Here's what's new in the non-dairy milk aisle

No doubt about it. Cow’s milk gives you a nice dose of protein and calcium for not too many calories and, if you go for 1% or fat-free, little or no saturated fat.Ripple

But not everyone’s a fan. A growing number of Americans are ditching dairy for “milks” made from almonds, cashews, coconut, flax, hazelnuts, hemp, oats, rice, soy, or other plants. One reason: eating plants instead of animal foods can help curb climate change.

Enter Ripple. The creamy new non-dairy milk is made with pea protein. A cup of the Original Unsweetened has 8 grams of protein, no sugar, and just 80 calories. It’s got about the same vitamin D as cow’s milk (30 percent of the Daily Value) and more calcium (45 percent of the DV, though the 30 percent in cow’s milk is plenty).

A cup of the Original (100 calories) has just 1½ teaspoons of added sugar. That may help explain why it tastes so much like cow’s milk, which has naturally occurring sugar.

Can’t find Ripple? Silk Protein & Nutmilk is a blend of almond milk and cashew milk and has 10 grams of pea protein and just 1/2 teaspoon of added sugar per serving. The Vanilla flavor adds only 1½ teaspoons.

What else to look for

Looking for almond, soy, or something else? Navigating the non-dairy aisle can be confusing. Here’s what else to check before you choose a “milk”:

  1. Check for protein: Only soy milk or a non-dairy milk with added pea protein (like Ripple) is likely to equal the 8 grams of protein in a cup of cow’s milk. Check the label—light or sweetened soy milks may have just 5 or 6 grams.  In contrast, hemp and oat milks have just 2 to 4 grams of protein. And most almond, cashew, coconut, flax, and rice milks have a measly 1 gram, if that. Does protein matter? It depends. If your breakfast is just cereal with non-dairy milk, look for one of the milks that’s higher in protein. But if you’re having a 30-to-50-calorie cup of almond milk as a beverage, protein may not matter.
  1. Look for nutrients: Cow’s milk is packed with nutrients. Those you’re most likely to need: calcium, vitamin B-12, potassium, and (added) vitamin D. What about non-dairy?
    • Check the vitamins and minerals. Some non-dairy milks are fortified to dupe cow’s milk’s calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12.
    • Pick soy for potassium. Most soy milks match cow’s milk’s potassium—which can help keep a lid on blood pressure. Most other non-dairy milks fall far short.
    • Don’t be wowed by calcium claims. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults is 1,000 milligrams a day. It jumps to 1,200 mg for women over 50 and men over 70. That includes what you get from food and from supplements. But more isn’t necessarily better. High levels of calcium from supplements (at least 1,000 mg a day) may raise the risk of kidney stones and hip fractures. Taking 2,000 mg or more may raise the risk of prostate cancer. And the calcium that’s added to non-dairy milks counts as a supplement.
  1. Minimize added sugars. Each cup of cow’s milk has Almond Breeze3 teaspoons (12 grams) of a naturally occurring sugar called lactose. In contrast, nearly all the sugars in non-dairy milks—like evaporated cane syrup, cane sugar, honey, or brown rice syrup—are added. That means you can dodge them by buying unsweetened varieties that have no more than 1-2 grams of naturally occurring sugar. If you don’t like the taste of unsweetened, try “Original,” which usually have just 1 to 1½ teaspoons of added sugars.
  1. Skip coconut’s sat fat. Most coconut milks have between 3½ and 5 grams of saturated fat. And don’t assume that coconut’s sat fat is harmless because it raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol along with LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. HDL may not matter. To play it safe, try an almond-coconut milk blend like Silk or Blue Diamond Almond Breeze. Their sat fat: just 1 gram. doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government funding. Any products recommended by have been vetted by our staff of nutritionists and are not advertisements by the manufacturers.


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2 Replies to “Here's what's new in the non-dairy milk aisle”

  1. Ripple is GREAT! I still really like soy milk but now mix 1/2 soy with the Pea milk. I buy it at my co-op but have seen it at Whole Foods too.

  2. Very informative article. I don’t do dairy or soy. Usually use almond milk and coconut on occasion. Have seen Ripple in the store and now know more about it. Will definitely give it a try. I use powdered pea protein in my smoothies and sometimes with oatmeal. Thanks for this article.

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