The Plant-Based Milk Primer

If the “Got Milk?” campaign ran today, many people would answer that question with a resounding no. But while the white mustache look may have gone out of style, plant-based milks are more popular than ever.

RELATED: Why Whole Milk Is Better Than Skim

And whatever the reason you’ve decided to ditch dairy—from forgoing FODMAPs to veganism—you may need help navigating the now diverse options for milk that isn’t milk.

First, the easy, big picture advice: we tend to reach for nut milks or coconut milk because of the naturally occurring nutrients in the base ingredients—like the minerals in almonds and healthy fats in coconut.

But because these are not just whole foods straight from a cow, you have to be more vigilant about added ingredients like sugar and preservatives. Look for ingredient lists that primarily feature real food and only reach for the “unsweetened” versions.

Better yet: Making your own nut milk at home is super simple and fast (more on that soon!). Here are fast facts about each alt-milk to consult when you’re deciding which may be right for you.

Plant-Based Milks, Compared

Almond

Pros: The main ingredients in almond milk are almonds and water, both of which your body loves. Almonds contain healthy fats and important minerals like calcium and iron. Made at home, it’s generally a clean, healthy, deliciously nutty addition to any diet, and it’s the easiest to find at the grocery store.

Cons: Almond milk contains very little protein compared to other options. There are also very few almonds in that packaged carton, so most of the vitamins and minerals you see on the label are added via fortification (which isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not as good as getting them from whole foods). Finally, it’s often made with carrageenan, an additive that can be hard to digest and may cause inflammatory responses in some people (although you can find brands without it if you look).

RELATED: Is Almond Butter Actually Healthier Than Peanut Butter?

Cashew

Pros: Cashew milk is similar to almond in many ways, since cashews contain similar healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals (including stress-fighting zinc!). It has a similar yummy, nutty flavor with a slightly creamier texture. Major win: It’s the easiest to make at home, since it doesn’t even need to be strained post-blending.

Cons: Again, like almond, it’s low in protein, so don’t consider it a cow’s milk replacement.

Coconut

Pros: You’ve probably heard about the healthy fats in coconut oil, and coconut milk is filled with them, too. It’s also rich in important B vitamins and minerals like iron and calcium. It’s the creamiest of the alt-milks, so lots of people love it in coffee (and for rocking a classic milk ‘stache).

Cons: If you’re buying the canned kind, all of that good fat means it’s very calorie-dense, so considering portion size is important. (No chugging, k?) But the kind sold in cardboard cartons alongside nut milks is more watered down, so the calories aren’t as big of a concern.

Soy

Pros: Soy milk is a winner when it comes to protein, and many people prefer the slightly thicker texture to nut milks.

Cons: Soy is a complicated ingredient and many experts disagree on its health benefits and/or risks. The main thing to remember is that almost all of the soy grown in the US is genetically modified in order to be doused in Round-up, a pesticide linked to many nasty health issues. So, if love the taste and want the protein, be sure to go organic on this one to avoid that issue.

RELATED: The Essential Guide to Plant-Based Protein

Hemp

Pros: Hemp has much more protein than the nut milks (but still slightly less than soy) and contains healthy omega-3s.

Cons: Like almond, the packaged version often contains carrageenan, and most of the vitamins and minerals on the label are added via fortification. The flavor is also a little stronger than other milks and some may not love the grassy taste.

Rice

Pros: Rice milk is a little old school and doesn’t really compare to other alternative milks in the nutrition department, but it has one main benefit: it’s the least allergenic, so for those with allergies looking for non-dairy options, it could be a good pick.

Cons: It’s low in protein, low in beneficial vitamins and minerals, and high in carbs. It’s also generally watery and bland. Overall, it just really doesn’t have much going for it.


What is Aquafaba?

Q: What is aquafaba?

A: Aquafaba may be a new word for you, but it’s definitely not a new food for you.

In fact, you’ve probably poured it down the drain as you prepped what you were actually planning on eating for dinner.  

Yep, aquafaba is the lovely name given to the liquid that legumes are cooked in (usually chickpeas or white beans). You know, that gooey stuff you usually rinse off your beans after popping open a (hopefully bpa free) can or boiling them in water.

Who knew the goo was good for you?!

Though aquafaba has existed since the beginning of cooking white bean and chickpea time, actually using it is a little more novel. It contains protein, good carbs, and other plant compounds that have moved from the beans into the liquid during the cooking process. You know, like bone broth.

The consistency of aquafaba mimics the feel of egg whites and can be used for thickening, emulsifying, and binding.

You can use it to create pretty much anything that calls for egg whites. Zucchini muffins, anyone? Perfectly peaked egg-free meringues? Healthy vegan mayo for your next bread spread?

So while it may look like yucky bean remains at first glance, aquafaba is anything but yucky. The next time you begin to pour it down the drain, recognize that you’re saying buh-bye to a whole lot of health and a potentially delicious vegan creation.

As if you needed one more reason to love a garbanzo.

 

How does Jordan Younger Live a Nutritious Life?

Jordan Younger is the girl behind top-read health and lifestyle blog The Balanced Blonde. She is also the creator of the health-inspired conscious clothing line TBV Apparel, which now retails internationally. Jordan lives in LA, where she blogs full-time and just released her first book (which we were lucky enough to get our hands on early!), a memoir titled Breaking Vegan. I recently asked this healthy chica exactly how she lives her most Nutritious Life and I just love it. Here’s what she said:

 

How do you DRINK UP?

I am what I like to refer to as a very “beveragey” person. I am all about the liquids. I start my day with a glass of warm water with lemon, then an iced cold brew coffee, a green smoothie, lots of water, and lots of Liquid IV healthy hydration supplement. I am very active, so anytime I can get my hydration on, I do. When I am out on the town, I never stray from my trusty vodka soda with lime (Tito’s!).

 

How do you EAT EMPOWERED?

To me, eating empowered is all about listening to my body and making the best choices that serve me. I am training for a marathon right now, so I have had to really tune into my body to make sure that I am nourishing and fueling properly. I strive to make choices that will not only be tasty and enjoyable, but will make me FEEL good. I live label-free with no restrictions, and that’s what I’ve found works best for me. Real food, from the earth, local, unprocessed is what I really love and lean towards, but being less of a stickler about it has helped me relax around food tremendously.

 

How do you LIVE CONSCIOUSLY?

I try to pour my energy into causes that I am passionate about, like eating disorder recovery, animal rescue and raising awareness toward cyber bullying. I host a lot of events that give back to some of my favorite local LA organizations that raise funds/awareness for those causes. I also have a t-shirt line, TBV Apparel, and we make sure to use all ethical and organic fabrics and keep things as local as we possibly can. Again, I find the less I “stress” about making conscious choices, the easier and more enjoyable it is to fit those natural and important conscious choices into my life and daily routine.

 

How do you LOVE MORE?

Man, this is a great question. I surround myself with people that bring only the most positive, supportive, great vibes my way. LOVE is such a two way street, and I learned pretty recently that allowing space for those who love hard and love true is one of the best ways to live an empowered life. I am also big on the importance of loving myself — through daily mantras, being good to my body, making healthy choices, challenging myself, and never beating myself up for making “mistakes.”

 

How do you NURTURE YOURSELF?

Yoga, meditation, hydration, lots of good rest, nights in with friends, massages, facials, investing in nutritious food, educating myself on what’s important to me. Above all, nurturing myself means spending time alone and drawing inward when need be. I am an extrovert and a people pleaser, so sometimes stepping back and reflecting is what I need to really nurture myself and feel my very best.

 

How do you SLEEP DEEP?

By exercising during the day, staying super hydrated, and trying to let my brain wind wayyyy down before I get into bed. Lots of reading, no electronics in bed, and lots of snuggling with my sweet kitten Hudson.

 

How do you STRESS LESS?

I meditate, and I remind myself that whatever is no longer serving me, I have permission to let go of.

 

How do you SWEAT OFTEN?

Running, yoga, marathon training, HIIT at OrangeTheory fitness, hiking with friends on the weekends, and swimming/surfing in my beloved ocean!