So Many “Non-Dairy” Milks – Which One Should I Choose?
Would it come as a shock if I told you that 45 million dollars is allocated annually for “diary advertising” in the US? Yes, the “Milk Mustached” celebrates in both print and video commercials conjure up the phrase “Milk – It Does A Body Good” – does it really?
Conventional dairy (pasteurized milk and milk-based products from commercial dairy farms with grain fed cows) has been shown to contribute to increased inflammation, gut bacterial imbalance, chronic pain, and various diseases. Dairy is also linked heavily to most food sensitivities, resulting in various negative gastric and health effects.
3 Main Reasons to Avoid Conventional Dairy
Casein: Casein is the primary protein found in diary by volume (80%) and is found in two different forms, A1 and A2 (the type present is genetically determined by the cow, much like your blood type is determined by your genes). Casein sensitivity is often the culprit when one experiences symptoms of indigestion, stomach pain, belching/gas, constipation/diarrhea following dairy consumption. Most people who say they are “lactose intolerant” are actually casein intolerant. A1 casein is more difficult to digest than A2 and tends to result in histamine production (inflammation). A2 casein is only found in the milk of cows who have inherited the A2 genetic makeup, resulting in milk that is free from A1 casein. It’s believed that A2 (as its easier to digest and lacking histamine production) is healthier than A1 milk. Symptoms of casein sensitivity include: sinus congestion/allergies, join pain/stiffness, acne, digestive upset
Whey: Whey is the second source of protein down in dairy by volume (20%) and is the primary protein found in milk-based protein powders. Whey intolerance is less common than casein intolerance, but carries the same symptoms.
Lactose: Lactose is the main sugar found in milk, equating for the 13-14g of sugar per cup of milk. Most people are unaware of how much sugar is actually in the milk they drink. According to John’s Hopkin’s University lactose intolerance is expected in adult humans, as we lose the ability to digest lactose by the age of 3 years old. This, along with inflammatory nature (duet to grain consumption by dairy cows) casein/whey sensitivities and the physical amount of sugar found in milk, is the main reason you should consider avoiding conventional dairy at all costs!
The Milk Alternatives to Avoid
Soy, oat and rice milk are not as healthy as you think they should be. Soy milk is by far one of the most dangerous as it is highly inflammatory, due to large concentrations of isoflavones – which mimic estrogen. These “plant” estrogens can lead to hormone imbalances in both men and women. Soy milk has also been associated with lowering thyroid function in healthy individuals due to “goitrogens.” Several other studies have connected soy milk with an increased risk for cancer, male/female infertility, reduced brain function and developmental abnormalities.
Oat milk is certainly better than soy, but still on an avoid at all costs mostly due to the fact that it’s an extremely high carb/sugar alternative. Couple that with the fact that most producers add everything from vegetable oils, stabilizers and additives, most of the oats used are conventional – carrying pesticide residue and gluten cross contamination. All of these are known inflammatory promoters encouraging inflammation, leaky gut, joint pains and chronic disease.
Rice milk is a popular choice for those wishing to avoid the complications of soy and oat milk, but it too is extremely high in carbohydrates and, according to the USDA, most rice milks (and rice-based protein powders) carry low levels of Arsenic, a toxic heavy metal. Most rice milk produced commercially is devoid of any nutrition and therefore must be fortified – which means the use of synthetic vitamins and minerals.
The Milk Alternatives to Choose
Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is rich in healthy fats known as MCT (medium chain triglycerides) which have been connected to increased brain function, increased energy and endurance, weight loss, lower cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar. Be careful however, many companies water down coconut milk to increase the volume and decrease the fat. Coconut milk is best when canned, and in the original formula (avoid chilled, boxed or light versions). 14-15g of fat per serving will indicate a “real” coconut milk.
Hemp Milk: A fantastic plant-based milk and one of the easiest to make at home. Simply blend 1 cup of hemp seeds with 3 cups of filtered water. Hemp seeds have the exact ratio of omega 3-6-9 oils and exceptionally high levels of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which is anti-inflammatory and even anti-carcinogenic. Watch out for sweetened/flavored versions as this is only found in a box. 5g of fat and 1g of total carbohydrates indicate “real” hemp milk
Macadamia Nut Milk: Macadamia nuts are by far the healthiest of all nuts. Studies have shown that the phytonutrients in macadamia nuts promote heart health, lower blood sugar, aid weight loss, improve bone health, promote gut health, reduce inflammation and improve brain health. Like most nut milks, watch out for sweetened/flavored versions as this is only found in a box. 5 grams of fat and 1g of total carbohydrates indicate “real” macadamia milk.
Almond Milk: This is by far the most popular healthy non-dairy milk. It is one of the lowest in fat (2.5 g per serving on average) and this is why it’s on the bottom of our healthy alternatives. Due to its popularity you need to be careful when purchasing almond milk. Watch out for sweetened/flavored versions as this is only found in a box. If you like almond (or other nut milks) search online for Elmhurst Milked Almonds – it’s 4x the amount of almonds more than conventional producers, 11g of fat per serving with 3g total carbohydrates and only 2 ingredients.