The term “milk” has widely expanded over the years to include countless types, textures, and flavors. It was once a foreign concept to think that milk could come from anywhere other than a mammal, but today milk can come from pretty much anywhere: nuts, seeds, grains, legumes, fruits, you name it.
It’s a good thing the definition (and product selection) of milk has expanded, because so have the many diets and eating habits that Americans choose to live by. Milk in particular is a more complicated food that tends to be something each lifestyle treats differently.
Veganism avoids dairy and any other animal byproducts. The keto diet drastically limits carbohydrates and sugar. And the paleo lifestyle avoids anything that didn’t exist in the Paleolithic age – which includes dairy, sugar, grains, legumes, and more.
Since each way of eating comes with its own specific set of confines, people adhering to these lifestyles need to look for specific types of milk to include in their diet, whether they’re replacing dairy milk or not. So if you’re vegan, keto, or paleo, which milks are best for you?
The best milk for vegans: soy milk
Since the options for vegans are pretty much wide open outside of dairy or animal-based milk, choosing the best one comes down to overall nutrition and which milk provides the best replacement for cow’s milk. In that sense, the best milk for vegans is soy milk.
Soy milk is made by soaking and grinding soybeans, which are rich in protein and nutrients. With a naturally creamy texture and a distinctive flavor that’s slightly nutty or “beany”, it can be an acquired taste – but many people love it in their coffee, cereal, smoothies, and other recipes.
Soy milk is not only tasty – and a sustainable choice, with a low carbon footprint – but it’s also the closest substitute, nutritionally speaking, to cow’s milk. At 8 grams of protein per cup (the same as cow’s milk), it contains the highest amount of protein of all of the plant-based milks.
Soybeans also contain all nine essential amino acids, meaning that soy milk is a source of complete protein. It contains antioxidants and flavonoids that can be anti-inflammatory, lower blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Considering its overall nutritional profile, soy milk is an excellent choice for vegans especially, who lack the protein that comes with animal products and need to look for it elsewhere in their diet.
The best milk for keto: hemp milk
The keto lifestyle relies on a diet that limits carb intake and focuses instead on high-fat, moderate-protein eating. Those on the keto diet have quite a few options when it comes to milk, most of them in the nut milk or seed milk categories. The key for choosing the best keto-friendly milk is to find one that’s low in carbohydrates, but ideally has a substantial amount of fat and a moderate amount of protein. The best milk for keto? Hemp milk.
Hemp milk is made by soaking hemp seeds, found in the cannabis sativa plant, in water and grinding them. This seed milk contains 0 grams of net carbs per serving, while still being high in healthy fats with a moderate amount of protein (4.5 grams and 3 grams per serving, respectively). Its nutritional profile is balanced and ideal for someone on keto, without eating into carb count.
Hemp milk is a good source of minerals like phosphorus and zinc, and it’s rich in vitamins A, D, and B12. It contains omega fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and are good for your skin and bones, as well as specific essential amino acids that reduce cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. It’s a healthy, low-carb, keto-friendly choice.
The best milk for paleo: coconut milk
The paleo diet is quite restrictive as far as overall categories of food, so milk choices are a bit more limited since on top of dairy things like grains and legumes are canceled out. However, there are still some great paleo-friendly milk options available. And there’s one that many paleo followers favor because it’s nutritious and good for digestion: the best milk for paleo is coconut milk.
Coconut milk is made by extracting the liquid from the coconut’s white, meaty flesh. It’s calorie-dense, creamy, and packed with fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Coconut milk is rich in vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin E, and several B vitamins, and it’s also a good source of minerals like iron, magnesium, and calcium.
This milk is high in saturated fat, but it’s made up of essential fatty acids that help the body function, notably the digestive system. Since it’s packed with electrolytes, coconut milk is very hydrating. It’s also good for heart health, it’s anti-inflammatory, and it helps boost the immune system. It’s a great choice to replace dairy on a paleo diet thanks to its fat content and nutritional benefits.
Here’s a list of the best milk for each diet – vegan, keto, and paleo – along with other alternative milks that are considered diet-friendly options for each lifestyle.
|Vegan-Friendly Milk||Keto-Friendly Milk||Paleo-Friendly Milk|
|Best: Soy Milk||Best: Hemp Milk||Best: Coconut Milk|
|Almond Milk||Almond Milk||Almond Milk|
|Banana Milk||Cashew Milk||Banana Milk|
|Cashew Milk||Coconut Milk||Cashew Milk|
|Coconut Milk||Flax Milk||Coconut Milk|
|Flax Milk||Hazelnut Milk||Flax Milk|
|Hazelnut Milk||Hemp Milk||Hazelnut Milk|
|Hemp Milk||Macadamia Milk||Hemp Milk|
|Macadamia Milk||Pea Milk||Macadamia Milk|
|Oat Milk||Pistachio Milk||Pistachio Milk|
|Pea Milk||Sesame Milk|
|Pistachio Milk||Walnut Milk|
Nut milks, seed milks, and fruit milks are all paleo-friendly. These include non-dairy milks like almond milk, cashew milk, hazelnut milk, macadamia milk, pistachio milk, hemp milk, flax milk, banana milk, and coconut milk.
While it depends on a person’s specific health needs and priorities, generally speaking the healthiest vegan milk is soy milk. This is due to its balanced nutritional profile and overall health benefits.
Many unsweetened plant-based and non-dairy milks have a low carbohydrate and sugar content. The milk choice with the fewest amount of carbs is hemp milk, which has 0 – 1 gram of carbs per serving.