10 Cow milk alternatives
To produce cow’s milk and to be able to make profit out of it, farmers use intensive farming techniques that mean that the cows live in a completely unnatural environment. The cows are also given artificial antibiotics and hormones to increase their milk yield and to make sure that no infections can get in the way of their producing milk. The animal welfare issues aside, there are also the health issues related to drinking cow’s milk, not least of which, are the high levels of contaminants found in mass produced milk. There are, however, plenty of healthier alternatives to cow’s milk that you might like to try, both from plant sources, and from animals, that are kept in more humane conditions and are better for you. Here’s a rundown of the top ten alternatives to cow’s milk.
1. Almond milk
Almond milk is a healthy, vegetable derived, alternative to cow’s milk, so there are no animal welfare problems at all. One of the big concerns about drinking cow’s milk is the high levels of fats it contains, but almond milk is low fat, low calories, and it contains some healthy monounsaturated fats instead.
2. Rice milk
Another of the vegetable alternatives to cow’s milk is the ‘very popular’ rice milk and, as rice milk is made from one of the world’s most cultivated crops, it is also one of the cheapest of the non-dairy milk alternatives. With rice milk, you will be getting a good source of protein and carbohydrates, but very little fat and it is also gluten free.
3. Buffalo milk
Buffalo milk has a similar fat content to cow’s milk, but it contains less cholesterol and it does provide higher levels of protein, iron, phosphorous and calcium. One of the big advantages of buffalo milk over cow’s milk is that buffalos can survive on a more natural diet, so they are not fed all the hormone infused feeds that cows are. You can also buy organic buffalo milk, which guarantees that the animals haven’t been fed any artificially enhanced feed.
4. Hazelnut milk
For people who are lactose intolerant, hazelnut milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk. It’s a lot thicker and creamier than many of the other cow’s milk alternatives and it has a texture that is very similar to dairy milk. It is a good source of protein, vitamins and minerals and it will also provide you with dietary fibre too. The fats that are contained in hazelnut milk are the heart friendly type of fats and, as an added bonus, it tastes absolutely wonderful with coffee!
5. Sheep’s milk
Sheep’s milk is more fattening than cow’s milk, so not so good if you are watching your weight, but it does contain nearly twice the amount of phosphorus, calcium and B vitamins. Sheep’s milk tastes much creamier than cow’s milk, but it is not suitable for people who are lactose intolerant or for very young children. On the environmental side of things, sheep do not need to be fed enhanced feed to survive and they produce far less methane than cow’s do.
6. Hemp milk
Hemp milk has a very slightly nutty flavour to it and a light texture, similar to that of skimmed milk. Hemp milk doesn’t contain quite so much protein as some of the other vegetable milk alternatives, but it does provide a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains fibre and a range of minerals, including calcium, potassium and iron. When you buy hemp milk, though, avoid the brands that contain carrageenan. This is an ingredient that is sometimes used to thicken hemp milk and it can cause inflammation.
7. Oat milk
Oat milk doesn’t contain the same levels of protein and calcium that cow’s milk does, but it makes up for that in other ways. It is lactose free, but not gluten free, and it contains high levels of the antioxidant Vitamin E and folic acid. Oat milk also has the cholesterol lowering properties that oats do, so it’s good for the heart and the cardiovascular system.
8. Flax milk
Flax milk is quite creamy and it contains just as much calcium as cow’s milk. It’s also a good source of Alpha Linoleic acids, which are known to be effective anti-inflammatory agents, so flax milk could be a useful addition to the diet for people with arthritis and other inflammatory diseases. Most flax milk that you can buy is produced organically, so there will be no genetically modified ingredients used in its making.
9. Macadamia nut milk
Macadamia nut milk is not as widely available as some of the other milk alternatives, but, if you can find it, it is a delicious alternative to cow’s milk. It is quite high in fats, although those fats are not as unhealthy as the saturated fats found in regular milk. It also contains a very healthy supply of omega-6 fatty acids, phytochemicals, and antioxidants.
10. Soy milk
Soy milk is one of the best-known cow milk alternatives and it provides many of the same nutrients that cow’s milk does, including calcium and protein, but it is cholesterol free and safe for people who are lactose intolerant. The only down side of soy milk to be aware of is that it does contain quite high levels of sugar.
What are your favourite cow milk alternatives?