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Nut and non-dairy milks have recently taken coffee shops and grocery stores by storm, but how many of us really understand the benefits of these beverages? In addition to being easier to digest, we are big fans of dairy-milk alternatives for the host of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats and unique flavors they offer. Today we’re indexing the spectrum of nut and non-dairy milks so you can make the smartest (and tastiest) choice.

It’s a good idea to explore dairy-milk alternatives if you: experience lactose sensitivity (bloating, mucus, stomach ache); want to eat fewer animal products; and/or are looking to swap out traditional cow’s milk with a lower-calorie, lower-sugar option. As is true with any healthy food switch, knowing how and where to begin is the key to success…

What to Look For in a Healthy Milk Alternative

The fewer ingredients in the milk the better! It’s always a good idea to check the ingredient list and nutrition facts, and prioritize brands that are:

  • Unsweetened (Beware “barista” blends – they are often loaded with sugar, making them a delicious but decadent treat (read: blood-sugar crash in T-2 hours)
  • Preservative free (particularly carrageenan)
  • Low sodium options

So Much More Than Soy: Breaking Down 5 of our Favorite Milk Alternatives

Gone are the days when soy milk was the only dairy milk alternative, now there are a ton of nut and plant based options that make great additions to food and drinks. Here is a rundown of our favorite 5 with suggestions for tasty ways to try them out and a recipe if you’re inspired to make your own! 

  1. Almond Milk: This health-world darling is high in: vitamins E and biotin; minerals manganese, magnesium, copper and phosphorus; and monounsaturated fats. It tastes softly sweet with a subtle wood and floral aroma that make it an appealing milk replacement in drinks, desserts and spicy curries.  This one from Califa is our go-to – look for it in the refrigerator isle. Pairs well with cereal, coffee (especially iced), black tea and is an excellent smoothie addition. Although delicious in a latte, if heated over 140 degrees it will lose some of it’s health benefits.
  2. Cashew Milk – This decadent nut is rich in: vitamins E and K; minerals copper, iron, phosphorus and zinc; and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Cashew milk has a creamy, almost buttery quality that makes for an amazing salted hot cocoa. Malk makes delicious cashew milk that’s worth the occasional splurge. Excellent in smoothies, coffee/espresso drinks and salted hot cocoa.
  3. Coconut Milk – Available in a can or carton, coconut milk is a kitchen must-have for those with nut and dairy allergies, or anyone who loves tropical tastes.
    • Canned coconut milk has a robust flavor and thick consistency that makes it ideal for thickening up curries, soups, smoothies and ice creams. It’s found in the canned aisle at your grocery store and offers up a lot of healthy fats that you should not be afraid of! Coconut fat is comprised of medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are easily digested and quickly used for energy production (unlike short or long chain triglycerides which make up most other fat sources, are slow and laborious for the body to digest, and usually stored as fat before they can be used as fuel). Native Forest’s Simple Coconut Milk get’s a thumbs up for its lack of additives and BPA free can. Ideal for recipes calling for thicker consistencies, like yogurts, puddings, soups and sauces. Also makes a smoothie more like a milkshake. 
    • Box/Carton coconut milk is lighter in both flavor and fragrance than it’s full-fatted canned sibling, but still offers a healthy dose of monounsaturated fats. Surprisingly, many versions are rather “un-coconutty”.  So Delicious makes a good unsweetened option. The neutral, creaminess is ideal in smoothies, and hot espresso drinks (the higher fat content makes for a deliciously thick foam).
  4. Hazelnut Milk – Definitely the fancy-pants of nut milks, hazelnut milk is rich in: vitamins E, folates & thiamin, minerals copper, iron and magnesium, and those heart-loving monounsaturated fats. It too enjoys a high fat content and mild sweetness, with a distinctive earthy, roasted aroma. Killer hot cocoa base, smoothie, or latte addition. The woody, earthy element plays well with both sweet and savory flavors.
  5. Hemp Milk – Grassy, seedy and deliciously healthy tasting, hemp milk is packed with omegas 3 and 6, as well as GLA (the essential fatty acid that gives evening primrose it’s anti-inflammatory benefits), and vitamins D & B12. Pacific’s Unsweetened Original is a personal favorite. The earthy flavor pairs perfectly with a grassy matcha. And it’s omega content gives it a creamier texture than water or almond milk.

Make Your Own Nut Milk – Easy and Totally Worth it

Making your own but milk is super easy, affordable and tasty. You can use pretty much any nut and get some delicious milks by combining two or three of your favorite types (think Macadamia & Cashew, or Almond & Pecan). Our quickest recipe is below and a delicious Green Cashew Milk is over on HonestlyYUM.

Images by HonestlyFIT