the benefits of staying away from dairy milk

I try to limit my dairy intake as a general rule. Too much dairy often takes a toll on my skin and leaves me feeling sluggish. And as a longtime vegetarian I also make a concerted effort to eat less animal products for environmental and animal rights reasons. But I’m not going to lie—I can’t resist the occasional cheese plate. However, since I’ve never been a big fan of straight cow’s milk, I always opt for non-dairy alternatives in that department. But with so many milk options out there—from nut milks to coconut to hemp and everything in between—it can be hard to know which one to choose! So I did what I always do when I have diet questions, and I reached out to our resident nutritionist Kelly LeVeque of Be Well by Kelly for her take on the matter. Kelly gave me the rundown on several popular cow’s milk alternatives, which I am sharing with everyone below…

1. Soy Milk. Soy milk is to be one of the most popular non-dairy alternatives there is. The Starbuck Soy Latte has become almost as ubiquitous as it’s dairy counterpart. But despite its widespread availability and easy source of non-animal protein, Kelly recommends against having soy in your diet in general—especially in this processed form. As she touched upon in this post, soy contains phytoestrogens that can disrupt hormones, with prevalent side effects including acne, hypothyroid, infertility and even cancer.

2. Almond Milk. Almond milk is a contender for “best overall milk alternative” in Kelly’s book. It’s lacking in calcium, but loaded with Vitamin D and E. It’s also low in calories for anyone for whom that is a concern. Just make sure you choose a variety with no added sugar, and watch out for carrageenan (a harmful additive) on the ingredients list.

3. Coconut Milk. According to Kelly, real coconut milk is another amazing pick! It is a great source of manganese and MCT fats. The lauric acid present in coconut milk is even antibacterial. Opt for a minimally processed variety without additives like carrageenan or added sugar.

4. Hemp Milk. Hemp milk ties with almond for “best overall milk alternative” according to Kelly. It has all essential amino acids; omega 3 and 6; four grams of protein; Vitamins A ,D, and E; folic acid; phosphorus; magnesium; 46 percent of your RDA of calcium; Vitamin B12; and potassium. If you are looking for an alternative milk that nourishes, hemp is a pretty good bet.

5. Rice Milk. Rice milk has more carbohydrates than cow’s milk, without the fat or protein. It’s basically just starchy sugar water with very few real nutrients. Rice milk is what people who suffer from severe food allergies to dairy and nuts often turn to, but it’s not the best option out there if you can drink the others without issue.

6. Goat’s Milk. This one obviously isn’t non-dairy, but we had to include it, as it’s also become a popular alternative to cow’s milk. Goat’s milk is lower in casein and lactose than cow’s milk, and only contains A2 casein, not A1 (A1 is the protein that is linked to inflammation and allergies). This means that many people who cannot have cow’s milk will do fine with goat’s milk. Goat’s milk is also higher in MCT fats than cow’s milk, and it is easier to absorb nutrients from goat’s milk than cow’s milk.

Which milk alternative do you prefer?

I’m an almond milk gal myself, but coconut milk is great too.

xo Ilana
Team LC

Photos: Yoni Goldberg for
  • I recently hopped on the cashew milk train and I’m obsessed. I think it’s the creamiest milk alternative out there. Whenever I want a sweet treat, I drink chocolate cashew milk because it literally tastes like melted chocolate ice cream. I’m using a soy creamer right now for coffee and I know I should make the switch to something else…I’ve just been poking around for a better alternative!

  • I’m an almond milk girl if I’m choosing a non-dairy milk 🙂

    Rachael xx.

  • I usually opt for almond milk but I drink soy and coconut milk too. If I buy soy milk, it’s always a non-gmo organic one.

  • Which one tastes most like normal milk?

  • Oat milk is great with porridge. I quite like Almond milk too.

  • Great list! I can’t consume any dairy (bye cheese 🙁 ) so I’m always looking for great alternatives. I always drink Almond milk, but will be looking for hemp milk! I did not know it was that nutritious!

  • I do coconut and almond milk but I drink a latte every morning with milk and of course I will never give up cheese. I don’t have any issues with dairy though!

  • Kait Murphy

    Has anyone had Ripple milk? It’s a pea/plant based milk and has even better nutrition stats than dairy milk (meaning MUCH better nutritional profile than nut milks with more protein and calcium). I haven’t tried it yet but am so curious to hear if anyone has and what they thought?

    • Isla

      I love it! I had to get used to the taste because it’s a little different than almond milk which I usually drink, but it’s really good! The chocolate one is great too!

  • Liz Stark

    Unsweetened vanilla cashew milk is my pick!

  • Leah Kauffman

    Coconut milk, for some reason, doesn’t agree with me. I love soy milk tho. I always use that in my smoothies.

  • I want to try coconut milk and almond milk.

  • Rebecca Spellmeyer

    I have been seeing a lot about camel milk. It would be nice to see that included as well.

  • Samantha Lee

    Almond milk all day, e’ry day. I’ve been able to drink my coffee without sugar when I have a bit of almond milk poured in (the flavor makes up for the lack of sugar!).

  • Kimberly

    I was hoping this article would include how to substitute milk products for cooking! Some of these categories are better than others in different cases… can you advise?!

  • I’ve also been trying to cut down on dairy. I switched to soy milk almost two years ago thinking it’d be healthier but I had no idea that it can mess up your hormones until I read this! Now I’m not sure if I made the right decision… I tried almond milk once but I didn’t like the taste and here in Spain is really expensive. Maybe I should have tea instead.
    The one thing I’m never giving up is cheese, I love it too much! 😉

  • Kimberly Ann

    Almond milk is my favorite! I’m technically allergic to milk (even though I still have a good cheese plate) but I’m also mildly allergic to soy! Almond or coconut is my pick.

    Kim .. LAZY?!

  • Kari Guastella

    I usually stick to nonfat milk, but I’d love to incorporate some of these other options!

  • I love coconut milk in smoothies and hazelnut milk in coffee.
    I’ve tried to stop drinking cows milk because I just feel it’s bad, both for your body (in large amounts) and the industry is so cruel. Also, if you think about it, it’s not normal to drink the milk from another animal, intended for their offspring, it’s just so weird.
    But I admit, I really do like cows milk hahaa!! (I guess that’s because I’m used to it and have been brought up drinking it, but if you think about it, it’s quite a strange concept!)



  • Nikki Loren

    LOVE this post! I have tried all these and I’m still a hardcore almond milk drinker 🙂 Great in coffee, oatmeal, smoothies… everything!

  • I love using almond milk for everything! great post x

    Nev | Miss Nev

  • I don’t like milk and i have tried all other alternatives and I still don’t like milk! Lol I’m just not a milk person but I love ice cream!!

  • Caitlin Flint-Hawkins

    I’m Lactose intolerant and I use the almond milk for most of my things.

  • I’m definitely more of a soy milk kind of girl, though all of these choices sound just as delicious <3 🙂 Thanks for sharing all of these great alternatives!

    XO, Elizabeth

  • Eleanor Englund

    I just learned fairlife milk is lactose free, it also had 13 grams of protein which I believe is the highest of any alternative options. Haven’t tried it but going to for sure!

  • Anna

    I really hate soy milk! On the other hand I love almond and coconut milk. Great post, thanks for sharing
    Anna From Italy