Are Non-Dairy Beverages Healthier Than Milk?
Over the past several years, non-dairy beverages have become very popular. Non-dairy beverages are made from various sources including soy, almonds, rice, coconut, hemp and oats.
But how do they compare nutritionally to milk? Are they any healthier?
Both milk and fortified non-dairy beverages contain about the same amount of calcium – 30% to 35% of your daily need in an 8 ounce (250 mL) serving.
Milk contains more vitamin D than non-dairy beverages – 45% compared to 10 to 25% of your daily need in an 8 ounce serving.
The biggest difference between milk and non-dairy beverages is when it comes to protein.
Milk contains about 9 g of protein in an 8 ounce serving; Hemp and oat beverages contain about 4 g of protein per 8 ounce serving; and, rice, coconut and almond beverages do not contain protein.
Soy beverage is the only non-dairy beverage that is similar to milk when it comes to nutrition. It contains a similar amount of protein, as well as other essential nutrients. In fact, soy beverage is the only non-dairy beverage that is nutritionally adequate to meet your Milk and Alternatives requirements according to Canada’s Food Guide.
Overall, non-dairy beverages are not healthier than milk, as milk provides more protein and essential nutrients. Also, it is important to be aware that flavoured non-dairy beverages usually contain added sugar and tend to be high in sugar and calories.
It is recommended not to give non-dairy beverages to children under the age of two. This is because they do not meet their fat or protein needs.
So what are the benefits of drinking non-dairy beverages?
Non-dairy beverages are great choices for people who do not drink cow’s milk due to allergy, lactose (or other dairy-related) intolerance, or preference (e.g., following a vegan diet). Look for non-dairy beverages that are “fortified” or “enriched” as they contain more vitamins and minerals than those that are not.