Coconut Milk

The name “coconut milk” may be confusing at first glance, as many people assume that it refers to the natural juices of the inside of the coconut. But what is sold as coconut milk, the dairy substitute, is actually freshly grated coconut pulp mixed with water. The resulting milk may be sweetened or unsweetened.

Benefits include:

  • Few allergens. This milk is naturally soy- and gluten-free; just check to make sure it was processed in a facility free of allergens.
  • Medium-chain triglycerides. These highly digestible fats are believed to boost the metabolism, promoting weight loss.
  • High potassium content.

Some of the downsides are:

  • Low protein content.
  • Low calcium content.

Other characteristics of coconut milk include:

  • Consistency very close to whole cow’s milk (creamy) due to higher fat content.
  • Nutty taste that complements cereals, most baked goods, and some savory dishes, such as Asian cuisine, nicely.

Flax Milk

Flax milk is manufactured by taking cold-pressed flax oil and adding water. Some varieties are then sweetened.

Benefits include:

  • Few allergens. That means no soy or gluten.
  • High fiber content.
  • High levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are believed to be very beneficial for cardiovascular health, perhaps even lowering blood pressure, curing hardened artery walls, and preventing heart attacks.

The main drawback of flax milk is that it contains very little protein. The sweetened type can be alarmingly high in sugars, but this is easily avoided by purchasing the unsweetened beverage.

Other characteristics of flax milk include:

  • Consistency varying from thin to remarkably dairy-like.
  • Naturally sweet flavor. Blind taste tests involving people who regularly drink cow’s milk revealed flax milk as the closest alternative in flavor. In cooking and baking, this makes flax milk a surefire substitute in any recipe calling for dairy milk.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is easier to find in Europe than in the United States, but it can be done. The manufacturing process starts when oats are soaked in purified water. The manufacturer may then opt to pulverize and blend the oats to release additional fiber. Solid materials are strained out and the result is oat milk. Oat milk is typically sweetened.

Some of the advantages of oat milk are:

  • No tree nuts, making this a good choice for some people with food allergies.
  • High fiber content, good for long-lasting energy.
  • Some protein. Although oat milk only contains about half the protein of dairy milk, it is still superior to many of the non-legume alternatives.
  • Some minerals. Even when unfortified, oat milk does contain a little bit of calcium (though not nearly as much as cow’s milk) and some iron.
  • Phytoestrogens, compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. Associated with a reduced risk of heart disease, hot flashes, and breast cancer recurrence.

Disadvantages include:

  • Gluten. If you suffer from gluten intolerance, you will want to choose a different milk.
  • High sugar content. Unsweetened oat milk can be hard to find in the United States.
  • After long-term consumption, phytoestrogens tend to interfere with normal hormone function.

Other characteristics of oat milk include:

  • Thick, creamy texture much like dairy milk.
  • Slightly sweet earthy (but not bitter) flavor. It can complement most cereals, baked goods, and some more robust savory dishes, but it can overwhelm foods and sauces with delicate flavors.

Pea Milk

Sound strange? Well, maybe. To avoid disagreeable flavors and colors, yellow peas are highly processed to isolate the most nutritious part without the baggage. Sunflower oil is sometimes added to make the product creamier. Assorted gums may be added to enhance the texture, as well. It can be purchased in both sweetened and unsweetened varieties.

The primary benefit is the high protein content, comparable to cow’s milk.

Drawbacks include:

  • High levels of processing.
  • High levels of omega-6 fatty acids. When unbalanced with omega-3 fatty acids, the omega-6s can produce an inflammatory effect on the body.

Note that pea milk has a floury taste. You definitely will want to purchase a small quantity the first time out to see if you can drink it.