Are alternative milks good for you?
Jaymie Hooper finds out why ditching dairy may not always be the healthiest decision.
Asking for macadamia milk in your coffee might have been unheard of 10 years ago, but it is now practically the norm.
With one in six Australians choosing to forgo dairy, alternative milks are readily available at every corner store and cafe, but do these plant-based options meet your nutritional targets?
To clear things up, Body+Soul asked dietitian Melissa Meier – and her answers may surprise you.
Are alternative milks healthy?
One of the most popular alternative blends, oat milk does not contain many of the allergens found in other types of milk, but it does contain beta-glucan, which is known to support heart health and lower cholesterol. “Many brands only contain 10 to 15 per cent oats, though, so you’re not getting as much oaty goodness as you probably think,” Meier says. “The majority of the product is just water with oils and salts added in.”
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Loaded with healthy fats, avocado milk could be good for your brain health, but Meier warns that unless it’s fortified with calcium, it’s not as healthy as it could be. “Recipes may also call for added salt and sugar, which I recommend against,” she tells Body+Soul.
“Macadamia milk offers heart-healthy fats, but its total macadamia content is generally less than four per cent, so it’s mostly water and little else. It can also contain added sugar, which isn’t ideal,” explains Meier.
The expert’s advice
Unless you have a dairy intolerance, Meier suggests sticking to a classic cow’s milk. “Dairy milk is nutrient-dense,” she explains. “It’s packed with protein, calcium for strong bones and teeth, and vitamins A and B12 for healthy eyes and nervous-system function.” If you can’t stomach dairy, opt for a calcium-fortified soy milk instead.
58 per cent: That’s how much the Australian plant-based milk category has grown in two years.