By Rachelle LaCroix Mallik, MA, RD, LDN, Registered Dietitian and Owner of The Food Therapist, LLC
Whether used to make chai, dahi (yogurt), or haldi doodh (turmeric milk), milk is a mainstay in Indian cuisine. But many people are turning to dairy alternatives, whether due to intolerance, allergies, or interest in plant-based options. When picking a non-dairy milk, it’s important to consider the whole package and put it in context with your diet.
Here’s how some of the dairy alternatives stack up:
Soy milk contains high-quality protein in similar quantities to cow’s milk, and a recent review study from McGill University found soy has the most balanced nutritional profile compared to milk. Plus soy’s phytonutrients have been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
Oat milk is a newer addition, and has about 3-4 grams protein per cup. It can be a good option for those with nut allergies, but may need to be avoided by people with celiac disease as oats can be contaminated with gluten.
Almond or Coconut Milk
Other non-dairy milks like almond or coconut are much lower in protein than soy or cow’s milk, averaging 0-1 gram per cup compared to 7-8 grams per cup. However, almond and coconut milks (the non-dairy beverage, not the canned kind used for curries) are usually lower calorie options and may provide other nutrients like calcium and vitamin D if they are fortified.
Don’t miss out, check labels!
In addition to protein, milk naturally contains calcium and most milks in the US are fortified with vitamin D. When choosing a non-dairy milk, make sure to check labels – the Nutrition Facts or ingredients list – and buy fortified non-dairy milks with added calcium and vitamin D. If you consume non-dairy milk that is not fortified and do not consume dairy, you may want to take a separate calcium supplement. Even if you take a daily multivitamin, they tend to be low in calcium.
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Rachelle LaCroix Mallik, MA, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and owner of The Food Therapist, LLC, a private nutrition counseling practice based in Chicago. Rachelle specializes in reproductive nutrition for fertility, prenatal, and postnatal wellness. She earned a Bachelor’s with Honors in Human Nutrition at Arizona State University and a Master’s in Food Studies – Food Culture at New York University. Rachelle is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the Women’s Health Dietetic Practice Group, and she serves on the board of the Academy’s Chicago chapter.
Rachelle lives in Lakeview with her husband Ronak, baby boy Arjuna, and adopted pup Lola. She’s also a Bolly Groover – it’s her favorite form of cardio!