Food allergies impact around 20 million adults in the United States (4 million of those are children). Nine common food allergens impact most people with food allergies, so the milk you choose shouldn’t include your specific allergen(s).
Rice milk, sunflower seed milk, and oat milk are among the best milks for people with allergies.
We’ll review a total of 12 of the best milks for people with allergies and explain more about food allergies in this article!
What are the common food allergens?
While it’s possible to be allergic to any specific food, certain foods/food groups are the most likely to cause allergic reactions in people. These allergens used to be known as “the top eight”, but the addition of sesame in 2023 makes it the nine most common food allergens.
The Food and Drug Administration requires food manufacturers to disclose if products contain any of the top nine common food allergens.
The top nine common food allergens that must be disclosed on food labels are:
- Milk (usually cow’s milk, but can also be any mammal milk such as goat, camel, etc.)
- Crustacean shellfish
- Tree nuts (e.g., almonds, walnuts, pecans)
- Coconuts are also considered tree nuts for labeling purposes in the United States, even though most people with tree nut allergies can consume coconut
- Sesame (effective 1/1/23)
12 of the best milks for allergies
The following types of milk are free of cow’s milk protein, soy, tree nuts, and other major allergens. Keep in mind that some of these milks may still contain lactose and gluten, to which some people are intolerant. (An intolerance is not the same as an allergy.)
Banana milk is made by blending bananas with sunflower seeds. It’s only available from one manufacturer at this time, and that’s Mooala.
Barley milk isn’t gluten-free but is free of all of the major allergens. One of the benefits of barley milk is that it’s fortified with the highest amounts of calcium and vitamin D among non-dairy milk alternatives. It’s also a source of iron, an important nutrient in plant-based diets.
Seed milks are a great alternative to nut milks because they aren’t common allergens. Flax milk is especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a healthy fat that can help reduce inflammation.
Goat milk (and other non-cow mammal milk)
Mammal milk from animals other than cows may be suitable if you have a cow’s milk allergy. Some people with cow’s milk allergies can tolerate other mammal milk because the proteins are slightly different – but others can’t. A benefit of non-cow mammal milk is that it’s richer in protein compared to many plant-based milk alternatives.
Remember that these milks aren’t lactose-free or vegan like non-dairy milk alternatives.
Other mammal milks to consider for a cow’s milk allergy include llama milk, camel milk, buffalo milk, sheep milk, and yak milk, but these generally aren’t as easy to find as goat’s milk.
Made from the non-psychoactive part of the cannabis plant, hemp milk is rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Depending on the brand you choose, hemp milk may or may not be fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
Oat milk made with oats that aren’t cross-contaminated with gluten is naturally gluten-free and a good option for allergies. It’s higher in carbs than many seed milks, but not as high in carbs as cow’s milk.
Pea milk is made from yellow peas, a protein-rich legume, making pea milk one of the higher-protein allergy-friendly milks. Some brands add ingredients like sunflower oil as well.
As of now, there is only one manufacturer of potato milk and they’re based in Sweden, so you won’t be seeing potato milk in your grocery store any time soon! Potato milk is considered more sustainable than some nut-based milks because potatoes don’t require as much water to grow.
Pumpkin seed milk
Pumpkin seed milk is difficult to find, but you can always make your own following a DIY recipe!
Like pumpkin seed milk, quinoa milk is difficult to find, so you’ll likely need to make your own. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and free of major allergens, though!
Considered the most allergen-friendly milk, rice milk is highly recommended for people with allergies. It’s higher in carbs than some non-dairy milk alternatives, so keep that in mind if you’re on a low-carb diet such as keto.
Sunflower seed milk
Sunflower seeds are a common peanut alternative, and sunflower milk is free of other major allergens as well.
Rice milk is the least allergenic milk alternative free of the major food allergens.
If you’re allergic to cow’s milk you should drink milk that doesn’t contain the cow’s milk protein. If you’re not allergic to cow’s milk, then it’s fine to drink it if you tolerate it (some people are sensitive to the lactose in cow’s milk).
Otherwise, be sure to avoid milk that contains your specific food allergen – e.g., avoid almond milk if you have a tree nut allergy.