Gone are the days where milk was synonymous with a cow. Enter a café today and you’re confounded by a growing list of dairy-free options – almond, soy, macadamia, rice…what will they squeeze ‘milk’ out of next?
Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant, follow a non-dairy diet or just prefer the flavour (what’s wrong with you?), it can be difficult to know which milk is best, in taste and nutrition.
So to help you decide between the never-ending choices, we’ve asked our panel of expert nutritionists – Bannie Williams, Lola Berry and Jacqueline Alwill – to give you the low-down on alternative milks, which is best for your morning latte and muffin(top).
“When it comes to alternative milks, always check the nutrition panel and ingredients and choose ‘unsweetened’ versions as some brands can add sugar and sweeteners to make the milk more palatable,” says Bannie.
Taste: smooth, creamy, slightly sweet
Nutrition: ”Once perceived the best alternative to dairy, sadly, soy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It contains phytoestrogens, which mimic the action of oestrogen in the body. This is an important consideration, especially for women. Our hormones need to function with as little interference as possible; too much soy and they could move out of balance. However, if soy is still your preference, simply aim for good quality, organically grown, non-GMO soybeans and consume only small amounts every now and then,” says Jacqueline.
But is it any good with coffee? Like most alternative milks, soy can curdle easily at high temperatures however, if brewed correctly this is definitely one of the most delicious. It’s super creamy and surprisingly nutty considering it doesn’t come from a nut!
Taste: deliciously nutty, slightly sweet
Nutrition: According to our experts, almond milk is high in natural protein and calcium and is often quite low in fat and carbohydrates compared with other milk options. As a seed, almonds are also highly nutritious, containing vitamin E and B, manganese, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, copper and zinc. In order to gain the full nutritional value of almond milk, opt for a cold pressed version or one that does not contain any preservatives, flavour or added sugars.
But is it any good with coffee? With a deliciously nutty profile, almond milk is growing in popularity as a coffee companion. It is also delicious in hot chocolates and smoothies.
Taste: light and watery, slightly sweet, neutral
Nutrition: In terms of nutrition, rice milk doesn’t bring much to the table. “It can be lower in calories and fat than cows milk, however it doesn’t usually contain as much natural protein or calcium,” says Bannie. Nevertheless, it is easily digestible, not overpowering and can be a great option for those with dairy, nut or seed allergies.
But is it any good with coffee? Rice milk is slightly more watery than other milk alternatives so if you’re after a creamy cappuccino it wouldn’t be our be first pick
Taste profile: light and watery, slightly sweet, slightly nutty
Nutrition profile: “Hemp seeds are highly nutritious and contain a number of vital vitamins and minerals. They are also a great source of omega fatty acids, which can promote cardiovascular and brain health,” says Bannie. Hemp seed milk contains by far the most omega-3 fatty acids compared to all other milks, with a 250ml portion providing 50% of our recommended daily intake. Hemp seeds are also high in protein, adds Lola.
Any good with coffee? Hemp milk is most similar in consistency to skim milk, being the thinnest of the non-dairy milks (with rice milk coming in a close second). For this reason, we’d recommend adding hemp to cereal and smoothies and leaving it out of your morning latte.
Taste: Creamy, naturally sweet, strong coconut flavour
Nutrition: “Coconut milk is particularly rich and does contain a higher portion of fat, however the fat in coconuts is a medium chain fatty acid (MCFA), which converts quickly to energy when the liver processes it, instead of storing as fat as other saturated fats might do,” says Jacqueline.
“The drinking kind is different to what you buy in a tin and make curries from as it is more watered down and thus contains less fat (approximately 2 grams per 100 ml),” says Lola.
But is it any good with coffee? Coconut milk is the thickest and creamiest milk alternative and the most reminiscent of full cream dairy milk so it can be delicious in coffee and hot chocolates.
Don’t believe us? Try Jacqueline Alwill’s Coconut Hocho recipe below.
400ml coconut milk
2tbsp (60 ml) water
2tbsp raw cacao powder
1tbsp maple or rice malt syrup
good pinch cinnamon
good pinch ground ginger
1tsp vanilla extract, paste or seeds of ½ vanilla bean
1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.
2. Place over low heat and warm for 3-4 minutes, whisking frequently.
3. Remove from heat and serve.