains high-quality protein, calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins. Most non-dairy milk alternatives often fortify their products with these nutrients. Are milk alternatives healthy? A lot of people believe that plant-based beverages are healthier than traditional milk. That is not necessarily true. Most of these alternatives can contain lower levels of calcium, less protein and may even have more sugar than traditional dairy milks.

Soy beverage is made from ground soybeans soaked in water. Soy beverage is a good source of low-fat and plant-based protein. It is cholesterol-free, has less saturated fat than cow’s milk and lowers the LDLs in your body. Soy contains estrogen-like compounds called isoflavones. Findings suggested that these compounds could promote the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells, impair female fertility and affect your thyroid function.

Almond beverage is made from ground almonds and filtered water. Almond beverage is lower in calories and contains more heart healthy monounsaturated fats. Almond beverage contains slightly more sodium but does not contain lactose. Almond beverage may contain as little as two percent almonds. You may only get three to four whole almonds in each 8-ounce glass. Almond beverage is a good choice for people on a low-sugar diet, those with a dairy or soy allergy, and vegans who don’t like soymilk. Remember that the benefits from almond beverage don’t come close to what you get from an ounce of raw almonds. Raw almonds have far more protein, fiber and healthy fats.

Rice beverage is made from ground brown rice and water. Rice beverage is an easy-to-digest soy alternative, nut free, gluten-free and nutritionists recommend it for people with multiple food allergies. On the downside, a cup of unsweetened rice milk has just 1 gram of protein.

Oat beverage is made by soaking oatmeal in water. Most brands add sugar. Oat beverage only gives you the food’s naturally sugar with and fiber. Oat beverage is made from strained oats. This beverage is missing a lot of the nutrients that you would normally get from eating a bowl of oats. Compared to other types of beverages, oat beverage has more calories and fiber than almond, soy or cow’s milk. It also provides less protein than soy and dairy varieties.

Cashew beverage is made from ground cashews and water. It has a sweet and creamy flavor. Cashew beverage is a good option for nondairy cream soups, dressings and sauces. It’s close in texture to whole milk, has fewer calories than skim milk. A cup of fortified unsweetened cashew milk has about 25 calories per serving, no sugar and has 32% more calcium than dairy milk.

Macadamia beverage is made from macadamia nuts and water. Macadamia beverage is one more option for people on a plant-based diet. Like almond beverage, a cup of it gives you 45% of your recommended daily calcium. Unfortunately macadamia beverage has about as much fat as 2% cow’s milk (5 grams per cup). If you want to avoid dairy, soy and gluten macadamia beverage is a great option.

Coconut beverage is everywhere these days. Canned coconut beverage is the liquid from coconut meat. Coconut beverage has 36 grams of fat per cup. It’s a great substitute in soups, puddings, and vegan ice cream. Coconut beverage found in the refrigerator section of your supermarket, is watered down to lower the calories and fat. One cup of coconut beverage has 45 calories and 3.5 grams of saturated fat.

Hemp beverage is made from ground shelled hemp seeds and water. Hemp beverage is thicker and creamier than soy milk and is not as grainy. A cup of unsweetened hemp beverage is rich in omega-3 fats, omega-6 fats and other nutrients. Hemp beverage contains 60 calories per cup, which is higher than rice and almond beverages. This is a great option for people who have multiple food allergies.

Flax oil beverage is one of the newer milk substitutes to hit the shelves. Flax oil beverage is cold-pressed flax oil mixed with filtered water. Flax oil beverage has 70 calories per cup. This beverage has 1,200 milligrams of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. This is a great choice if you are looking for dairy-free milk without the taste of soy or nuts.

Basic nut and seed beverages are fairly easy to make: Simply soak, blend, and drain. Commercially manufactured nut beverages are usually fortified with vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients to put them on par with dairy milk. You have to take into consideration manufacturers also add sweeteners, preservatives and stabilizers you may not want. When choosing a beverage make sure it contains at least 120 mgs of calcium.

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