Sales of non-dairy milk have increased by 61 percent over the last five years, according to research by Mintel. In the same report, almost a fifth of Americans said they are reducing their consumption of dairy due to health reasons.
While lactose intolerance was a common reason to call it quits with dairy, others may face a similar problem related to protein allergies or skin problems. Many people also cited veganism by choice when they decide to exclude animal-sourced milk from their diet.
Whatever the reason may be, researchers have tried to narrow down on the best non-dairy alternative. Overall, soy milk seemed to emerge as a winner in the literature, beating out the likes of rice, almond, coconut, etc.
“It is quite clear that nutritionally soy milk is the best alternative for replacing cow’s milk in human diet,” scientists at McGill University, Canada stated in a 2018 study.
The nutritional profile of soy milk resembles that of regular milk more than any other plant-based alternative, the study reaffirmed. After all, soy has been used as a substitute for a period spanning four decades.
According to registered dietitian Sandra Arevalo, people who are getting back to a healthy weight can consume soy milk in order to boost their efforts. While regular milk contained over 100 calories per cup, the same amount of unsweetened soy milk only contains 80.
The dairy alternative also contains soy isoflavones which are high in antioxidants which can help in reducing oxidative stress and the damaging effects it has on the body. Apart from the high protein content, anti-carcinogenic properties may also be among the major benefits of this type of milk.
“Soy may [help] prevent cancer due to the high content of antioxidants and treat anemia as it contains six to eight percent of the recommended daily values of iron. It may also improve postmenopausal symptoms,” says Arevalo, who is also the spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
However, as Men’s Health points out, soy milk does have a “beany” flavor to it that may not appeal to everyone — on the other hand, many consumers have reported enjoying the taste of almond milk. Soy allergy is also one of the more common food allergies found in children.
One of the suspected but unproven downsides of soy milk is the possible worsening of hypothyroidism i.e. an underactive thyroid. But since it is still being debated, there is no reason to completely avoid soy just yet.
“Generally, it’s best to wait four hours after taking thyroid medication to consume any products that contain soy,” wrote Todd B. Nippoldt, M.D., a board-certified specialist in internal medicine and endocrinology and metabolism at the Mayo Clinic.