Are Plant-Based Milks Healthier Than Regular Dairy?

Dairy alternatives are becoming super popular with both nondairy and dairy drinkers. Whether you’re lactose intolerant or maybe vegan, you can now get a variety of dairy alternatives at most of your favorite coffee shops. But are they actually as healthy for you as they seem?

According to a recent survey by consumer reports, nondairy drinkers assume their milk is more nutritious than cow’s milk.

“Half of all American consumers are confused about plant milks and their nutritional profile,” said Ellen Klosz, a nutritionist for Consumer Reports. “Many believe that the milks have higher levels of nutrients than cows milk, which is not necessarily true.”

Klosz and her team analyzed a total of 35 types of nondairy milk, including almond, coconut, oat, and soy. They gave each milk a score based on its flavor, texture, and nutritional value. The nutritional score was based on calories, saturated fat, sodium, protein, fiber, and sugar content, since a lot of plant milks have added sugars, unlike cow’s milk where the sugar (lactose) is naturally occurring.

“Those looking for a milk that’s similar to cows milk should know that they do vary quite a bit, as far as the protein is concerned, because cow’s milk has high amounts of protein,” said Klosz.

For those who are looking to get the most out of nondairy milk, Unsweetened Silk Organic Soy Milk ranked the highest overall in their study. It was rated “very good” for nutrition and its texture was “excellent.”

If you are choosing plant-based milk to lower your carbon footprint, it’s important to be well informed. Different plants require different levels of care and are processed differently, meaning they’re not necessarily better for the environment. For example, almond milk actually requires more water than standard milk to be processed.

Consumer Reports says the goal of its study was to help make shoppers more informed when they do their grocery shopping.

“It’s just important for consumers to read the labels and look at the ingredients in the products they’re buying … And keep it balanced with other ways you get your proteins,” said ” Consumer Reports’ test program leader Amy Keating. “We just felt like it’s important to lay out how these products are different.”