Lately I’ve been on the hunt for milk alternatives for tea, coffee and cereal. I’m not a huge milk drinker. I only ever really have it with hot drinks.
But as I’ve started having more protein shakes, I’m trying to figure out which milk alternative is the best bet.
I find protein shakes made from dairy milk, especially full fat, a little too heavy. Especially if I need to down a shake a few hours before a workout. I want a lighter, non-dairy milk. And when it comes to a cuppa, I like to mix my milk option up. It gives you a completely different tasting tea.
I’ve pretty much tried all of the milk alternatives. I’m going to give you my thoughts on the taste of each one. And to get the nutrition bit right, I’ve teamed up with North Girl South’s Jo Woodhurst. Together, we’ll give you the lowdown on milk alternatives you can get in the UK, and the benefits of each.
I’ve ranked these in order of taste – but give them all a try, you might disagree with me…
1. Cashew milk
Taste – Cashew milk gets my top spot for a few different reasons. I find that a lot of these milk alternatives are too watery and don’t have the consistency of dairy milk. So when you add them to tea or coffee it kinda tastes like you haven’t added any milk.
And you have to pour so much in that your drink is too cold. But, this is where cashew milk is different. It’s a bit thicker than the others, and it has more of a distinctive flavour.
Though the only drawback is it sometimes congeals if you don’t use the right amount. Oh, and it’s more expensive than most of the other milk alternatives. Trust me to choose the expensive option.
Nutrition – Cashew Milk certainly hits the spot in terms of creaminess and that’s due to its healthy fat content. Nutritionally speaking, nut milks generally win out hands down over the grain-based milks for precisely this reason. Cashews specifically though, have a much higher amount of the Omega 6 fatty acid – generally speaking we have quite a lot of this in our diets already and need to try to get more Omega 3 fatty acids in order to benefit from the anti-inflammatory effects. I would say go for it every now and then – especially if you’re only using a bit in your tea!
2. Rice milk
Taste – I often buy cashew milk as more of a treat because it costs a little more. I probably buy rice milk the most. And whilst it doesn’t taste that nice on its own (for those people who like downing pints of milk), it pairs well with hot drinks, cereal and shakes. I find it’s just about thick enough so you don’t feel like you’re drinking a watery tea, and it’s got a nice subtle taste to it.
Nutrition – Rice Milk is a bit of a minefield I’m afraid! It relies heavily on where the rice is sourced and how it is processed. Brown Rice milk contains a few more nutrients than the white variety. However, the sweetness from this milk alternative is a little clue as to how it will be acting in your body. Because it’s very low in healthy fats or proteins, white rice milk especially, is likely to spike your blood sugar and insulin levels. A couple of benefits though is that it’s the least allergenic of milk alternatives and when fortified, it’s a good source of calcium.
3. Oat milk
Taste – Coming in just behind rice milk, is oat milk. There’s not a huge amount of difference between the two. I end up buying oat milk quite often mainly because it’s more readily available. Not all shops have rice milk. Its main strength is that it has quite a subtle taste, so it’s not too overbearing in drinks and shakes and you can easily mix it with a lot of things.
Nutrition – As far as the grain-based milks go, there are a few more benefits to oat milk over rice. Oats are well-known for being ‘heart healthy’, this is because they contain a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, known for supporting healthy cholesterol levels. Futhermore oat milks contain decent levels of iron and most brands now enrich the milks with Vitamin D, B12 and calcium. One thing to watch is if you have a gluten intolerance as often oats aren’t completely gluten-free.
4. Coconut milk
Taste – Don’t get me wrong, I do love the taste of coconut milk. BUT – I find a lot of brands are very diluted, so much so that you can hardly even taste the coconut milk. So I guess when it comes to this option I’ve just not found a brand with the right consistency. You have to add a lot of it to tea to stop your cuppa from looking a murky brown colour. Though it’s really good in shakes when the coconut flavour comes through.
Nutrition – Coconut milk is such a great dairy alternative. It’s a good source of important nutrients like manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium. Coconut milk contains MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) which can provide a quick and efficient source of healthy calories for the brain. MCTs can help reduce inflammation in the body and is also full of antioxidants which gives it the ability to help reduce disease-causing inflammation through the body. Add to this that Lauric acid, a healthy fat found in coconut milk, when converted in the body is known for its antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties – so it can also benefit your immune system too. Coconut milk is, however, higher in calories and fat. While the fat is definitely a healthy type, portion control is important!
5. Almond milk
Taste – I reckon a lot of people probably rave about almond milk. But the reason it comes lower down on my list is because I find it too sweet. You can get an unsweetened version in some supermarkets though. Oh, and the other reason, quite a compelling one, is that I’m a tad allergic to almonds. Not in the I’m going stop breathing kind of way, they just make my mouth go very itchy, so probs best I avoid this option.
Nutrition – Whenever you choose a milk alternative, it is super important to choose the unsweetened (organic if possible) versions. Nut allergies are extremely serious, so a nut milk should obviously be avoided if there is a sensitivity. That said, if you’re ok with nuts there are loads of health benefits from almonds. They’re low in saturated fatty acids, rich in unsaturated fatty acids, contain fibre and plant protein. Almond milks also contain some probiotic components that support digestion and a healthy microbiome, which is key to absorbing vital nutrients.
6. Hazelnut milk
Taste – I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I just find hazelnut milk too overpowering. The taste is too strong and therefore makes tea not really taste like tea at all. It’s more of a pudding option I’d say, but each to their own! Though one thing it does have going for itself is that it has a more creamy consistency.
Nutrition – Again, being a nut milk, this one is a good choice in terms of healthy fats. Hazelnuts also are a great source of manganese and copper as well as many other essential micronutrients. Hazelnuts are a good option too when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease with a recent study showing a positive impact on healthy cholesterol ratio levels. Eating hazelnuts can also even help to boost vitamin E levels, a super antioxidant!
7. Hemp milk
Taste – Blueerrrghhh. I really wanted to like this uber healthy looking drink, but I just couldn’t. It tasted a bit like medicine and didn’t mix well with tea at all. I could just about put up with it in a protein shake, but suffice to say, I didn’t even finish the bottle. But by all means, don’t let me put you off. It’s probably got that marmite vibe, you’ll either love it or hate it.
Nutrition – Hemp milk is a great choice for those of you who looking for a product that contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It also doesn’t contain phytic acid, oxalic acid, or tannins (anti-nutrients) which can cause issues for some people. Hemp milk is a great source of magnesium – a mineral so many of us are deficient in, in this stressful world! It may be an acquired taste, but even if you don’t drink the milk you can certainly benefit from the great qualities of hemp seeds in many other ways.
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