The Dairy Council, countless parenting books, the media, and doctors have been telling everyone for years that kids need cow's milk to stay healthy. And plenty of it, because cow's milk equals healthy bones, a lean trim body, great shiny teeth and more. If you didn't give your kid cow's milk, well, you were just considered a terrible parent.
Nowadays, things are a little different, because we know that cow's milk has some downsides: lots of added chemicals and hormones, 30 to 50 million Americans (adults and children) are lactose intolerant, milk is high in saturated fat -- and high saturated fat intake is linked to a host of problems including obesity, coronary artery disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, and milk is a known eczema trigger.
And that's just the tip of the milky iceberg. We haven't even touched upon most health issues, animal cruelty issues or the environmental impact of milk. If you're interested in an alternative to cow's milk, keep reading to learn the pros and cons of 6 popular dairy-free milks. We wish a comprehensive guide like this was written when we were looking for dairy alternatives for our little ones several years ago -- so we're hoping this is a valuable resource for parents who are on the same mission today.
Soy milk [Soya milk ] image from Shutterstock
Soy milk has gone the way of birth control pills in recent years – use it, don’t use it, wait maybe you should use it? It seems every week there’s another story debating the pros and cons of soy milk. In fact, soy milk hype, both good and bad has reached almost intelligible proportions. You’ve got Mercola on the side of don’t drink it, along with plenty of other “soy is bad” hype “science” sites while Dr. Weil is pro soy milk as is the Harvard School of Public Health. And the Mayo Clinic offers a nice pro and con article on the subject.
Some soy milk pros:
- In general, soy milk is the least processed of all the alternative milks. Depending on the type you buy.
- High in protein.
- Very low in saturated fat.
- Organic soy milk is low cost and extremely easy to find.
- Soy milk used in products like smoothies, coffee drinks, ice cream and yogurt, translates well, and most of these products taste great.
Some soy milk cons:
- Soy is a common food allergy for many, but most common in children.
- Soy crops are some of the most contaminated when it comes to pesticides and GMO, so you must go organic.
- Some research says that too much soy may increase your isoflavones unfavorably, so it should be avoided. Others consider this only a moderate problem.
- Soy milk has a thicker texture and often gets lumpy near the bottom of the container.
- Many people don’t like the taste. Personally, I don’t mind it. Except that I will say if you use it in foods like mashed potatoes or baked goods, it can leave a funny nutty taste, until you find a killer brand that doesn’t.
Top view of nutritious almond drink with almond seeds image from Shutterstock
Some almond milk pros:
- Many people think almond milk is one of the best tasting alternative milks in town. It’s a bit sweet, a little nutty and has a pretty decent, not too thick texture.
- Good source of magnesium and vitamin E.
- Low in fat.
- Most almond milks have less sugar than cow’s and soy milks.
Some almond milk cons:
- Almond milk is very low in protein.
- Usually comes with added preservatives and thickeners. You can avoid this by making homemade almond milk.
- Not safe for folks with nut allergies (obviously).
- Almond milk can be a more expensive alternative milk and in some cases harder to find, though this is changing.
- Almond ice cream is not the best, in my opinion, and it has a harder texture than other alternative dairy ice creams — but it is good to bake with.