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Dumping dairy? The payoff: plant milks have a lighter impact on our overheating planet. And you have more options than ever. Choose carefully, and you can still net as much—or more—of milk’s key nutrients plus some healthy fats, all while keeping a lid on added sugar.

Here’s what to know.

1. Best Bite or Honorable Mention?  

Both meet our basic targets for calcium, vitamin D, added sugar, and saturated fat. But only Best Bites—scroll down for the full list—also meet our targets for vitamin B-12 and protein.

2. Look for calcium and vitamin D.

Our Best Bites and Honorable Mentions match dairy: at least 300 milligrams of calcium and 2.5 micrograms—that’s equal to 100 IU—of vitamin D per cup.

We say “at least” because the Food and Drug Administration now lets plant (and dairy) milks contain twice that much vitamin D, and many toss in extra calcium (see How much do you need?).

3. Cut the sugar with an “unsweet” or “original” milk.

“Unsweet” means zero added sugar, but many “original” milks don’t go much higher. For example, Silk Protein Original, Planet Oat Original, and Silk Original Soy all taste great...and they do it with no more than 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of added sugar per cup, our max for Best Bites and Honorable Mentions. (A cup of dairy milk has 12 grams of naturally occurring milk sugar.)

4. Skip coconut milk and its saturated fat.

A cup of most coconut milks has 4 to 5 grams of sat fat (20 to 25 percent of a day’s worth). Nearly all other plant milks get their fats from nuts, seeds, soy, or oils like sunflower or canola, so it’s easy to limit saturated (unhealthy) fat to 1½ grams or less—the amount in 1% dairy milk—while getting more unsaturated (healthy) fats than dairy.

5. You might want a plant milk with vitamin B-12.

It matters most if you’re over 50 or eating vegan and not already taking a multivitamin.

A vegan diet excludes the dairy, eggs, and meat that supply B-12. And, vegan or not, 10 to 30 percent of adults over 50 may have too little stomach acid to digest and absorb the “food-bound” B-12 in animal foods. So experts recommend a supplement or foods with 2.4 mcg a day of added B-12. (It’s absorbed without stomach acid.)

Our Best Bites have at least as much B-12 as dairy (1.2 mcg per cup). Since many nut milks don’t add B-12, we didn’t require it in Honorable Mentions.

6. Does protein matter? 

Not for the average adult, who consumes well over the Daily Value (50 grams). But if you eat mostly plants, you may want a decent dose of protein in your milk. So our Best Bites have at least 7 grams per cup. That’s typical for soy milk and on a par with dairy milk’s 8 grams.

Getting plenty of protein elsewhere? Our Honorable Mentions have no minimum. They include oat, hemp, and nut milks (which have around 1 to 4 grams).

7. Avoid rice milk.

Rice soaks up arsenic from the soil and water more readily than other grains do. The heavy metal is a human carcinogen and can impair learning in children. With plenty of other milks to choose from, why go there?

8. For a potassium bonus, choose soy, pea, or oat milk.

Many have enough naturally occurring or added potassium to mimic what’s in dairy milk. But you won’t find much potassium in milks made from nuts or hemp seeds, so we didn’t set a minimum for our Best Bites or Honorable Mentions.

Another soy milk perk: It’s a good source of magnesium. So is hemp milk.

9. Try one of our favorites.

Looking for a healthy, great-tasting plant milk? Try one of our top picks:

a row of plant milk cartons
Silk (Unsweet Oat), Marlena Koch - CSPI (all others).

From left to right:

  • Silk Original Soy: As much protein, potassium, calcium, D, and B-12 as dairy. Mmm.
  • Ripple Original: Pea protein milk’s nutrients look a lot like soy’s...and it tastes great.
  • Silk Original Protein: A creamy standout with 10 grams of protein and only 2 grams of sugar.
  • Planet Oat Extra Creamy: Our taste-testers’ top oat Honorable Mention.
  • Silk Unsweet Oat: Silk makes the best-tasting zero-sugar oat milk we found.

What’s next? 

Silk Next Milk
Its protein (4 grams) is no match for dairy’s (8 grams).
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

New Silk Nextmilk is “so rich and creamy, you won’t miss dairy.” “You won’t believe it’s not from a cow,” says So Delicious Wondermilk.

How do these next-generation alt-milks do it? They mix creamy oat milk, coconut milk, and coconut oil—enough coconut to add 4 to 6 grams of saturated fat per cup, alas. That’s 20 to 30 percent of a day’s worth. (They also add a little soy.)

What’s more, they don’t match dairy’s nutrients. Silk boasts that it’s an “excellent source of 6 key nutrients found in dairy”—including calcium and vitamins D and B-12—but it falls short on protein (4 grams) and potassium. Ditto for Wondermilk, which has just 1 gram of protein. To fill those gaps, go with a first-generation soy or pea protein Best Bite like Silk Original Soy or Ripple Original instead.

What else is new? 

Ripple Oatmilk with Protein
Misses an Honorable Mention by just 1 gram of added sugar.
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

Extra creamy varieties

Oat milks started it, then almond milks hopped aboard. The extra-creaminess comes from extra unsaturated oils like sunflower and (sometimes) nuts. That bumps up the calories, but at least they’re coming from healthy fats.

Oats plus protein

Yummy oat milk has one downside: It’s low in protein. Solution: Add pea protein. Califia Protein Oat Original (8 grams of protein) edges out Ripple Oatmilk    +    Protein (6 grams), but our tasters preferred the Ripple.

Barista blends

Need some oat or almond milk to foam up nicely in lattes—and not separate in hot drinks? We didn’t find any Best Bites or Honorable Mentions, but creamy Oatly Barista Edition missed by just 2 grams of added sugar.

“Carrageenan-free” claims

Most big brands have already replaced the controversial thickener—it may be linked to cancer—with safer gums like gellan, xanthan, or locust bean gum (see  So you don’t need to avoid those gums by buying a “no added gums or emulsifiers” milk (like Elmhurst or Malk), unless you have allergies or you prefer their taste. 

How much do you need? 

Many plant milks now boast “50% more calcium than dairy milk.” That means 450 mg per cup. Companies are adding up to 600 mg of calcium...and up to 5 mcg (200 IU) of vitamin D.

How much do you need?

Step 1: Check your Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for each:

  • Age 19-50: 1,000 mg calcium & 15 mcg (600 IU) vitamin D
  • Age 51-70: 1,200 mg calcium & 15 mcg (600 IU) vitamin D
  • Age 71+: 1,200 mg calcium & 20 mcg (800 IU) vitamin D
  • Age 19-50: 1,000 mg calcium & 15 mcg (600 IU) vitamin D
  • Age 51-70: 1,000 mg calcium & 15 mcg (600 IU) vitamin D
  • Age 71+: 1,200 mg calcium & 20 mcg (800 IU) vitamin D

Step 2: Do a rough tally of what you get in a typical day:


Count roughly 250 mg for each serving of dairy (150 mg for Greek yogurt), then tack on any in a multivitamin plus 250 mg from the rest of your diet.

Vitamin D

It’s rare in foods (unless it’s added, usually to cereals or milk). Most multivitamins supply at least the RDA.

Keep in mind that more calcium isn’t always better. For example, getting too much from supplements or fortified foods like plant milks could raise the risk of kidney stones. On the other hand, many people need a supplement to get enough vitamin D.

carton of Almond Breeze unsweetened original highlighting the calcium claim
Calcium varies from milk to milk. Ditto for vitamin D.
Marlena Koch - CSPI.

How do plant milks impact the planet?

chart of environmental impact of different milks
Science 360: 987, 2018 (with additional calculations by author J. Poore).

Here’s what it takes to produce a typical cup of dairy, oat, soy, almond, or rice milk in North America, say researchers. No surprise: Plants heat up our planet less than cows. Making dairy milk releases about 2½ to 3½ times as much “carbon dioxide equivalents” as making oat, soy, almond, or rice milk. Plants also gobble up less land, though almonds and rice need more water.

Our chart of plant milks

Best Bites (✔✔ ) and Honorable Mentions (✔) have no more than 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of added sugar and 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and at least 2.5 micrograms of vitamin D and 300 milligrams of calcium per cup. (Milks with a superscript “F” have at least 4 grams of sat fat.)

Best Bites also have at least 7 grams of protein and 1.2 mcg of vitamin B-12. The names of all milks with at least that much B-12 have an asterisk (*).

Note: Unless “refrigerated” or “shelf-stable” is specified, numbers for both kinds are the same.

More on plant-based foods