Milk is a staple of many people’s diets, but us vegans have to look for substitutes that we can use in our diet. Fortunately, we are spoiled for choice for non-dairy milk, and you can be sure that you won’t feel that you miss dairy at all.
These vegan milk substitutes are often fortified with Vitamin D and Calcium to make up for what you’re not getting any more from regular dairy milk.
And because there are so many choices, different types of milk can be used for different things. They are perfect for cereal, tea, hot chocolate, baking, smoothies or even protein drinks.
In this article, I will go over the best substitutes to milk on a vegan diet! 🙂
Why Vegan Milk is a healthier choice
Drinking non-dairy milk can have many benefits and even for non-vegans. If I had known about these milk-substitutes before I was vegan, I would have swapped out dairy in a heartbeat. Not just because they taste so good, but because of the negative health effects of dairy.
- Regular milk produces a large spike in insulin and IGF-1, this can increase the risk of cancer and has been shown to worsen acne.
- Many people have lactose intolerance. This means they lack the enzyme lactase which is required to break down lactose present in the milk. This can lead to chronic stomach issues like flatulence, diarrhea, upset stomach, cramps and pain.
- Studies have shown that hormones present in milk might be implicated in the development of chronic disease in humans and even cancer.
- Antibiotic usage is high in animals. They can be used prophylactically to prevent disease where animals are in close proximity to each other. This may be a reason for increasing antibiotic resistance that we’re seeing.
- Some vegan milk alternatives contain beneficial compounds which may improve and be protective against certain diseases.
Best healthy vegan milk alternatives
Below are some of my favorite types of non-dairy milk substitutes which I include in my diet. I will typically rotate them over a period of weeks.
#1 Oat Milk
Oat milk is created from oats which are soaked in water, blended and strained. It’s delicious, nutritious and creamy. It’s great to use in smoothies and in cereals. You can also easily make your own oat milk and it’s quite inexpensive!
Oat milk is one of my favorite non-dairy substitutes that I keep going back to
Below are a few reasons why you should include oat milk in your diet.
- Contains a significant amount of calcium which is great for bone health
- Low in saturated fat which is known to raise LDL cholesterol
- Great vegan substitute for people who have a nut allergy or allergic to soy
- Contains beta-glucan which helps boost your immune system!
- Great replacement for milk in cereals
If you’ve eaten oatmeal before then you’re probably going to like oat milk. Although it doesn’t taste exactly the same, it is pretty tasty and can be added to many types of foods and recipes.
#2 Almond Milk
Almond milk is probably on par with oat milk for being my favorite non-dairy, milk-substitute. After having consumed other types of vegan milk for years, almond milk was the very last one that I tried.
And it’s not like I didn’t like almonds (I love them!), but I just wasn’t curious enough to try it out until late 2016.
So now when I make my morning oatmeal, I will usually use almond milk with it.
Almond milk also has many potential health benefits. Below are a few of the reasons why you should try it.
- If you have gluten intolerance, it’s a great substitute for both dairy and oat milk and has a similar texture
- Often you’ll find that almond milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals to increase its nutritional content
- It’s very low in calories
- It’s very low in sugar and doesn’t cause blood sugar spikes
- Tastes very nice with cereals like oatmeal
Almond milk is suitable to use in your tea, cereal, smoothies and you can even bake with it.
When choosing an almond milk, make sure it is unsweetened.
#3 Soy Milk
Soy milk can take a bit more getting used to for a lot of people. When I first tried plain soy milk I didn’t really like it at all, so I decided to add it to hot chocolate instead. Now soy milk comes in many different flavors, making it more popular with vegans as a milk substitute.
My main interest in adding soy milk to my diet at the time was due to the health benefits associated with soy that were being reported.
It was one of the first types of milk that I tried after going vegan when I was looking for something which could replace the cow’s milk I was using in my diet.
Soy milk also has a great nutritional profile by providing minerals like calcium, potassium, zinc, and iron. Many soy milk brands also contain B12, B6, and Vitamin D.
A few of the health benefits which have been shown to be linked with increased soy consumption include the following:
- Great for women who are postmenopausal due to its high phytoestrogen content
- May decrease the risk of osteoporosis, especially in women due to isoflavones in soy milk
- Soy milk might decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol
- Soy milk may decrease the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men
Soy milk isn’t my favorite tasting milk, but it’s perfect for the hot chocolate that I occasionally enjoy.
If you’ve never tried soy milk before, the taste might surprise you, but you can get used to it. Or you can simply pick up a flavored version.
#4 Coconut Milk
The first time I ever tried coconut milk was in a Thai soup called Tom Kha when I went to California. It usually has chicken, but I substituted that for mushrooms. And I fell in love with the taste of coconut milk from that point. I love warm coconut milk in soups to this day but I only have it every now and then due to its high amount of saturated fat.
That being said, some studies have shown that coconut milk may actually raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL in the general population.  However, a vegan or a person on a CR diet may experience the opposite and have their cholesterol raised.
Coconut milk is also high in calories but contains many different vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, and selenium.
Here are some of the benefits of coconut milk
- Coconut milk may help reduce inflammation in the body
- Lauric acid found in coconuts may help reduce bacterial and viral infections
- Coconut milk may help boost metabolism and help with weight loss according to research
Coconut milk can also be added to tea, smoothies, and perfect to cook with due to its low amount of polyunsaturated fat and high saturated fat content.
Here are some coconut milk brands without guar gum or carrageenan for you to check out.
I would go easy on the coconut milk and have it as a treat. For me, the taste is a bit too addicting!