The Definitive Guide to Milk Alternatives (and How Healthy They Really Are)

Confession time: I once ordered a very expensive drink from one of L.A.'s trendiest coffee shops, Rubies+Diamonds, and just expected it to come with a non-dairy milk. It didn't even cross my mind to specify coconut milk because who even drinks regular milk anymore? (I kid, I kid. Mostly.) It was only after I had consumed the whole thing and got a stomachache that I realized the reason it tasted so amazing was that it had been made with real milk. There was once a time in the not-too-distant past where cow's milk was the norm, and the only readily available milk alternative was soy milk. Now, there are so many options for non-dairy milk alternatives that it's almost weird when people order soy or—gasp!—whole milk.

"I think people are becoming more conscious to the fact that what we eat has a profound effect on our health and changing our diet is one way to take control of it," registered dietitian and nutritionist Whitney English of Whitney E. RD says. "Research suggests that decreasing your intake of animals and animal products may reduce disease risk and improve many health conditions, which is why many people are cutting cow's milk out of their diets," she says.

She adds that 90% of people worldwide aren't genetically engineered to process lactose—so cutting it out can help with digestive issues.

Pro tip: No matter which non-dairy milk you choose, English recommends choosing one that's organic and non-GMO. Choose a product that doesn't contain carrageenan, she adds, because this seaweed-derived food stabilizer can cause digestive issues. Also, look for one that doesn't contain added sugar.

Whether you're an almond milk latte connoisseur or new to the world of milk alternatives, here's a definitive guide to the most popular non-dairy milk alternatives.