It’s hard to keep up with the alternative milk category these days, with new varieties—and plant-based foods to make not-milk out of—coming out all the time. And people go for their alternative milk of choice for all kinds of reasons, from veganism to environmental sustainability to hyper-specific health benefits. Health seems to be the most popular moivation—but which nondairy milk is healthiest?
Researchers at McGill University wanted a semi-consensus on that question. So they compared the nutritional values of the unsweetened versions of the four most common varieties—almond, soy, rice and coconut milk.
Soy milk, they found, came out the clear winner. That’s thanks to its balanced nutritional profile—high in protein, calcium, some healthy fats and isoflavones, and anti-carcinogenic phytonutrients.
The rest, all low in protein, were a mixed bag. Almond milk, while high in healthy monounsaturated fatty acids, needs other sources of nutrients to round out what it’s missing in order to provide essential nutrients. Rice milk is low in nutrition overall, as is coconut milk—which has the benefit of being low in calories, but most of them come from fat.
The researchers didn’t weigh in on the newer nondairy sources, such as pea protein, cashew or any of the combinations that brands are coming out with. But of the four traditional nondairy heavyweights, this study shows that for nutritional purposes, soy might be your best choice.