If an entire latte or a pint of Ben & Jerry's has ever sent you, ahem, scurrying to the bathroom, then you've come to the right place. Even if you're not a lactose-intolerant individual, hopping on the alternative-milk train still has its benefits — including (but not limited to) everything from health to taste and environmental — and we chatted with an NYC-based internist to get the full non-dairy scoop.
"More people are converting to plant-based diets, and there is an increased awareness about ethical issues, in addition to allergies and intolerances," Dr. Sunitha Posina, MD, told Refinery29. "We don’t have any data to suggest that lactose intolerance is on the rise, but I do believe that more people are recognizing it more than before." But when it comes down to it, is all of this just really bad PR for cows? According to Dr. Posina, not quite: "Cow’s milk has very high nutritional value as it contains vitamin D and calcium, which are very important for bone health." Ultimately, going dairy-free is less about hard-and-fast nutrition and more about exploring the options that work best for you and your body.
If you want to take a gander at the most popular milk-alternatives around, then keep clicking for an all-encompassing breakdown ahead — from soy to cashew.
One of the OG non-dairy milk options (seriously, I remember seeing this stuff at the grocery store when I was in elementary school), soy milk is slightly thicker than cow's milk, and is a good source of protein – so go ahead and mix it into your next smoothie for a filling boost.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, rice milk is more watery in its consistency — so, it's ideal for those who prefer a lighter taste that's naturally low in fat. "If you are drinking whole milk and have heart disease or risk factors for it, you may want to consider lower-fat options given that studies have found a link between fat content and heart disease," Dr. Posina explains.
Between its creamy-nutty flavor factor and the fact that it's shelf-stable, almond milk's got it going on. And, unsurprisingly, it's become a hugely popular option that's available at virtually every coffee shop.
Oh hey gurl, we didn't even see you there! Another under-the-radar plant-based option that you might not have tried yet is hemp milk. It's naturally rich in calcium and omega-3 fatty acids.
Is oat the new queen of non-dairy milk? We can barely keep up nowadays. "[Non-dairy milks] are all derived from different sources, hence different tastes, consistencies and textures," Dr. Posina tells us. "Some are better for cooking than mixing in smoothies and are some better options if you have nut allergies. At this time, we have no scientific proof that one is better than others."
Coffee snobs, this one's for you: Poised to overtake oat milk's crown as reigning champ of bougie non-dairy beverages is cashew milk. This trendy dairy-free option has an even nuttier flavor than almond milk — in addition to 4g of protein per 8oz serving.