Whether for health, ethical or environmental reasons, more and more of us are shunning traditional cows milk in favour of dairy free alternatives. The dairy free milk industry grew by an incredible 67% between 2014 to 2016 and there are now many products on the market catering for the demand.
There's a big difference in quality when it comes to milk alternative products. Some are surprisingly highly processed, containing undesirable additives and low levels of the ingredient that the milk is supposedly based on. In 2015 a false advertising lawsuit was filed against the makers of Almond Breeze almond milk by consumers who were upset about the fact it only contained 2% almonds.
On the other hand there are also some fantastic tasting, natural milk alternatives using just a few simple ingredients.
Which one makes the best cappuccino? Which is best if you're on a low carb diet? Find out here...
Currently the most popular of the dairy-free milks and my personal favourite. Homemade almond milk can be made simply by blending together almonds and water (a small pinch of sea salt and vanilla bean extract are optional) before gently pressing the liquid through a muslin cloth.
Almond milk is a natural source of vitamin E and protein and is low in carbohydrates making it ideal for anyone on a low carbohydrate diet. Make sure you choose unsweetened almond milk as some varieties do contain added sugar.
Watch out for some bigger brands of almond milk which contain a very low percentage of almonds and have undesirable additives.
I recommend Plenish Organic Almond Milk. This is what you'll find in my fridge!
Most commercial rice milks are made by pressing soaked brown or white rice through a mill.
Rice milk is the least likely of all dairy-free milks to cause an allergy, as it doesn't contain common allergens such as nuts or soya. You can find rice milks that are fortified vitamins with like B12 and calcium but whilst boosting the nutrient content, these nutrients are not naturally occurring.
Even unsweetened rice milks can be quite high in naturally occurring sugars so be careful when it comes to how much you're drinking. I don't recommend rice milk for those on a low carb diet.
I like Rude Health Brown Rice Drink.
The process of soya milk production varies quite significantly amongst commercial brands. Some go through multiple steps of industrial processing whilst more traditional soya milk is made by simply soaking soya beans and blending them with water.
Soya milk has the highest protein content of the dairy free milks. A 200ml serving of soya milk typically contains 6-7g - the same amount of protein in cow's milk. Soya milk creates a good foam when steamed and many coffee experts believe that it's the best option for use in cappuccinos.
Soya products can have an oestrogen-like effect in the body and if consuming large amounts, this may disrupt hormonal balance. If you choose to eat soya products, I would always recommend opting for organic as soya can be exposed to high pesticide usage during it's farming.
One of the best soya milks is Provamel Organic Soya Milk.
Coconut milk (the carton type, not the canned one) is a great dairy-free alternative to cow's milk. It is produced by grating coconut flesh and then soaking it in hot water, the coconut cream then rises to the top. This is squeezed through a cloth to produce the coconut milk.
Coconut milk is higher in fat than other milk alternatives, however the fats in coconut could actually help lower your cholesterol and blood pressure. Like coconut water, coconut milk can provide hydrating benefits as it contains some electrolytes.
Whilst providing lots of nutritional and health benefits, coconut milk but it is still relatively high in calories so consume it in moderation.
My recommended coconut milk is Plenish Organic Coconut Milk.
Oat milk is made from oats soaked in water, the liquid is then sieved through a muslin-like cloth.
Quality oat milks contain naturally occurring beta glucans - a component of the oat cell wall which has been shown to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
Oat milk is arguably the sweetest of the dairy-free milks - even the unsweetened ones contain the equivalent of around a teaspoon of sugar per 100ml. Therefore I would recommend consuming oat milk in moderation and avoiding it if you are following a low carb diet.
I'd recommend Oat-ly Organic Oat Drink.
Whichever dairy free milk you choose, always take a moment to check out the ingredients on the back of the carton. The less ingredients, the better. If there are any ingredients that you don't recognise then you'd probably do best to avoid that particular product. Finally, always opt for organic where possible.