Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes Best Bites Nutrition Ratings

A growing number of Americans are ditching dairy for “milks” made from almonds, cashews, coconut, flax, hazelnuts, hemp, oats, rice, soy, or other plants. But what looks like milk in your cup may look nothing like milk to your body. It’s important to check for protein, look for milks fortified with the amounts of calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B-12 in cow’s milk, and minimize added sugars. Skip coconut milks, which typically have 4 or 5 grams of saturated fat per cup. For more on which “milks” to sip and which to skip, check the Best Bites and Honorable Mentions in our chart below.

Best Bites (✔✔) and Honorable Mentions (✔) contain no monk fruit extract or sucralose, which we rate as “Caution.” (See chemicalcuisine.org.) They also contain no rice syrup or rice. (In November, Consumer Reports estimated that adults would reach the magazine’s arsenic limit with just ½ cup of rice milk a day—and no other rice. With so many other options, we denied Best Bites and Honorable Mentions to rice milks.) For more information about arsenic and rice, click on this link.

Best Bites (✔✔) and Honorable Mentions (✔) also have no more than 1 teaspoon of added sugars and 2 grams of saturated fat per cup. And they have at least 25% of a day’s vitamin D (◑) and 30% of a day’s calcium (◐). Best Bites also have at least 20% of a day’s vitamin B-12 and 7 grams of protein. Honorable Mentions have no more than 50 calories. Products are ranked from least to most added sugars, then calories, then most to least protein, calcium, and vitamins B-12 and D.

soy-milk-nutrition-rating-chartflax-hemp-oat-rice-milk-nutrition-rating-chart coconut-milk-nutrition-rating-chart
cashew-milk-nutrition-rating-chartalmond-milk-nutrition-rating-chart

cows milk nutrition rating chart
Cows Milk

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18 Replies to “Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes Best Bites Nutrition Ratings”

  1. Thoughts on homemade unsweetened milks? I’d love to have more reliable nutrition information about homemade almond milk. They’re so easy to make, but I’d be curious to know how slight variation in the process can affect calories and fat content.

  2. The problem with this kind of article is that it literally claims “What to Eat: The Best Non-Dairy Milks You Can Buy” and yet leaves out so many parameters that might affect ones non-dairy choices. I agree that the best bites and honorable mentions seem to be accurate given the criteria, but the criteria is too limited.
    For instance, there has been more than on Nutrition Action newsletter with major articles devoted to the potential dangers of too much soy, especially for men with regards to prostate problems. And yet Soy milk gets the most best bites out of any category. That seems silly at best, more likely dangerous.
    Also, according to Nutrition Action and a number of credible studies Oat Milk has many of the same “heart healthy” properties and eating whole oats and yet only one oat milk was mentioned and it did not even get an honorable mention.
    I think it important to incorporate a variety of foods into ones diet, including a variety of milks. For one article to claim “the best non-dairy milks…” and then make the distinctions between milks based on a limited criteria is oddly shortsighted and irresponsible for this publication.
    I love nutrition action in general but I cry foul on this one article. Very VERY lame!!!!

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: You may be confusing us with another publication. We have not written about the “potential dangers of too much soy…for men with regards to prostate cancer.” Our last mention about this issue, in September 2013, said: “…there’s little or no consistent data on the link between fatal prostate cancer and tomatoes, soy, or green tea.”

      As for oat milk, we have not said that oat milk has many of the same “heart healthy” properties as eating whole oats. The one oat milk we listed does contain 1 gram of soluble fiber per serving, which may qualify it to make a heart disease health claim (depends on how much of that soluble fiber is beta-glucan). However, it did not qualify for our best bite or honorable mention because it has way too much sugar added.

      We believe that basing our recommendations on the amounts of added sugars, saturated fat, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, protein, calories, and safe sweeteners these non-dairy milks contain is not “limited” or “shortsighted and irresponsible.”

  3. I didn’t see Earth’s Own Almond Fresh Unsweetened Almond milk listed in your comparison table. This is a USA brand that I purchase on a regular basis here in Canada. Based on your criteria, the only listing it misses on is protein at 1g. I’d be very interested in seeing your remarks on it. They have a website listing at http://www.almond-fresh.com.

    Thanks,
    Mark

  4. What is Nutrition Action’s take on the recent finding that dairy milk may not protect against fractures and, in fact, may increase the risk of fractures, as well as of overall mortality? See http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g6015 for the article which addresses this. As noted in the introduction of the article, D-galactose (one of the two sugars resulting from the enzymatic breakdown of the milk sugar, lactose) can have deleterious effects on health and is used in animal models of aging.

  5. If soy is not labelled organic, it is in all likelihood GMO. If milk is not labelled organic, the cows have probably been fed GMOs and may have been injected with rBGH. Many almond milks have carageenan added. These factors should take the options off your list of recommended products.

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: We typically check Costco for products to include in product comparisons, but the Costco brand items don’t always make it into the chart if they don’t merit a Best Bite or Honorable Mention because of a lack of space.

  6. Only almond milk we’ve found that does not have carrageenan, a known carcinogenic, is Whole Food’s 365. Why is that and why don’t you mention it? Soy products are out due to bout with breast cancer. Carrageenan seems to be in a great many products.

    1. Here’s what the Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of Nutrition Action Healthletter, says about carageenan in its Chemical Cuisine encyclopedia at cspinet.org:

      CARRAGEENAN: Thickening, gelling, and stabilizing agent: Ice cream, sorbet, jelly, chocolate milk, infant formula, cottage cheese, whipping cream, salad dressings, tofu.

      Caution. May pose a risk and needs to be better tested. Try to avoid.

      Carrageenan is a family of indigestible large molecules obtained from certain seaweeds. It is used as a thickening or texturing agent in a wide variety of foods and beverages.

      Large amounts of carrageenan have harmed test animals’ colons, but the amounts in food are too small to be a concern for most people. An independent committee of the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded, though, that it is unclear whether people with episodes of gastrointestinal disease might absorb some carrageenan, which presumably could cause gastrointestinal or immune-system problems. Some people report that their gastrointestinal symptoms diminished after eliminating carrageenan from their diet.

      Carrageenan–at least in its natural, undegraded form–does not cause cancer in animals. However, there has been controversy over whether natural carrageenan—especially at the low levels relevant to consumers—increases the potency of chemicals that do cause cancer. The FDA and the WHO committee have both reviewed concluded that food-grade carrageenan does not pose a direct or indirect cancer risk.

      Also, food-grade carrageenan contains some “degraded” carrageenan, and a bit more degrades in the acidic conditions of the stomach. The International Agency for Research on Cancer, another unit of the WHO, considers degraded carrageenan to be “possibly carcinogenic in humans.” While any possible cancer risk is likely to be small (or non-existent), some people may wish to err on the side of great caution and avoid carrageenan.

      Some experts have been concerned about the safety of carrageenan for infants, given that the GI tract of the infant is still developing. In 2014, however, the WHO committee reviewed new animal studies and concluded that infant formula made with carrageenan is safe.

  7. I’m very surprised that the article didn’t mention that both vitamin D3 and calcium are ADDITIVES to the soy milks listed. I don’t want to drink fortified soy milk with ADDITIVES, so what are my options? I like both Edensoy and WestSoy soy milks, made from organic soybeans and water only. I can obtain vitamin D3 and calcium from other sources. And these two soy milks make excellent home-made yogurt: thick and creamy, with only a bit of sweetener (honey or maple syrup) and starter culture added to make it.

  8. Wegman’s organic non dairy products such as soy milk, almond milk, etc. typically contain carrageenan . I asked them if they would provide organic dairy products that did not contain carrageenan. They feel there is no problem with it. They also write on their dairy products that they contain no GMO and the sentence following it states there has been no evidence to show GMO milk is harmful. It would have been helpful to bring to light this practice since you rated them #1 and they are proudly advertising this. Why was the #1 not listed? I am an EMS survivor and know for a fact GMO’s are not always safe. I live in pain everyday of my life.

  9. This is fantastic! I’ve never seen responses to readers posts before, and it’s a great idea – clear up misinformation immediately. I understand that it’s labour intensive to do, but congratulations. I highly approve.

    1. From Nutrition Action Healthletter: We try to respond when we can, but the volume of questions and comments we get from emails, letters, and reactions to our posts prevents us from answering everyone.

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