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As the vegan diet becomes more popular, and people are becoming more aware of food sensitivities, an overwhelming selection of alternative milks has flooded the market. Which plant-based milk is right for you? From classic soy milk to almond and even hemp milk, we’ve explored a variety of options to answer just that question.

First: What Is an Alternative Milk and Why Should I Choose It?

Any milk derived from a non-mammalian source (think: cows, sheep, goats) is considered a milk alternative. Synthetic products like coffee creamers, which are actually oil-based, technically fall into the alternative milk category, but we’ll be specifically exploring plant-based milks.

With the rise of at-home allergy tests like EverlyWell, the population as a whole is becoming more aware of food allergies and sensitivities. While the accuracy of such testing is up for debate, the trend has, without question, raised interest in dietary substitutes to combat digestive discomfort.

Another reason to substitute plant-based milks for the real deal is their decreased environmental impact. Even almond milk, which has the largest carbon footprint of all plant-based milks, is a more sustainable alternative than dairy, because its processing emits fewer greenhouse gases, and it requires less water per cup of finished product.

So... Which Alternative Milk Is Healthiest?

Soy milk has the highest level of protein of all milk substitutes, coming in at a whopping seven to 12 grams per eight-ounce cup. Compare that to eight grams in a cup of cow’s milk and you’re looking at a great addition to any morning smoothie.

However, some of the most common allergies include nuts, soy and dairy, so a soy-based alternative may not be the best choice for everyone. Enter: hemp milk. Its ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids are ideal for brain and heart health and an excellent solution if you’re facing increased dietary restrictions.

Which Alternative Milk Is Most Sustainable?

In short, based on limited research available crossing multiple classifications of alternative milks, it appears that oat milk leaves the smallest carbon footprint when compared with other options like almond, soy and coconut. It requires less land, and much less water, than its counterparts.

Which Alternative Milk Tastes the Best?

Clearly a subjective question, but we’ve found that oat milk is the most palatable when drinking it straight or using it as a coffee enhancer. Its smooth texture and subtle nuttiness make for a great beverage pairing, and an excellent cereal accompaniment.

When it comes to cooking, coconut milk takes the win. Its thick creaminess and mild flavor profile add a special oomph to any dish calling for classic cream.

Where Can I Find Alternative Milk in Sarasota?

Our growing availability of top-tier coffee shops is a great way to sample new alternative milks. Places like O & A Coffee and Supply and Perq Coffee Bar offer an array of speciality plant-based milks. To try at home, swing by Morton’s Gourmet Market, Detwiler’s Farm Market or Richard’s Foodporium for the best selection.

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