Are plant milks healthier choices than cow's milk?

SAN ANTONIO – Moove over, milk. Sales of nondairy milk such as those made from almonds, soy, coconut and oats continue to soar and the trend reaches beyond the lactose-intolerant and vegan crowds.  

More than half of plant-milk buyers in a Consumer Reports survey said they think those milks are healthier than cow’s milk. But CR said don’t be so quick to dismiss cow’s milk.

“Cow’s milk is rich in protein and supplies much of the calcium in most people’s diets, but when you replace it with plant milk, you may actually be missing out,” said Ellen Klosz, nutritionist for CR.

If you want to replace cow’s milk with a plant milk, CR suggested starting with soy, which is closest to cow’s milk nutritionally.

“Soy milk has about the same amount of protein (as cow's milk) or more. And if it is fortified, it can have similar vitamin and mineral content, but watch out for added sugars,” Klosz said. 

Almond milk is the most popular plant milk. The top-rated brand had slight to moderate almond flavor and little to no astringency or chalkiness, but CR said it has low protein content and poor protein quality.

The top oat milk has a slightly sweet oat taste. It has slightly less protein than soy milk or cow’s milk. It also has some fiber, but it's not enough to contribute much to your daily requirement.

Coconut milk generally has mild coconut flavor. It has little to no protein and is high in saturated fat.

CR suggested taking a close look at the labels since a lot of plant milks contain added sugar and stabilizers.

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