As I described in my Thank Heaven for Hemp Milk post, my search for a non-dairy milk lead me to choose hemp milk. I would like to provide a comparison of some of the non-dairy milk alternatives. First, a few notes:
- I am not a doctor or nutritionist, so the following comparison information is based on what I've gathered in my research. Always consult your physician when deciding on a dietary change. (Doctors don't always think to suggest hemp milk, though. I did call and "clear it" with my daughter's pediatrician before starting hemp milk, nonetheless.)
- I am comparing non-dairy milks from the perspective of choosing one for a child, as adults have different dietary needs and considerations. I am also focused on the food-allergic child, especially one with other food allergies in addition to a milk-protein allergy.
- The non-dairy milks I have chosen to compare are: hemp, coconut, sunflower (new "milk" on the market), soy, almond, flax, rice and oat milk.
- Why those? Well, if you're allergic to all the Top 8 allergens, then your options are pretty much hemp, flax and rice milk, because I would avoid coconut milk until you know for sure that it's safe. Coconut is not a "nut" as far as "tree nuts" are concerned, but is actually a "fibrous one-seeded drupe" from a coconut palm tree.
Even so, my daughter happens to be allergic to coconut, as well as tree nuts, so it's not an option for us.She's also allergic to flax seed, so that one's out, too. Your child(ren) might not have a soy, tree nut, flax seed, or oat allergy, though, so I am including those milks, as well. There's also a new sunflower seed beverage on the market.
- I'm including cow's milk at the end of the list, just to show people that it's not the only milk in town, when considering what to give your child (even if your child does not have allergies). I listed both 2% and whole milk, because unless your child is having trouble gaining weight, most pediatricians say it's OK to go with 2%, instead of whole milk, at 12 months of age. I could go on a "cow's milk is for calves" rant, but now is not the time to get into all that.
- Even though my daughter finds vanilla hemp milk to be her favorite, I will compare the original varieties of each milk type.
- I selected the "enriched" versions of each milk type, when available.
- This information is for general research purposes. There may be other non-dairy milk brands with slightly different compositions, but I think this can give you a general idea of the nutritional differences between the various milk types.
- Here is a post with additional information on the cross-contamination issues amongst the various non-dairy milks, but please check with each manufacturer to see which manufacturing/processing conditions are acceptable for your children and their particular allergy severities.
- Right off the top, note that hemp milk has more fat than the other non-dairy milks. For a child, this is a good thing. They need fat, and the right kinds of fat, for their growing minds and bodies. Yes, whole cow's milk has more fat, and saturated fat, but that's not an option for our milk-allergic children...
- When faced with only the choice of hemp, rice, flax or possibly oat milk, hemp milk looks the best, to me, with more/better fat composition, less sugar, and more protein. Sunflower milk looks like it has a good amount of potassium - more than any of the others I researched. I would say that oat milk has WAY too much sugar, for my liking. Flax milk is relatively new to the scene, but it's available at Wal-Mart, so that means it should be available to quite a few people. It's low in calories and that might not be such a good thing for a developing child who can't eat a variety of foods. It's lower in sugar than rice milk, but it doesn't have any protein.
- Hemp, rice and flax milk do not have any potassium, but if you feel that is a concern, make a "milk shake" and throw in a banana.
- For Vitamin A, Calcium, and Vitamin D, they are all pretty comparable.
- Almond milk has a lot of Vitamin E, but is out of the question for someone with an almond/tree nut allergy. The sunflower milk has the same amount of Vitamin E and the added boost of Folic Acid.
- Have you ever heard of zinc being recommended for its immunity-boosting properties? Hemp milk has 4% of an adult's RDA, which is around 10% of a toddler's RDA.
- Hemp and sunflower milk are the only ones that list folic acid.
- Again, I'm not a doctor, but I'm a little disturbed at the high level of iron in the soy milk. This makes me wonder if this was the cause of my daughter constipation issues and tummy troubles, while she was on soy milk (12-19 months of age.)
- If you Google soy and hormones, you'll get all kinds of conflicting information. I am a bit concerned about the level of soy my daughter consumed in those 14 months (soy formula and milk), but I don't think it will have any dire consequences. In this article from Babycenter.com, what most concerns me is that it mentions how phytates can decrease your child's absorption of calcium and other minerals.
- Flax milk has Omega-3 fatty acids, but hemp milk has the proper ratio of Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids.
- As for the cow's milk, which is obviously not an option for us, I still feel that it's lacking in vitamins and minerals, compared to the other milks. All of the other milks have the same, if not more, calcium than cow's milk, yet I often hear cow's milk touted as being "good for building strong bones", as if there's no other source in the world.
So, from what I have seen, hemp milk has the overall balance of fats, vitamins and minerals. I know my "report commentary" is a little hemp-biased, but I hope you will find this information helpful in your quest to find the right non-dairy milk for your child's needs. Some children may need a hypoallergenic/elemental formula even beyond 12 months of age, but I just don't know enough about those products, at this point, to proffer an opinion.