5 Non-Dairy Milks To Leave on Grocery Store Shelves Right Now — Eat This Not That
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One glance around the grocery store and you’ll see that non-dairy milks have become all the rage as of late—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. That’s because 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 a February 2022 report, one-third of Americans drink non-dairy milk regularly. Also, non-dairy milk alternatives now comprise 10% of the overall milk market.

While the term “dairy-free” is often synonymous with health, 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 contain carrageenan—a harmful additive used to thicken and emulsify foods instead of gelatin to avoid the use of animal products. 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 got you covered.

RELATED: Milk Alternatives 101: Your Guide To Every Dairy-Free Milk Substitute

Pacific Barista Series Original Almond Beverage
Courtesy of Amazon

While this almond milk is cleverly marketed as a healthy milk alternative, a careful look at the ingredients list shows it should be avoided. This almond milk is low in protein and high in added sugar, with 8 grams of cane sugar 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.

“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. Many brands are removing carrageenan from their milk alternatives, but Pacific Foods has yet to follow those footsteps.”

Chobani Oat Milk Vanilla Barista Edition
Courtesy of Instacart

This oat milk might be a delicious, creamy addition to your morning coffee, but the 9 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 Eat This, Not That!, “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 cane sugar and canola oil, two ingredients which add a significant amount of calories from fat and added sugar.”

Chobani’s Oat Milk also contains phosphates—an unhealthy additive found in processed foods. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), high phosphorus levels in the blood can affect bone health and cause kidney issues. That’s because your body doesn’t absorb the phosphates added to milk like phosphorus found naturally in whole foods. Furthermore, the accumulation of phosphates in the blood is linked to an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease because it causes calcium deposits and hardening of the heart’s arteries, The Washington Post reports.

Soy Dream Enriched Original Organic Soymilk
Courtesy of Walmart

Cane sugar is listed as one of the top three ingredients in this soy milk (which are listed in order of quantity). Although the cane sugar used 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 skyrocket 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
Courtesy of Instacart

At first glance, this coconut milk may seem great for your health. However, you’ll quickly notice this particular product isn’t certified Non-GMO. Best thinks this one is skippable.

“Because of its unsweetened nature, this product contains no added sugar,” she says. “However, genetically modified organisms have been altered to increase the risk of chronic conditions and disease.”

This coconut milk is also loaded with additives and stabilizers, such as guar gum and xanthan gum. These common food additives are used frequently in many products. However, its widespread use doesn’t mean it’s 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.”

Pacific Foods Barista Series Rice Milk
Courtesy of Zoro

Once again, carrageenan makes an appearance on a Pacific Foods ingredients list. Besides that, this product is high in phosphates, guar gum, and xanthan gum—ingredients that we know are associated with health issues. This rice milk also contains carob bean gum, which is another harmful ingredient.

“While carrageenan has been linked to inflammation and other health issues, carob bean gum is indigestible and may cause issues for some people,” says Lubeck.

You can find many other non-dairy milk products that are non-GMO and free of carrageenan, added sugars, and other additives. If you’re concerned about these additives in your milk alternatives, be a conscious consumer and read the ingredients list before buying.

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