From Soy to Coconut: Which Plant-Based Milk is Right for You?

Sara Dow is a ACE Certified Weight Management and Fitness Nutrition Specialist. She is also a ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Small Group Trainer at the Y. Twice a month, her blog posts will feature nutrition education, a healthy recipe she has tried and loves, and tips to help you achieve your health goals, as well as answers centered around a nutrition question from a Y member.

From Soy to Coconut: Which Plant-Based Milk is Right for You?

Going plant-based is becoming increasingly popular, and it’s not just about cutting out meat. Many people are also choosing to switch to plant-based milk, such as soy, almond, oat, and coconut milk. What are the benefits of each, and how do they differ from one another? Let’s explore.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is one of the most popular plant-based milk options, and for good reasons. It is the only plant-based milk nutritionally equivalent to dairy milk under the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

Dairy, including fortified soymilk, provides essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D that are crucial for bone health. If you’re curious about these nutrients and their roles in the body, check out this article from the Bone Health and Osteoporosis Foundation

Almond Milk

Almond milk is an excellent option for those looking for a low-calorie milk alternative. It is low in calories and fat, making it a good choice for those watching their weight. Almond milk is also a good source of vitamin E. This antioxidant can help protect against several forms of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Oat Milk

Oat milk provides a great fiber source, making it an excellent choice for supporting digestive health. Research has also shown that oat milk can help lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease due to its beta-glucan content, a soluble fiber that can lower LDL (harmful) cholesterol levels. Oat milk’s natural sweetness and creamy texture make it a versatile ingredient suitable for everything from baking to adding to coffee or tea.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is a good source of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of fat that can be easily converted into energy by the body.  MTCs have been shown to offer potential health benefits, including improved cognitive function, weight loss, and reduced risk of heart disease. Keep in mind, coconut milk is high in saturated fat, so it should be consumed in moderation.

Did you know that many plant-based milks are loaded with added sugar? It’s true! Before you reach for that carton, be sure to check the nutrition label for any added sweeteners. To keep your sugar intake in check, consider choosing unsweetened varieties instead.

A Healthy Recipe … or five 😊

Check out these delicious and healthy drinks you can make at home using plant-based milk and herbal teas:

Spiced Chai Latte: Brew a cup of black chai tea and mix with a cup of unsweetened almond, soy, or oat milk. Add in a sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and sweeten with a touch of honey or maple syrup if desired.

Turmeric Golden Milk: Combine a cup of unsweetened coconut milk with a teaspoon of ground turmeric, a pinch of black pepper, and a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup. Heat on the stove until warm and frothy.

Matcha Latte: Whisk a teaspoon of matcha powder into a cup of unsweetened soy milk, almond milk, or coconut milk. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup to taste.

Peppermint Mocha: Brew a cup of peppermint tea and mix with a cup of unsweetened chocolate almond milk.  Sweeten with a touch of honey or maple syrup if desired.

Lavender Latte: Brew a cup of lavender tea and mix with a cup of unsweetened oat milk. Sweeten with honey or maple syrup to taste.

Check out this Resource… 

Check out HerbList, a free app developed by the National Institute of Health (NIH), for evidence-based information on popular herbs like ginkgo, turmeric, and kava.  With HerbList you can quicly check for potential herb-drug interactions, safety, and side effects. The app is available for download on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Empower yourself with knowledge!

About Sara Dow

Hi, I’m Sara and I am passionate about helping people improve their quality of life through the knowledge and practice of good nutrition.  

In 2018, I was inspired by the YMCA community to go back to school and pursue my dream of becoming a registered dietitian. I am now in my senior year, double majoring in Nutrition and Dietetics at Kansas State University.  I am excited to share with you what I am learning. 


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