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Almond, Coconut, Oat, Soy Milk: What’s the Difference?

Whether you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or just dabbling in the world of nut or plant-based milks, you know there is a large variety to choose from. It’s not just almond milk anymore – coconut, oat and soy are all alternatives to traditional cow’s milk. 


Dairy milk is loaded with essential nutrients, like potassium, protein and calcium, which helps maintain bone density. There’s plenty of evidence pointing to the benefits of milk, however some people may not tolerate dairy due to lactose intolerance. 

This may explain why since 1975, fluid dairy milk consumption per person has declined by 39.7 percent.These industry losses could be affected by the consumer shift toward plant-based alternatives that now make up 15 percent of total milk sales. 

Though less protein-dense than cow’s milk, non-dairy alternatives do offer many health benefits, too. Here’s a guide to four popular dairy alternatives:

Almond Milk
Almond milk can be made by blending almonds or almond butter with water. Most of the fiber is removed when the solid almonds are strained from the mixture, but it has other nutritional benefits and is a popular choice for those who avoid dairy. 

  • Almond milk is vegan and lactose-free. 
  • Original, unsweetened almond milk has the lowest number of calories of all nut milk options with only about 39 calories per cup. 
  • There’s only 1 gram of protein, but many brands are fortified with calcium, potassium and vitamins A, D and E. 

Nutritional breakdown:

Calories

39

Protein

1.05 g

Fat

2.52 g

Carbohydrates

3.43 g

Vitamin D

25% DV

Calcium

48% DV

Potassium

176 mg

*Nutrition facts based on United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database

Coconut Milk
This creamy milk alternative is made from water and the white flesh of brown coconuts. It may be a good option if you’re sticking to a low carb diet. The majority of coconut milk’s calories come from saturated fat.

  • Coconut milk is vegan and lactose-free. 
  • One cup of unsweetened coconut milk contains 45 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. 
  • It has the lowest carbohydrate content of the milk alternative options.
  • It doesn’t have any protein, but is often fortified with calcium and vitamins A, B12 and D. 

Nutritional breakdown:

Calories

45

Protein

0 g

Fat

4.5 g

Carbohydrates

1 g

Vitamin D

30% DV

Vitamin B12

50% DV

Vitamin A

10% DV

Calcium

10% DV

*Nutrition facts based on one coconut milk option on the market.

Oat Milk
Oat milk is made from steel cut oats and water. The calorie count is about the same as cow’s milk, but is double the carbs with about half the protein and fat. Oat milk is high in fiber and beta-glucan which may aid in lowering LDL cholesterol levels. 

  • Oat milk is dairy, nut and gluten free**. 
  • Oat milk contains the most calories, at 120 per cup. 
  • It has 3 grams of protein and is higher in carbohydrates (16 grams) and fiber than the other milk alternatives. 
  • It’s low-fat and many are fortified with calcium, potassium and vitamins A, B and D.

Nutritional breakdown:

Calories

120

Protein

3 g

Fat

5 g

Carbohydrates

16 g

Vitamin D

20% DV

Calcium

25% DV

Potassium

390 mg

*Based on one of the unsweetened oat milk options on the market.
** Oats generally don’t contain gluten. If you are gluten-intolerant, check to make sure it’s certified gluten free. 

Soy Milk
Unlike most plant proteins, soybeans contain all essential amino acids. Soy milk has nearly the same amount of protein as cow’s milk, but half the calories, fat and carbohydrates. Soy is a common allergen, so mange your intake or talk to a health care provider for more information. 

  • Soy milk is lactose and cholesterol free and low in saturated fat. 
  • One cup of soy milk has 100 calories and the highest protein content at 7 grams. 
  • It has high levels of calcium and vitamin A and also contains some iron and B12. 

Nutritional breakdown:

Calories

100

Protein

7 g

Fat

4 g

Carbohydrates

8 g

Vitamin A

10% DV

Calcium

30% DV

Iron

6% DV

*Nutrition facts based on one of the unsweetened soymilk options.