Skip to content Skip to footer
Nutrition

Plant-based milk alternatives


Before switching to a milk substitute, know the facts so you can make the right nutritional choice

These days, the supermarket milk aisle has an array of plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk – from coconut, almond and hazelnut to oat, soya and rice. Whether you’re vegan, lactose-free, allergic to milk protein or just prefer the taste, there are plenty of delicious milk substitutes to choose from.

How do these milks compare nutritionally to cow’s milk?


Commercially available versions of nut, seed, grain and legume-based milks contain varying amounts of protein and fibre (usually 1-4g each per 1 cup serving) as they are made by blending the predominant ingredient with water. They can contain around 100 calories or less, depending on the ratio. They also have different levels of minerals and vitamins such as vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and potassium.

Your choice of milk substitute will depend on what you are trying to obtain from it, as well as your taste preference. If you are choosing dairy-free options, it’s important to know which nutrients you would normally be getting from eating dairy – for example, calcium, potassium and magnesium – and to make sure you consume them in other foods in-stead.

What to look out for in milk substitutes:

  • Higher levels of protein

  • As few ingredients as possible

  • The words ‘unsweetened’ and ‘no added sugar’

  • Fortification with calcium and vitamin D

  • Nutrients you’re personally concerned about (e.g. omega-3)

ALMOND VS COCONUT MILK

Plenish Organic Almond Unsweetened

(THREE INGREDIENTS)

Almonds are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats as well as omega fatty acids.
They contain filling fibre and protective antioxidants.
Although almonds are a relatively good source of plant protein, the protein content of most almond milks is relatively low compared with cow’s milk (3g per 100ml), as they are mixed with water.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION PER 100ML

Protein 1.3g, fat 3.1g (of which saturates 0.2g), fibre 0.7g, carbohydrate 0.4g (of which sugars 0.2g)

Plenish Organic Coconut Unsweetened

(FOUR INGREDIENTS)

Coconut milk is a good source of nutrients such as manganese, copper, phosphorus, magnesium, iron and potassium.
It contains medium chain triglycerides, a type of fat that has antibacterial properties and is also a good source of energy.
Coconut milk is high in saturated fat, so consume in moderation, and low in protein, so you’ll need alternative protein sources.

NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION PER 100ML

Protein <0.5g, fat 1.1g (of which saturates 1g), fibre <0.5g, carbohydrate 5.3g (of which sugars 3g)

Abir Hamza-Goodacre is a nutritional therapist at Benenden Hospital. For information on how Benenden Hospital can help with nutritional services, available to private self-pay patients, contact the Private Patients team on privatepatients@benenden.org.uk or 01580 242521