Ask the Dietitian: Which plant milks provide the best nutrition?

Almond Milk

Q: Which plant milks provide the best nutrition?

Ginny Messina, R.D.: Replacing cow’s milk with almond, soy, hempseed, or any other plant milk is an incredibly easy way to reduce intake of animal foods. Pour them over your breakfast cereal or substitute them ounce-for-ounce in place of cow’s  milk in baked goods, mashed potatoes, puddings, or simply when you want a refreshing glass of “milk.”

In addition to all their practical uses, plant milks can be important sources of some nutrients for vegans. Almost all are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, making them excellent sources of both these nutrients. Some also have added vitamin B12, so they are good choices for those who prefer using fortified foods rather than supplements.

But not all plant milks deliver the same nutrition benefits. When it comes to protein, soy milk and milk made from pea protein are your best bet. Most milks made from almonds and cashews, in contrast, are low in protein (even though nuts themselves can be good sources of protein). Hempseed milk is also low in protein but it’s a good source of the essential omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid.

There really is no “best” plant milk since it depends on your own diet. If you don’t regularly consume nuts, seeds or oils, then hempseed milk can be a good way to boost intake of omega-3 fats. If you need to get a little more protein in your diet, then soy or pea protein milks are the best choice. But since most of us enjoy plant milks for their convenience and culinary uses, the best milk is really whichever one you enjoy the most.

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