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The Battle of the Plant-Based Milk

Grocery stores are now stocking an increasing number of non-dairy milk for everyday use. While it’s undoubtedly nice to have variation, sometimes it can feel like too many options. Which is worth buying? You can’t possibly try every single one on the shelves. Well, you could, or we could just sum it up for you instead. Whether you’re looking for the perfect Oreo-dunking texture or a more flavorful latte, this article will help sort out all the different non-dairy milk options and what might be best for you.

Why Non-Dairy Milk?

Dairy farming is proven to be unethical and environmentally damaging. The agriculture of cows for dairy produces incredible amounts of waste and greenhouse gases. According to a UN report, cows account for 18% of the world's carbon dioxide, which means that cows emit more greenhouse gases than cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. In addition, the treatment of the cows themselves is often grossly immoral, with excess reports of cows crammed in tight, unsanitary spaces where the disease is rampant. Cows are often mutilated without anesthesia and pumped with antibiotics (which has sparked an entirely separate crisis that we don’t have time to get into this post). Does anyone remember the FairLife Investigation? It was bad. Bad enough to go viral. Cow’s milk is also linked to many human health concerns.

For these reasons and more, vegans, environmentalists, lactose intolerance sufferers, and a rapidly increasing number of others switch to milk alternatives. Now that you know why you should do so, too (or maybe you do already!), we’re going to analyze the different options and judge which one is the best, according to our subjective criteria.

Which Plant-Based Milk is The Best?

The battle commences here, in no particular order:

Almond Milk

Almond milk is having a bit of a PR nightmare recently. The news has erupted with claims that the almond milk industry is responsible for killing billions of honey bees. While verifying these controversial claims is continually argued back and forth over, it might be best to keep almond milk at the back of the shelf for a while. For the bees, it also has some of the highest water use of any plant-based milk alternative. So, double no. You could forego some of these issues by making your almond milk, though, which isn’t too hard to do.

Soy Milk

If you need something especially protein-heavy, soy milk might be your best bet. It has less environmental impact than most others, with limited greenhouse gas emissions and water usage. Since soy milk has been around longer than most milk alternatives, you can also usually find it cheaper than the others.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is like almond milk but almost earthier. This is because cashew crops have lower yields, which means they’ll have a larger footprint to produce the same amount as other nut glasses of milk. It’s got a nice, creamy consistency, but besides that, there aren’t many reasons we can see to pick cashew milk as your first choice milk alternative.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is probably as close as it gets to cow’s milk in terms of taste. It’s a bit more watery than a glass of whole milk would be, though, and it lacks protein. Nevertheless, rice milk is an excellent option for those with nut allergies. It does have a higher environmental impact than others, though. Rice milk requires a high amount of water to produce, like almond milk. (Keep in mind that dairy milk still requires more water for production than any plant-based alternative). It also has some health concerns due to genetic modification and traces of arsenic (?!), making us a bit wary and leading us to favor other options.

Coconut Milk

Now we’re getting to the good stuff. Coconut milk has a much lower environmental impact than other non-dairy milk options. It’s great if you’re looking for a low-calorie option, and although it isn’t naturally vitamin or protein-heavy, it’s usually fortified to make it healthier. The downside is the texture, which is relatively thin and watery. It may not be the best for cereal eating or cookie dunking, but this thinness makes it perfect for drinks like smoothies. So if you like coffee and you like coconut, and you haven’t put some coconut milk in your morning cup yet, your world is about to be rocked.

Oat Milk

I know we said “no particular order,” but we just had to save our winner for last. While oat milk can undoubtedly be pricier than options like almond milk, the environmental impact is much lower. It uses much less water and land than a number of the other milk alternatives. With a sweet taste and creamy texture to boot, oat milk tastes good on your tongue and your conscience. It’s pretty easy to make your own as well. We’ve also tried oat milk ice cream, and it’s a whole new world of delicious. An entirely separate post is necessary just to describe the experience of eating salted caramel-flavored oat milk ice cream.

Tips and Reminders for Non-Dairy Milk

Do your research. The internet has so much information on each plant-based milk that isn’t mentioned in this brief article, and the information mentioned is always subject to change. See for yourself what information out there aligns with your values and your definitions of reputable facts.

Make sure you get your nutrients. Unfortunately, people still cling to cow’s milk because of its perceived health benefits (even though it has comparable amounts of adverse health effects). Your health is a priority, so make sure the milk you’re getting contributes to a healthy diet in whatever way your lifestyle calls for.

And although we have listed here what we like, make sure you get what you like. For example, if you don’t like coconut, don’t buy coconut milk. Instead, spend your money on the option you are most likely to use and enjoy to the fullest.

And the Winner Is…

We say oat milk, but decide for yourself! Everyone has different tastes. Oat milk is the tastiest and easiest to make at home, in our opinion, but maybe you want something a little cheaper in store. Perhaps you want something more tropical (coconut) or more protein-heavy (soy). Therefore, we declare oat milk the winner of this article, but the winner of your hard-earned dollar is something only you can decide.

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