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Every morning, I generally eat cereal with milk

As I'm going vegan, I replaced the milk with organic soy drink with vanilla (that I greatly prefer to milk).

But I wonder if it is a good substitute to the milk, nutritionally speaking. Does it bring the nutrients that I needed from milk? Are they present in sufficient quantity?

I read that almond milk could also be used. Nutritionally speaking, is it better than a soya-based drink?

  • There are some concerns with consuming too much soy, though (don't take that article as definitive, rather, use it as a research starting point - as with most things nutritional, there is sparse/conflicting evidence and plenty of conflict and biased studies in both directions). Also there's a lot more in foods besides what is required to be printed on the labels, so you'll want to do more than just comparing nutritional labels when considering substitutes. – Jason C Apr 16 '17 at 12:24
  • This question isn't really specific to veganism, is it? A non-vegan could also be interested in replacing cow's milk -- for example, I have a friend who is lactose intolerant but not vegan, and still eats cereal for breakfast. – Nic May 14 '18 at 20:51
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This comparison of an 8oz (230 mL) serving of 1% fat cow's milk and an unsweetened soya milk may be instructive. Most people would probably agree that the nutritional profile of soya milk looks better. It provides unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and less sugar.

enter image description here

Source: One Green Planet (80 kcal is 350 kJ, 103 kcal is 431 kJ)

If you are using a sweetened soya drink, it will have a higher proportion of sugars. Different soya and other vegan milk "substitutes" have different vitamins and minerals added to them as well as different sweentening ingredients, so YMMVAPD. You should check the label (a skill all vegans develop sooner or later) for specific details. But in general, soya is high in protein and provides some calcium (and many soya drinks are fortified with calcium)

Milks made from nuts and other sources are lower in protein and generally lower in calcium (unless fortified with calcium), so if that is your concern, then soya may be the best choice for you. However, almonds provide vitamin E, fibre, and other nutrients, including calcium and iron. I personally vary my milk choices rather than sticking to a specific type, trusting that a varied diet overall will provide all the nutrients I need.

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    I added SI units, but puzzled that the nutitrional contents are already metric?! Where in the world do people use "grams per oz"? – gerrit Feb 3 '17 at 10:56
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    Crazy USians smh ;) thanks for the edit @gerrit I was planning to come back and do later but you saved my spoons – Zanna Feb 3 '17 at 10:58
  • What about oat milk? I'm not sure of almond milk in my question anymore. Maybe it was oat milk. – Niitaku Feb 3 '17 at 13:29
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    Oat milk is somewhat higher in carbohydrates and (depending on milk fat content) lower in fats. The biggest difference with oat milk is the protein content, which is much higher in cow's milk. – Alexander Rossa Feb 3 '17 at 13:45
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To answer your question I took nutritional values of some of the popular vegan alternatives. I compared:

  • Sweetened and unsweetened soy milk
  • Sweetened and unsweetened almond milk
  • Rice milk
  • Coconut milk (Alpro, not the "real thing")
  • Oat milk

Nutritionally closest possible match would be sweetened soy milk.

As you can see, it has really similar nutritional values for fat and proteins. The carbohydrates are about half of the cow's milk even though it is sweetened. You can add some sugar to it if you want. It contains marginal amounts of salt, but rather close to the cow's milk. Due to the fortification, it contains the same amounts of vitamins and minerals as regular milk. It also has some fibre, which, although not what you drink milk for, is not bad to have in your diet.

All of the other milks I compared were not as close to cow's milk, mainly regarding the fat and protein content.

Values are per 100ml until stated otherwise.

Cow's milk (Whole/3.5%fat):

Energy            268kJ (64kcal)    
Fat               3.6g  
  Saturates       2.3g  
Carbohydrate      4.7g  
  Sugars          4.7g  
Fibre             0g
Protein           3.2g  
Salt              0.1g  
Vitamin B12       0.4µg (16% of NRV)    
Calcium           120.0mg (15% of NRV)  

Soy Milk (Alpro, Sweetened):

Energy                  161kJ (39kcal)
Fat                     1.8g
  of which  saturates   0.3g
  Mono-unsaturates      0.4g
  Polyunsaturates       1.1g
Carbohydrate            2.5g
  of which  sugars      2.5g
Fibre                   0.5g
Protein                 3.0g
Salt                    0.06g
Vitamin B12             0.38µg 15%*
Calcium                 120mg 15%*

Since you are looking for good milk substitute I would suggest you to look at three things when choosing your vegan milk.

  • Protein content of around 3g
  • Carbohydrate content not lower than 2g
  • Fortification with vitamins and minerals like B12, Calcium, D or even B2

EDIT: Based on your comment, I edited my answer to include information you asked about.

  • Nice answer, thx. :) I'm not necessarily looking for exact match, but for an alternative that have the recommended nutrients for a breakfast as product I can use with my cereals. – Niitaku Feb 3 '17 at 13:24
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    I suppose you will be alright with any milk substitute then. As I mentioned, they are most of the time fortified with the relevant minerals and vitamins and when it comes to nutritional values, they are only marginally different most of the time. I was surprised a little myself, but it looks like milk is absolutely easily substitutable. – Alexander Rossa Feb 3 '17 at 13:37

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