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Question:

Nancy, I eat a vegan diet, hence I do not drink cow’s milk. Which is a better source of protein: soy, almond or rice milk?

 

Answer:

There’s no debate: Soy milk is a far superior source of protein compared to almond or rice milk. That’s because soy, like cow’s milk, contains complete proteins and offers all the essential amino acids needed for building muscles and healthy bodies. Almond milk and rice milk, on the other hand, are protein-poor. Their labels even say, “Not to be used as an infant formula”. That says to me the products are not life sustaining. That is, a little baby can thrive on soy (or cow) milk, but not rice or almond milk. Note: the term “milk” can be misleading. A preferable term is “beverage”,  “drink” or “dairy alternative.”

 

When comparing the food labels, you can see that:

• Soy milk offers about 7 to 11 grams of protein per 8 ounces (depending on the brand).

• Almond milk offers only 1 grams of protein per 8 ounces. Almonds are expensive, so not much ends up in the beverage. You’d be better off eating a handful of whole almonds.

• Rice milk offers 1 gram protein —or less—per 8 ounces. Rice milk is mostly carbohydrate and is “watery.”

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Most almond, rice and soy beverages are fortified with calcium, but be sure to read the label because not all are fortified. For example, Nature’s Promise rice milk has 30% of the RDA for calcium whereas Rice Dream offers only 2%.

 

You want to buy a product that is not only calcium-fortified but also fortified with (at least) vitamin D and B-12.

 

In terms of taste and acceptability, you’ll want to sample several brands; they can vary greatly in taste and texture. The most popular options tend to be sweetened with rice syrup, evaporate cane juice or some other natural sweetener.

 

Here’s how some popular brands compare (8 ounces per serving):

 

Almond milk

Blue Diamond

Almond Breeze               60 calories             1 g Protein             2.5 g Fat             30% calcium

 

Rice milk

Nature’s Promise             100 calories            0 g Protein            2 g fat                  30% calcium

Rice Dream                    120 calories            1 g Protein             2.5 g Fat               2% calcium

 

Soy Milk

Silk                                  100 calories            7 g protein              4 g Fat              30% calcium

EdenSoy                          130 calories          11 g protein              4 g Fat               20% calcium

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Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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