Finding a milk alternative without refined sugar and preservatives is tough! So many of these pre-packaged foods are marketed to us as healthy options, but really, they’re full of crap.
In an ideal world, we’d all make our own nut milks. But I know for most people, even putting a healthy dinner on the table is challenge enough!
I’m here to help you take the guesswork out of finding the best options at the supermarket.
My top tips for choosing a dairy milk alternative
+ Look at the ingredients – pick the option with the least ingredients, and avoid any ingredients that you can’t pronounce
+ Always choose the full fat option (low fat usually equals more sugar)
+ Always choose the unflavoured option
+ Where possible, choose the unsweetened option
+ Buy organic if possible
The lowdown on the best and worst dairy milk alternatives
Honest to Goodness Organic Coconut Milk
This stuff is the bees knees. I use it in my coffee (short black with a dash of coconut milk, mmmm), I use it in smoothies and for making all sorts of raw delights. The only downfall is that it's way too thick to have with granola or muesli. Don't be afraid of good quality fats!
Ingredients: 100% Organic Coconut Meat Extracted (Coconut Milk)
Australia’s Own Organic Almond Milk
This is a personal favourite of mine for granola or muesli. Sure, it could do without the agave syrup, sunflower oil and salt, but it’s low in sugar, preservative-free and organic.
Ingredients: Filtered Australian Water, Organic Almonds (3%), Organic Agave Syrup, Organic Sunflower Oil, Salt
Unsweetened Almond Breeze
I’m not a fan of this one. I’m cautious of the calcium carbonate, carrageenan, sunflower lecithin and the unidentified ‘natural flavour’. There are better options available.
Ingredients: Filtered water, ground whole almonds (2%), calcium carbonate (ground limestone), tapioca starch, sea salt, carrageenan, sunflower lecithin, natural flavour
So Good Almond & Coconut Milk Unsweetened
This is another iffy one. The ingredients list is not convincing. There are better options available.
Ingredients: Filtered water, almonds (2.5%), coconut cream (1%), mineral salts (tricalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), emulsifier (lecithin), salt, vegetable gum (gellan), natural flavour
Pure Harvest Organic Almond Milk
This organic almond milk is a great option that's readily available at the supermarket. Very similar flavour, consistency and ingredients to the Australia's Own Organic Almond Milk above. This milk has a greater percentage of almonds that the Australia's Own, 10% compared to 3%.
Ingredients: Water, organic almonds (10%), organic rice syrup, organic sunflower oil, sea salt
So Good Soy Milk (and all soy milk, for that matter...)
Steer clear. Besides the fact that it contains soy, sugar and industrial seed oils, this ‘milk’ is fortified with synthetic vitamins and minerals, which may not be right for you. (For an example of how synthetic vitamins can wreak havoc, check out this article on folate vs folic acid from Chris Kresser)
Ingredients: Filtered water, soy protein (3.5%), corn maltodextrin, cane sugar, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola, linseed), acidity regulators (332, 450), minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium), vegetable based emulsifier (471), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (A, B12, B2, D2, B1), natural flavour
AYAM PREMIUM COCONUT MILK
Another good option as it just contains coconut and water!
Ingredients: Coconut kernel extract (82%), water
Common ingredients to avoid
+ Calcium carbonate and tricalcium phosphate are a non-organic mineral source of calcium (essentially, it’s chalk). If you’re consuming a vitamin and mineral rich diet, you’re probably better off without supplements you don’t need.
+ Carrageenan has produced intestinal damage in animal studies, and its effects on humans are have not been studied for obvious ethical reasons. (1) I think it’s best to err on the side of caution here.
+ Emulsifiers like soy or sunflower lecithin are used to improve the texture of nut milks. They may have therapeutic benefits, but as a food additive, I take the guilty until proven innocent stance and avoid these where I can.
Gellan gum is another emulsifier, similar to xanthan gum. A study in humans consuming gellan gum for 23 days did not report any adverse effects (2), but this rat study showed abnormalities on the microvilli of the intestines as a result of 4 weeks of gellan gum consumption (3).
Unless you have a sensitivity, occasional consumption of these additives is probably ok, but it’s probably best to avoid regular consumption.