Nut milks are becoming increasingly popular across the world. At one time it was the milk drink of choice for vegans and those with dairy intolerances, and they used to be difficult to find in supermarkets and even harder to find in high street cafes. Now, happily, they are prominently displayed in the dairy section aisles and most cafes will have a huge behind-the-counter selection board full of nut milk options for coffee, chocolate and more.
So what are these dairy alternatives; what are the different types; and how are they good for me?
POPULAR NUT MILK TYPES
Almond milk is made by grinding almonds with water. After super fine filtering of the mixture the solids are left behind and fresh, clean almond milk is the result. There are sweetened and unsweetened varieties to choose from and many manufacturers will add extra nutrients to the milk. Vitamins D and E are popular additives as are calcium and riboflavin. Based on a standard cup size of 236ml, most almond milks will contain around 30 to 50 calories.
Coconut Milk is not the same as coconut water. Coconut milk is manufactured by boiling the white coconut flesh to release the liquids and nutrients before straining the mixture through a filter to produce a rich, thick coconut milk. Passing this thick milk through a second, finer strainer will give us thin coconut milk. Both are tasty and both have uses in cooking and in drinks. Thick coconut milk is much higher in calories than other milks (into the hundreds per cup) and contains many vitamins, including vitamin C, potassium, copper, selenium and some carbohydrates, proteins and fibre.
Almond and Coconut Milk is, as you have guessed, a mixture of the two milks in about a 2 to 1 ratio. Personally, this is my favourite milk blend and I use this for drinks and cooking.
Oat milk is made by mixing oats and water with the resulting blend being filtered to remove the solids. A cup of oat milk contains about 90 to 120 g of calories and after the addition of vitamins and minerals it is similar in vitamin value to that of cow’s milk. I think that oat milk is the closest in taste and consistency to cow’s milk.
Cashew Milk is very low in protein but can be fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D. With around 25 calories per cup and 2g of fat it contains almost no protein, which may not be a problem if you are digesting sufficient proteins from other sources.
Soy Milk is made by soaking soya beans until they are full of water and then removing the skins from them. They are then blended and crushed together with more water to produce a rich mixture of solids and liquids. This resulting mixture is filtered to produce the soy milk. This first pass milk is then gently heated to further process it before cooling and packaging as a ready-to-use milk or as a drink product.
Many Asian recipes will include soy milk in their cooking. The milk can be fortified with nutrients such as vitamins D and B12 as well as having calcium added.
Macadamia Milk from macadamia nuts is a high fat milk source at 4 to 5 grams and around 50 to 70 calories per cup and just 1g of protein and carbohydrates.
Hemp Milk is manufactured by grinding together hemp seeds and water to provide a nutritious creamy milk alternative; some even say it has a lovely earthy taste. Hemp milk has around 60 calories per cup, contains about 3 to 4 grams of protein and fat and 200mg or more of calcium. It is a good source of iron, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.
Hazel Nut Milk is an excellent source of protein at 3g per cup. It is high in fat content but low in calcium. It can be a source of vitamins B and E
Rice Milk stands proudly as a milk that can be tolerated by just about everybody. It is lactose-free, nut-free and soy-free. It is made with water and milled rice that is boiled together with the resulting concoction being strained to leave all the solids behind. With around 120 calories per 236ml cup, rice milk contains about 20g of carbohydrate and 1 or 2 grams of protein and fat. Some manufacturers will add calcium and vitamin D to fortify the drink.
Walnut Milk contains about 3g of fat and 120 calories per 236ml cup. At 11g it a high source of fat and also of protein at about 3g. Walnut milk will contain omega 3.
One to Watch
Peanut Milk is a source of protein and a rich source of fat and plenty of carbohydrates compared to other plant milks with around 150 calories per cup. BUT … Peanuts are not nuts and so, strictly, it is not a nut milk. Peanuts are actually legumes, a type of vegetable.
Peanut milk is an allergen. Some people can become very seriously ill, potentially fatally, if they have a peanut allergy and drink peanut milk.
And of course, the stay safe cautionary rule applies to all products where someone has food allergies or food intolerances. Nut milks are a great alternative for milk allergy sufferers, but always check the ingredients lists for additives and if there is no ingredients listed on the packaging it is always wise to check with the store or on-line.