Unrelenting brain fog. Disabling body aches for weeks after the fevers have cleared. Recurring daily headaches that make it hard to concentrate. Vertigo and tinnitus that you've never had before. If you're young, healthy, eat well, and—especially important—have been avoiding vegetable oils, COVID is fairly mild. But when it's not mild, it can hit hard.
If you’ve noticed these alternative milk are taking over more and more of the grocery store, this article will help you decide if you should jump on this latest trend. It answers the following questions (listed in the TOC)
Table of Contents
- 1 What’s the best alternative to cow’s milk?
- 2 How does the nutritional value of coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, and other non-dairy milk options stack up against cow’s milk?
- 3 Are coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, and rice milk as nutritious as cow’s milk?
- 4 What can I drink if I’m lactose intolerant?
- 5 What should I put in my coffee instead of non-dairy coffee creamer?
- 6 Is Cow’s Milk Inflammatory?
- 7 If I’m intolerant do I need to avoid all dairy?
Let’s start with the most important question:
What’s the best alternative to cow’s milk?
If you’re looking for an alternative to cow’s milk, there’s really only one with any nutritional value at all. That’s soy milk. According to the label, soy milk gives you about the same total protein as cow’s milk. However, soy protein does not have the right balance of amino acids to meet our daily needs, as discussed in this article about getting enough protein.
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How does the nutritional value of coconut milk, oat milk, soy milk, and other non-dairy milk options stack up against cow’s milk?
I started making the below chart to answer this question. But as I was going through it I quickly realized that these products are mostly water and that meant consumers were being taken for a ride. So I added a column, labeled RIPOFF FACTOR, to show you what a rip-off all these kinds of milk are!
(I think that might be the actual reason non-dairy milks are so trendy.)
What the chart below reveals listed under the column heading “how much food you get” is just how little is actually in there. The “food cost” column reveals how inflated the prices of all these plant-based kinds of milk actually are.
Most of the chart is self-explanatory but the RIPOFF FACTOR might not be.
The RIPOFF FACTOR is calculated based on the cost of the main ingredient at retail multiplied by the number of servings it would take to equal the same amount of the main ingredient. The result is the ripoff factor, meant to reflect how much more you are paying than if you just bought the ingredients yourself. A Ripoff Factor of 1 means there’s no difference, you get exactly what you pay for. A Ripoff Factor of 2 would mean you’re paying twice as much for them to put it in the box for you as if you just bought the ingredients yourself.
Let’s look at how I calculated almond milk’s ripoff factor. The entire box of almond milk is made with 16 almonds, which should cost you about $0.014 (1.4 cents) but they’ll charge you $3.50 for the box, which is 75 x as much as the cost to buy 16 almonds—and that’s paying retail (for a 3-pound sack of almonds). The ripoff factor of 75 means you’re paying 75 times as much per pound to buy it in the milk form as you would if you bought a 3-pound bag of raw almonds.
Manufacturers pay less than retail. So my method of calculating the ripoff factor is probably underestimating the true magnitude of consumer exploitation.
In my view, your box of almond milk is a box of massive profit margin for Big Food.
Are coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, and rice milk as nutritious as cow’s milk?
Not even close.
These products are mostly water. Rice, oats, and coconut are not highly nutritious foods to begin with, and since the amount per serving is so small, the resulting rice milk, oat milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk are not good sources of any natural vitamins or minerals. The best of the bunch, in terms of natural nutrients, is oat milk, which does contain measurable amounts of iron but even that is a scant 2% of the recommended daily amount.
Almonds are very nutritious, but the almond milk products available are so watered down it there are still no measurable natural nutrients.
The vitamin and mineral content claims on the label might make you think these alternative kinds of milk are more nutritious than cow’s milk. But these are not honest numbers. Manufacturers add synthetic vitamins and minerals to make their products appear nutritious. How would you know? Just look at the ingredients list.
If you want synthetic vitamins you’d be better off just buying a vitamin pill. I say this because vitamins and minerals can become less bioavailable when stored in the liquid state compared to storage in dry powders.
The chart above breaks down today’s most popular dairy alternatives in terms of how they compare to cow’s milk, including soy milk, almond milk, Oatley (oat milk), rice milk, and coconut milk.
What can I drink if I’m lactose intolerant?
If you are lactose intolerant and looking for the most nutritious milk, your best bet is lactose-free cow’s milk, available in most grocery stores.
Lactose-free cow’s milk has come a long way since the early days when processing could not eliminate lactose as fully as it can today. If you’ve not tried lactose-free milk in a few decades, it might be worth another shot.
If lactose-free milk causes problems, you may have another issue with dairy. I discuss this below in the section that answers the question: “If I’m intolerant to one kind of dairy, do I need to avoid all dairy?”
What should I put in my coffee instead of non-dairy coffee creamer?
This is a great question because non-dairy coffee creamer is a highly processed product often containing toxic fats since most companies use seed oils as the fat source. I would strongly recommend avoiding non-dairy creamer that contains any of the Hateful 8 seed oils.
I also recommend avoiding creamer that contains casein, whey protein, or any ingredient that shows up as “protein” on the list. These are all ultra-processed ingredients. I recommend avoiding ultra-processed ingredients whenever possible.
That said, I was asked to weigh in on 8 of the most popular coffee creamers available on the market for Mel Magazine. Here’s how they stacked up:
Omega PowerCreamer (Best of the bunch)
Dunkin’ Donuts Extra Extra Creamer
Califia Farms Better Half
Silk Soy Creamer
So Delicious Oatmilk Creamer
International Delight Creamer (Worst of the bunch)
Healthy fats brought the winners to the fore, as did considerations over the lack of artificial ingredients and stabilizers. The lowest sugar content helped sort the losers. Coffee-Mate has one of the Hateful 8 but it beat out International Delight due to excessive sweetener and high (empty) calorie count. International delight has some palm oil which is an ok oil, but it does not have that much.
Is Cow’s Milk Inflammatory?
Milk can cause bloating, cramping, diarrhea, heartburn, hives, acne, and eczema. Given all these different potential problems, it’s understandable that folks label milk as inflammatory. But milk is not the real problem.
The real problem is our modern diet and lifestyle, which attacks our digestive system in multiple ways.
Seed oils inflame our intestinal lining so that we can lose digestive enzyme functions, especially after infections. Antibiotics drastically alter our microbiome. Today’s gut problems include new DNA mutations that cause disrupted gut function that even the best diet may not fully revere.
Today, most children are weaned on ultra-processed foods and toxic seed oils. So their little bodies are increasingly deprived of real nutrition and subjected to chronic inflammation. In my mind, this is the obvious explanation for the dramatic rise in serious food allergies among the US population.
It’s not just milk, but eggs, wheat, tree nuts, shellfish, and other common foods are now increasingly problematic for our youth. It’s a terrible catch-22 when it happens because the very foods that would convey much-needed real nutrition are now off-limits.
There is hope. You can resolve food allergies if you become a strict seed oil disrespecter and strictly avoid these toxins. It takes a few years, but it will help.
If I’m intolerant do I need to avoid all dairy?
Milk is a complex food, with dozens of different types of proteins. Each different type of protein can trigger allergic reactions. There are also hormones to consider, which can trigger acne or mucus reactions. The solutions could be using only organic, choosing certain types of cheese, certain types of yogurt.
The good news is these issues can resolve with overall diet improvements.
And there’s more good news because sometimes you can switch to products from a different animal. Instead of cow, you can try goat milk, for example. Some people can’t do certain kinds of cheeses because the concentration of casein or lactose is too high. But cheeses with lower concentrations of these components can be just fine.
Too busy to troubleshoot your dairy intolerance issue? If you just want to know what the best alternative is, my recommendation would still be soy because it at least offers some decent protein.
Need help sorting out what component may be causing the problem? Please schedule a consultation.
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