Yesterday I blogged about unsweetened vs. sweetened soy milk and one of the other questions I'm often asked about this, "So exactly what is soy milk anyway?'
Well, soy milk is essentially milk from soy beans. It's made from pureed whole soybeans and water and because soy beans (think edamame from your favorite Japanese restaurant) are high in protein, cup for cup it has almost as much protein as cow's milk.
Soybeans are also rich in antioxidants that have been shown to protect against heart disease and prostate cancer. And it supplies fiber, heart-healthy unsaturated fats and minerals including magnesium, iron and zinc. If you've never tried it soy milk has a mild, slightly nutty taste and blends well with any flavors added to it. It can be swapped for cow's milk in nearly any recipe.
But if you don't like soy milk, you're allergic or sensitive to it or you're trying to avoid it for any reason, there are other dairy free alternatives.
Rice milk is one. It's typically made from brown rice and water, fortified with vitamins and minerals. The main advantage is that rice is one of the mildest, easiest to digest foods that very rarely triggers allergies or intolerances. The cons is that rice milk is higher in carbohydrates and much lower in protein than cow or soy milk. One cup contains about 20 g of carb and just 1 g protein so you can't really count on it as a protein source.
Also even unsweetened, rice milk tastes pretty sweet because of the natural carbohydrate content, but it has a very thin in texture, which really makes it best for liquid recipes like smoothies or in place of water in oatmeal rather than thicker, creamier sauces, soups, dips or puddings.
If you're looking for another thicker, higher protein option, consider hemp milk. It's made from ground hemp seeds and water is similar to soy in that it's a complete protein source. That means it contains all of the amino acids your bodies needs to use the protein for healing and repair. One cup contains about 4 g of protein, so a little less than soy, but hemp is also easy to digest, doesn't tend to cause gas and is considered an anti-inflammatory food, so it's great for people with sensitive digestive systems. The only con with hemp milk is that it tends to be more expensive and less readily available than the other options. Taste wise it's unique. Some people say it tastes a lot like roasted sunflower seeds and other people describe it as grassy.
Do you regularly dairy free milks? If so why and how? Please share your thoughts and questions!