Dairy gets put in the spotlight and on the hot seat every other month it seems. One good thing to come from all the attention, though, is that companies have scrambled to come up with dairy milk alternatives that meet consumers’ demands, whether it’s “milk” that’s lower in calories, free of lactose, void of stomach-curdling proteins, or something else altogether. One bad thing? Picking milk up from the grocery is no longer a simple, thoughtless task.
Regular old cow’s milk has competition from nut- and grain-based alternatives touting a variety of fat and flavor profiles. But that doesn’t mean a cow’s milk variety isn’t the best choice for you. It very well may be, which is why we’ve included them in this roundup.
We consulted with Hillary Wright, R.D., author of The Prediabetes Diet Plan, to highlight the unique health benefits of more than 15 different milk options. Take your pick and have your fill (in moderation, of course). But before we delve into all that, we want to leave you with some tips from Wright:
1. First and foremost, always read labels. Calories, carbs, protein, calcium, and more differ depending on processing and fortification. For example, in nut milks, “Original” varieties typically have sugar added back into them—so, vanilla-flavored cashew milk has as much as 12g sugar per cup compared to unsweetened cashew milk, which has none. When you can, opt for unsweetened or no-sugar-added options.
2. Raw, unpasteurized milk, especially cow’s milk, may seem super healthy if you’re on an all-natural health kick, but it’s a potential source of listeria, a form of food poisoning. So, we kept it off this list since it’s better safe than sorry.
3. Don’t assume you’re lactose intolerant if your stomach gets a little bloated after drinking animal dairy. The majority of people who think they’re intolerant are really misdiagnosing themselves. (More on this on the next slide.)