Many people are surprised to learn how many alternatives there are to animal milk products. Plant-based milk options like oat milk, hemp milk and rice milk are a few popular options, but nut milks have rapidly emerged as the most popular. While non-dairy milk was once thought of as being primarily for the lactose intolerant, they are becoming increasingly favored by the masses thanks to their unique flavor profiles and versatility.
In terms of how to use nut milk, there are so many different ideas! You can use nut milk in place of dairy milk for baking to add some rich, creamy flavor to your baked goods. You might also love the nutty deliciousness that these options bring to cereals, coffee, protein shakes, smoothies and more. You can even use them to make healthy nice cream,
From a nutritional standpoint, nut milk will not give you the same amount of protein as dairy milk. However, most of the nut milks on the market are lower in fat, sugar and calories than your standard glass of milk. Some of them even have more calcium!1 Still, you need to be wary of added sugars. Some manufacturers also add salt or thickeners to enhance the flavor and texture, so look for options with fewer ingredients and additivities. Plus, anyone with a nut allergy should obviously steer clear of this choice.
While we find that most people are familiar with almond milk—the most popular plant-based milk holding 63% of the total market2—your nut milk options extend far beyond this widespread favorite. Check out this helpful guide to the different kinds of nut milks.
1. Almond Milk
As we’ve said, almond milk is perhaps the most well-known of the nut milk choices, so it makes sense to start our list here. Almond milk is said to have surged in popularity in 2013 when it surpassed soy milk as the most popular dairy alternative.2
Almond milk is made by blending together almonds and water or by combining water and almond butter. The mixture is then strained to create the milk alternative that we know and love. According to Medical News Today, “It has a pleasant, nutty flavor and a creamy texture similar to that of regular milk.”3
Almond milk’s biggest claim to fame, aside from its versatile texture, is its high levels of vitamin E which can help promote skin health and healthy aging.3,4 Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant and is essential for vision and brain heath.4
While almond milk is not as nutritious as cow’s milk, the fortified versions are close and can offer comparable nutrition benefits with vitamin D, vitamin A and calcium. Unlike regular plain almonds, almond milk is a low calorie beverage since it’s diluted with water. Just be sure to stick to the unsweetened versions as added sugars can abound in flavored options.3
2. Cashew Milk
Of the various nut milks on the market, cashew milk is one of the creamiest. Between its creamy texture and nutty flavor, this nut milk is a top pick for many people shifting away from dairy. And despite how rich it feels, unsweetened cashew milk has significantly fewer calories and sugar than even skim milk.5
Like almond milk, many brands of cashew milk are fortified with calcium and vitamin D.6 One brand even claims to have 50% more calcium than dairy milk!7 Cashew milk is also high in vitamin K, which is essential for healthy blood clotting and for bone health.8 Its nutty flavor and creamy texture make it a top pick for many.
Beware that cashew milk can be higher in sodium—and it lacks the protein delivered by dairy milk.6 Most experts say that if you’re getting protein from other sources, it may not be a big deal to be missing it in milk.
3. Walnut Milk
While not nearly as common as almond or cashew milk, walnut milk is a delicious and nutritious dairy alternative. It is said to have a stronger nutty flavor that you might want to keep in mind as you choose where to use it.
Walnut milk is rich in vitamin E, an essential nutrient for your immune system and skin.9 It typically comes in at around the same calories as two-percent milk, but contains less carbs.10,11 And since walnuts are a good source of plant-based omega-3s, it should come as no surprise that walnut milk is packed with these healthy fats.9
Walnuts themselves are also rich in antioxidants, essential fatty acids and even fiber, making them a bit of a nutritional powerhouse.9,12 According to the American Chemical Society, walnuts are the number one nut for heart-healthy antioxidants. They explain, “walnuts have a combination of more healthful antioxidants and higher quality antioxidants than any other nut.”12
4. Hazelnut Milk
Speaking of antioxidants, hazelnuts also deliver these protective compounds in a creamy and delicious drink. The skin of hazelnuts has three times the antioxidant levels of walnuts, and twenty-five times the levels of blackberries! As if that were not enough, hazelnut milk is said to have cardiovascular benefits as well as positive impacts on blood sugar levels. Consider hazelnut milk if you’re planning to improve your longevity, as hazelnuts are rich in vitamin E which has been shown to provide free radical protection.13
This non-dairy milk is made by blending soaked walnuts with water and straining the resulting liquid. The result is a rich and creamy nut milk that is said to have a lot of body. It’s easy to make yourself but since hazelnuts can be expensive, for many people it’s more of a treat than an everyday cereal topper or coffee creamer.14
5. Macadamia Milk
Another creamy and delicious option, macadamia milk is a sweet and versatile option that’s perfect for coffee and smoothies.
Macadamia milk is best known for being full of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which helps with everything from the brain through the skin, and even improves heart function and cardiovascular health.15
While macadamias are higher in fat than other nuts, they are mostly full of monosaturated fats which can have health benefits like reducing inflammation and oxidative stress. Fortified macadamia milk can provide essential nutrients like vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin A and calcium. It’s also rich in iron, manganese and potassium.16
Making Healthy Choices
If you’re losing weight with the Nutrisystem plan, most of these nut milks will count towards your daily Extras or PowerFuels. This will depend on the calories and the amount of protein or fat in each serving. One Extra contains 10 to 35 calories per serving. One PowerFuel is between 80 to 120 calories with at least five grams of protein or at least eight grams of total fat (with no more than four grams of saturated fat).
At the end of the day, each of these nut milks can be easy to make at home, giving you maximum control over their quality and nutritional benefits. But if you’re looking to purchase one of these non-dairy milk choices at the store, pay attention to the label to avoid excess added sugars and other unwanted additives.
Each of these nut milks can serve as a great, plant-based dairy milk alternative that can add some new flavors to your daily meals in a healthful and nutritious way.