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Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives and Trends

It’s everywhere today.

In line at the coffee shop, someone orders a White Angel.

No big deal.

But instead of half-n-half or regular milk, they request coconut milk. The next person in line orders a Caramel Macchiato with oat milk. What?

This trend towards non-dairy milk alternatives is actually not that surprising. In fact, many people enjoy their iced white chocolate lattes with non-dairy milk. Some have even decided to give up dairy products altogether. And there’s a lot of reasons why this makes sense – from allergic reactions to dairy and intolerance of lactose to the ethical treatment of animals, people are making the switch.

But does science have anything to say about humans consuming cow’s milk? And just how many non-dairy alternatives are there to choose from?


Allergies or Sensitivities to Dairy Products


From childhood, people are taught to drink cow’s milk – and a lot of it. It’s always been thought that the calcium from dairy milk was good for growing bones. Commercials on television always touted milk as a woman’s best defense against brittle bones – but is it really? Today’s researchers say cow’s milk isn’t necessarily linked to greater female bone density.

The fact is that many people cannot consume dairy products without having an adverse reaction. Some people are simply lactose intolerant while others have dairy allergies – and there’s a big difference between the two. A parent may think their child is lactose intolerant and switch them to lactose-free dairy products, only to find their child still has a reaction. What was actually occurring is that the child had developed a reaction to casein, one of the proteins found in cow’s milk. The child’s body treated casein, a harmless protein, as if it was a pathogen. When switched to a non-dairy alternative, the child has no more reactions.

But there are other reasons to try non-dairy alternatives that aren’t as serious as allergies or sensitivities. For instance, baristas enjoy the way certain non-dairy milks give them the ability to create incredible, long-lasting designs in the foam atop a latte.


Non-Dairy Alternatives


Today’s alternatives to cow’s milk are plentiful, and many are plant-based – especially perfect for vegans. So, what are these options? Some of the best non-dairy alternatives available today are:

  • Coconut milk
  • Almond milk
  • Oat milk


Coconut milk


Coconut milk is made from the meat of the coconut. This is a fantastic choice, especially for its one-two punch of nutrients, such as magnesium and potassium. Having a small latte with coconut milk before a Pilates class is a fantastic boost – the lauric acid found in coconuts is quickly absorbed by the muscles and provides extra energy pre-workout. Because coconut milk has a lot of calories, it’s best to stick to small servings. Those who have allergies to walnuts should be aware that coconut could cause the same type of reaction.


Brands: Pacific Barista, Thai Kitchen, Native Forest

Pros: stimulates weight loss, heart-healthy, boosts immune system

Cons: high fat and calorie content, can cause constipation, and can instigate tree-nut allergies

Foodservice applications: marinades, pudding, cocktails


Almond milk


Almond milk is another great alternative. There’s next to no allergens, no lactose, soy, or gluten – perfect for those who have sensitive systems. Almond milk even has anti-inflammatory qualities. But, take note – almond milk producers often add sugar and other additives. For those who want to try this non-dairy alternative, they should buy organic or make their own almond milk.


Brands: Silk, Blue Diamond, Forager Project

Pros: low-calorie, low sugar content, high in Vitamin E

Cons: lower protein content, added sugars, not naturally rich in calcium or Vitamin D

Foodservice applications: baked goods, milkshakes, mashed potatoes


Oat milk


And finally, the newest kid on the block, oat milk. It tastes incredible, has a nice mouth-feel, packs a healthy dose of vital nutrients, and, because oats are rich in fiber, its drinkers feel fuller faster and can skip snacking between meals. Another fun fact – oat milk has no lactose or milk proteins. The drawback?

While oat milk is a perfect fit for many people, it might not be for those with gluten allergies or sensitivities. No, oats don’t contain gluten by themselves – but, because most oats are produced in facilities that also harvest grains such as wheat and barley, it can become contaminated. Oat’s protein, avenin, is likely to cause symptoms that resemble those of gluten sensitivity.


Brands: Califia Farms, Pacific Foods, Silk

Pros: vegan, fantastic source of B vitamins, assists in bone health

Cons: not a complete source of protein, can have high amounts of added sugars, may contain gluten by contamination

Foodservice applications: smoothies, baked goods, scrambled eggs

With so many healthy choices, becoming dairy-free has never been easier.

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