Episode 17 – Milk and Milk Alternatives: the Debates, the Science, and Our RD Opinions

Cow’s milk intake is on a steep decline while dairy alternatives soar in popularity. What’s the reason behind this industry change and is it warranted? We piece apart the various debates surrounding the use of dairy alternatives and piece apart the science to see where nutrition experts weigh in with regard to what’s best. Join us for a trendy topic with lots of RD opinions!

Shownotes and Resources:

Some High-Calcium Foods to Try: 

  • Tofu made with calcium-sulfate 350 mg per ½ cup
  • Sardines, canned, with bones 325 mg per 3 ounces
  • Cooked collard greens 210 mg per ½ cup
  • Cooked bok choy 190 mg per ½ cup
  • Canned salmon 181 mg per 3 ounces
  • Figs 135 mg per 5 figs
  • Cooked white beans 120 mg per ½ cup
  • Cooked spinach 99 mg per ½ cup
  • Almonds 93 mg per ¼ cup
  • Cooked kale 90 mg per 1 cup, raw
  • Chia seeds 60 mg per tablespoon
  • Sesame seeds 51 mg per tablespoon
Non-Dairy Milk Pros Cons
Almond Unsweetened = fewer calories, less fat, less carbohydrate

High in calcium, vit D, vit E

Does not contain soy

Some companies adding pea protein

Low in protein (1 gram/cup)

Sweetened varieties high in sugar (16 grams/cup!)

Carrageenan – Some people are sensitive to this seaweed-based thickener and stabilizer sometimes used in non-dairy beverages.

Soy Similar amount of K+ to cow’s milk

Highest in protein and same as cow’s milk (8 g/cup)

Fortified with vitamins A, D, B12, calcium but naturally contains calcium and vit D


Sweetened varieties high in sugar

Coconut Creamy texture

Saturated fat from MCT

No sugar

Fortified with vit A, B12, D, calcium

50% more calcium than cow’s milk

No fiber or protein
Rice Good for nut or soy allergies / non-allergenic

Neutral flavor

Less creamy

No protein

Highest in carbohydrate/sugar

Thinnest consistency

Least favorable nutrition profile

Hemp High in ALA form of omega 3’s

Good in baked goods – neutral flavor

Offers 2-3 grams protein/cup

“Earthy” flavor that can be unpleasant to some
Oat Provider fiber (2 grams/cup) and iron

Contains phytochemicals

Protein-containing (AMT??)

Low in protein

Naturally-occuring sugars make it the high in carb

Macadamia Contains monounsaturated fat Low in protein
Pea Neutral taste

8 grams of protein per cup

We don’t love the taste 🙂
Flax Similar nutrition profile to almond

Omega 3’s from ALA

No protein

Thickeners and emulsifiers for pleasant mouthfeel

Food and Nutrition Research – Milk and Dairy Products: Good of Bad for Human Health? An Assessment of the Totality of Scientific Research

NPR – Why Are Americans Drinking Less Cow’s Milk? 

Food & Nutrition – Help Meet Calcium Needs with Non-Dairy Sources 

Food & Nutrition – Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives

Food & Nutrition – Got Non-Dairy Beverage? 

Food & Nutrition – What is the Best Milk Substitute?  

Food & Wine – Non-Dairy Milks Ranked 

Taste of Home – Best Dairy-Free Milk Alternatives  

Vox – “Fake Milk”: Why the Dairy Industry is Boiling over Plant-Based Milks