Doctor weighs in on healthiest milk alternatives

- At the grocery store, the shelves are stocked with plant-based milk products, like soy, almond and coconut milk.

They are good options for people who have dairy sensitivities or eat a vegan diet.

But what’s the best choice when it comes to your health?

At CentreSpring MD in Brookhaven, Georgia, Dr. Tasmeen Bhatia, who goes professionally by Dr. Taz, says there is a lot of confusion about milk alternatives.

She calls it “nutrition noise.”

“And I think it’s hard for people to navigate, ‘Well is it coconut milk? Almond milk? Macadamia milk? What is the best one for me,” Dr. Taz says.

To find the answer, she says, check the nutritional labels, and think about your needs.

“Understand your own body,” Dr. Taz says. “Understand what your sensitivities are, what your allergies are, and then make a decision.”

If you have a problem digesting dairy, she says, there are good milk substitutes.

“Where they may fail a little bit is that they each have different amounts of fat, and they each have different amounts of protein,” she says.

Soy milk, made from soybeans, is probably the best-known milk alternative. And, like dairy, it’s high in protein.

But, Dr. Taz says, it contains almost no calcium, unless it’s artificially fortified.

“Also, for a lot of folks who are dairy sensitive, soy will also cause the same symptoms,” she says.  “There is about a 60 percent overlap between the dairy intolerance and the soy intolerance.”

If you’re dairy-intolerant, you may want to go with a nut-based milk alternative like almond, cashew or even macadamia nut milk.

Nut milks like almond milk can be high in vitamin E and low in calories,

“But, almond milk doesn’t have a lot of protein in it,” Dr. Taz cautioned.

It has about 2 grams versus about 8 to 10 grams of protein per serving of cow’s milk.”

And, finally, what about coconut milk?

“Coconut milk is another ‘good fat’ milk, it has a lot of healthy fat,” she says.  “But it doesn’t have a lot of protein. And there are some people with coconut allergies, so they have to be careful there.”

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