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Consumer Reports: Non-dairy milks

Posted at 4:00 AM, Oct 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-07 10:01:04-04

TUCSON, Ariz. - David Porcaro is a physical therapist. He’s been looking for alternatives to cow’s milk in his diet.

“I’ve tried rice milk, oatmeal milk, hazelnut milk," says Porcaro. "My favorite milk is almond milk.”

Move over, milk! Sales of non-dairy milk are up 61% in the past few years! Almond, soy, coconut, even milk made from oats. And the trend reaches beyond the lactose-intolerant and vegan crowd. In fact, more than half of plant-milk buyers in a CR survey said they think it’s healthier than cow’s milk. Is it?

“Cow’s milk is rich in protein, and supplies much of the calcium in most people’s diets but when you replace it with plant milk, you may actually be missing out," says Consumer Reports Nutritionist, Ellen Klosz.

Are you ready to replace milk from a cow with milk from a plant? Consider starting with soy, which is closest to cow’s milk nutritionally.

“Soy milk has about the same amount of protein, or more," says Klosz. "And if it is fortified it can have similar vitamin and mineral content. But watch out for added sugars.”

Almond milk is the most popular plant milk. The top-rated had slight to moderate almond flavor and little to no astringency or chalkiness, but CR says it has low protein content and poor protein quality. The top oat milk has a slightly sweet oat-y taste. It has slightly less protein than soy or cow’s milk. It does have some fiber, but not enough to contribute much to your daily requirement. Coconut milk generally has mild coconut flavor. It has little to no protein and is high in saturated fat.

CR suggests taking a close look at the labels. A lot of plant milks contain added sugar and stabilizers so opt for one with the best nutritional profile and the fewest additives.