As a vegan, you’re going to be giving up all animal products, which obviously includes milk. However, that doesn’t mean that a vegan diet is one of restriction and deprivation. There are many nutritious alternatives to animal milks on the market today that are just as tasty, and provide similar nutritional value.
The first and most common milk substitute is soy milk. Soy milk is produced by soaking soy beans in water and then grinding them and extracting the liquid. You can even buy your own soy beans and do this at home.
Soy milk contains about the same amount of protein as cows milk, and can made into fresh tofu with the same process used to make fresh cheese out of dairy milk. Soy milk does not contain very much calcium, so manufactures will often fortify it with calcium carbonate, which is easily digested by humans.
Soy milk is available in plain, sweetened, and flavoured varities. Plain soy milk can be something of an acquired taste for those unfamiliar with it, so you might want to experiment with the sweetened or flavoured varieties first.
Almond milk is produced in the same way as soy milk, by soaking and grinding almonds and using the liquid. As a nut milk, it is an excellent source of protein, and like soy milk, commercial varieties are often fortified with calcium and extra vitamins and minerals. Almond milk is typically available in plain, sweetened and flavoured varieties, with the flavoured milks available as sweetened or unsweetened for those with less of a sweet tooth. Like soy milk, you can easily make almond milk at home; you can even substitute other nuts like cashews or peanuts to make your own varieties of nut milk and keep things interesting.
Rice milk is usually made from processed brown rice and is typically unsweetened because of enzymatic processes that take place during production that give it a natural sweetness. Like other milk substitutes, it is often fortified with calcium and other minerals, and makes a great milk substitute in most cooking situations; however, it contains very little protein and is high in carbohydrates. Rice milk varieties include unflavoured, and vanilla, chocolate, and almond flavours.
Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the hemp plant in the same way as soy and almond milks. It is described as a creamy beverage with a nutty taste and is something of a nutritional powerhouse. It is an excellent source of protein, as the protein it contains is more easily absorbed by the body, and it is touted as having an excellent omega- 3 and -6 ratio. In addition, one cup contains some 40 percent of your daily calcium, and it is fortified with vitamin D2, which is perfect for vegans (vitamin D3 may not be considered vegan by some, as it is produced from lanolin, which comes from sheep’s wool). Finally, hemp milk is a great alternative to those with both soy and nut allergies, and contains no cholesterol or sugar. Like the other milk substitutes, it comes in plain and flavoured varieties.
Depending on where you live there may be even more milk alternatives available for you to try. Why not try them all, and see which non-dairy milk is the right one for your vegan lifestyle?