5 Non-Dairy Milks To Leave on Grocery Store Shelves Right Now
One glance around the grocery store and you'll see that non-dairy milks are booming right now—and for good reason. Non-dairy (or plant-based) milks are better for your health and the environment than cow's milk, according to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Food Science and Technology. They're lower in calories and saturated fat, require less land and water, and produce fewer greenhouse gases.
Whether you decided to ditch dairy for health purposes (e.g., lactose allergies) or ethical reasons (e.g., veganism), there's no shortage of plant-based milk options. Almond, soy, oat, cashew, coconut, rice, and pea milks are more popular than ever. According to Statista, plant-based milk substitutes now generate over $3 billion in annual U.S. sales revenue.
While the term "dairy-free" may sound healthy, many non-dairy milks contain added sugars and emulsifiers designed to mimic the rich taste and creamy texture of cow's milk. Some plant-based milks also contain carrageenan—a harmful additive used to thicken and emulsify foods. Carrageenan is extracted from a red seaweed called Irish moss, allowing manufacturers to label their product as natural or plant-based.
To avoid detrimental preservatives, additives and questionable ingredients in your non-dairy milks, these five brands should be left in the supermarket's refrigerator aisle. As for finding out which non-dairy milks you should buy, we've got you covered.
Silk Original Oatmilk
The healthiest oat milks are a simple concoction of oats (preferably organic) and water, without a lot of added ingredients. Silk Original Oatmilk is not one of these. It contains a bunch of additives, including sunflower oil, a known inflammatory. "This oat milk is a no-go with a long list of pro-inflammatory oil, additives, gums, and preservatives," according to registered dietitian Sarah Rueven, MS, RDN, CDN, founder of Rooted Wellness. It's also non-organic, low in protein (only 1 gram) and relatively high in added sugars (7 grams).
Pacific Barista Series Original Almond Beverage
Cleverly marketed as a healthy dairy alternative, this almond milk raises flags immediately upon looking at the ingredient list. "When choosing almond milk, you expect almonds to be the first (or at least second) ingredient listed on the label. But with this almond milk, almonds are ingredient number three, right after cane sugar," explains Brittany Lubeck, RD, a registered dietitian and nutrition writer. "Plus, this almond beverage contains carrageenan, an ingredient linked to inflammation, bloating, gastrointestinal upset, and even certain cancers."
It's also low in protein and high in added sugar (8 grams per serving). According to the American Heart Association, added sugars are inflammatory and spike your risk of chronic conditions—including heart disease, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and some types of cancer. When you can, opt for unsweetened varieties of non-dairy milks to limit your added sugar intake.
Chobani Oat Milk Barista Edition
This oat milk might be a delicious, creamy addition to your morning coffee, but the 7 grams of added sugar per cup make it an unwise choice to consume daily. Trista Best, RD, a registered dietitian with Balance One Supplements, tells ETNT!, "Oat milk has an added benefit of containing very little to no potential allergens by being free of soy, dairy, and nuts. However, this particular version contains […] canola oil, [an ingredient] which adds a significant amount of calories from fat."
Soy Dream Enriched Original Organic Soymilk
Cane sugar is listed among the top three ingredients in this soy milk (which are listed in order of quantity). Although the cane sugar is organic, the 4 grams per cup can still spike your blood sugar and lead to unwanted side effects, such as elevated blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes and fatty liver disease. These conditions increase your likelihood of developing heart disease and stroke.
Soy Dream's Enriched Soymilk provides other ingredients you'll want to avoid. "This milk contains unwanted additives, like carrageenan and tricalcium phosphate," Lubeck explains. "A diet high in processed foods that contain these and other additives could lead to increased inflammation and other health issues."
So Delicious Dairy-Free Organic Coconut Milk
At first glance, this coconut milk may seem great for your health. However, So Delicious' coconut milk is loaded with additives and stabilizers, such as guar gum and xanthan gum. These food additives may be commonly used in many products, but that doesn't mean they're good for you.
Lubeck explains, "Coconut milk isn't allowed to have more than 2.4 grams of guar gum per serving. This is because consuming too much guar gum may cause swelling and inflammation. Also, xanthan gum can lead to digestive problems, like gas and changes in bowel habits."
A version of this story was originally published in August 2022. It has been updated to include new information.