Best Milk Alternatives 2021: 10 Healthiest Dairy-Free Milks

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The 10 Healthiest And Best Milk Alternatives, According To A Dietician

The best vegan milks with no added sugar

best milk alternatives

Milk, mylk, m*lk, however you want to spell it, there are a helluva lot of alternative milk options to choose from these days. Switching from cow’s milk to plant-based milk alternatives, it can be hard to make sense of it all. So we’ve asked no-nonsense nutrition and fertility expert Ro Huntriss (@dietitianro) on how she rates almond, coconut, oat and soya milk from a women’s health perspective.

What is the healthiest plant-based milk?

“It’s important to start by saying that cow’s milk is a great source of calcium, protein and healthy fat (all essential as part of a balanced diet)”.

On top of that it delivers:

  • B vitamins: which the body needs in order to break down and release energy from food, as well as keeping skin, eyes and the nervous system in tip-top shape.
  • Iodine: which helps keep cells and the metabolic rate healthy.
  • Phosphorus: which is needed to make protein for the growth, maintenance and repair of cells and tissues, including healthy bones and teeth.

However, for many, cow’s milk simply isn’t an option. It’s suggested that up to 20% of people in the UK are lactose intolerant, and that’s without taking into consideration ethical and environmental reasons for turning your back on dairy. But choosing a lactose-free alternative can help to manage any gastrointestinal symptoms experienced from consuming cow’s milk.

The good news is that plant-based milk alternatives are often fortified with calcium, vitamins and minerals, including B12, which is only naturally found in animal products. So you can get many of the same benefits as you would from dairy.

Soy milk benefits

“Let’s start by debunking some myths. In the past, people have been wary of soy as it contains phytoestrogens (oestrogen-like compounds). However, this has actually been shown to be useful in the management of menopausal symptoms, with recent research showing an improvement in IVF outcomes too. Protein-wise, it’s on a par with dairy milk, but look out for fortified versions for added benefits.”

Oat milk benefits

“The humble oat is a whole grain, making it a good source of fibre, with a 200ml serving containing 10% of your daily target. Calorie-wise, it’s much the same as semi skimmed milk and fortified versions are widely available.” And, aside from that — we’re yet to find a better alternative in our coffee.

Coconut milk benefits

“Similarly to other plant-based milk, coconut milk contains little protein, however on the plus side, it’s fairly low in calories (anywhere around 20-53, depending on the brand). Look out for recipes fortified with vitamin D, B2, B12 and calcium for an added nutritional boost.”

Almond milk benefits

“Almond milk is another low calorie choice. The leading unsweetened variety contains just 13 calories per 100ml, which is lower than most other milks. Again, almond milk contains very little protein, however, almonds are packed with vitamin E; which helps in the maintenance of healthy skin, eyes and the immune system”.

Which milk alternative tastes most like milk?

If you’re committed to making the switch, the good news is you might not even be able to tell the difference. We’ve tasted a wide selection of almond, soy, oat and coconut milk to see which tasted the most similar to cow’s milk.

Surprisingly, soy milk came out on top, if you’re looking for a like-for-like replacement, however we’ve found the very best options for hot drinks, smoothies and overnight oats too.

With each style having its own pros, cons and flavour, we reckon your best bet is to mix and match to cover all bases. So if you want coconut in your porridge but almond in your smoothie, we’ve found the tastiest milks to buy RN…

How we test

To find the best milk alternative, The Women’s Health Lab analysed 23 different products, trying each one straight up, as well as in tea, coffee and over cereal. We’ve only included ones with no added sugar, so you can guzzle to your heart's content.

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1
Best oat milk
Planet Organic Unsweetened Gluten-Free 16% Oat Drink 1L
£1.99

Nutritionally speaking, this recipe contains the most generous serving of whole grain oats, which are a great source of fibre, and will support good digestion. It’s naturally sweet so you won’t be tempted to add extra sugar, and is gluten-free to boot! 

2
Best almond milk
Plenish Organic Almond M*lk 1L
boots.com
£2.49

We were pretty impressed when reading this ingredients list — as it contains nothing but organic almonds, filtered water and a touch of sea salt. Sure, you might want to add an extra scoop of protein powder if you’re hitting the gym hard, but the high percentage of nuts will provide a healthy dose of vitamin E.

3
Best soya milk
Bonsoy Soya Milk 1L
£3.99

From a health standpoint, Bonsoy makes our favourite soya milk. It contains 15% soybeans (as opposed to Provamel’s 7.2%), and is sweetened with natural tapioca syrup, which won’t spike the blood sugar levels as much as regular sugar. It tastes great too, making a very convincing cow’s milk alternative.

4
Runner-up soya milk
Provamel Organic Soya Drink Sweetened 1L
£1.49

Sweetened milk needn’t be off the cards, when there are such clever alternatives to sugar. Provamel uses apple concentrate to satisfy your sweet tooth, and although the organic drink hasn’t been fortified with added vitamins and minerals, it does include red algae for added calcium (but happily you can’t taste it!). The overall flavour is super natural, although a little grainy, so it’s better in breakfast bowls than it is in your coffee.

5
Best oat milk for foaming
Oatly Oat Drink Barista Edition 1L
planetorganic.com
£1.99

Fortified with added good stuff and ultra frothable, Oatley’s barista edition is essential for making cappuccino-esque serves. It’s sweet and salty, with a double cream consistency, making it good for baking too.

6
Best whole milk replacement
Rebel Kitchen Dairy Free Organic Mylk 8 x 1L
amazon.co.uk
£19.00

Can’t quite choose between oat and coconut milk? This clever milk combines both, alongside rice and cashew for a plant-based version of whole milk. The extra coconut cream works a treat in porridge and overnight oats, and there’s a touch of hemp included too, to help bolster your protein levels. 

7
Best low calorie almond milk
Califia Unsweetened Almond Milk 750ml
ocado.com
£2.40

Counting the calories? This unsweetened Californian almond milk contains just 16 calories per 100ml serve, yet still delivers a healthy calcium quota. It’s light and refreshing, making it versatile enough to be used anywhere you’d normally enjoy traditional dairy.

8
Best light coconut milk
Innocent Coconut Drink Dairy Free 750ml
tesco.com
£2.00

In-between making fruit-packed smoothies, Innocent can be found whizzing up sustainably sourced coconuts with calcium-rich seaweed — for a nutritionally balanced start to the day. Perfect for dipping cookies, splashing over cereal or cooking a curry. 

9
Best coconut milk to replace dairy
Koko Dairy Free Original + Calcium UHT Milk Alternative 1L
ocado.com
£1.50

Fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, and sweetened with grape juice, Koko makes a convincing cow’s milk replacement, without compromising on flavour.

10
Best all-round coconut milk
Alpro Coconut Long Life Milk 1L
£1.70

Unlike the brand’s soya version, no sugar has snuck its way onto the ingredients list of Alpro’s oh-so-creamy coconut drink. It’s naturally sweet anyway, and deliciously fruity — so try it in a pineapple smoothie.

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