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 milk, you know there is a large variety from which to choose. It’s not just almond milk anymore – coconut, oat and soy are all alternatives to traditional cow’s milk.

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.

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.

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.5
  • 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

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 breakdowns

  Almond milk1 Coconut milk2 Oat milk3 Soy milk4
Calories 39 45 120 100 
Protein 1.05 g 0 g 3 g 7 g
Fat 2.52 g 4.5 g 5 g 4 g
Carbohydrates 3.43 g 1 g 16 g 8 g
Vitamin D 25% DV 30% DV 20% DV -
Vitamin B12 - 50% DV - -
Vitamin A - 10% DV - 10% DV
Calcium 48% DV 10% DV 25% DV 30% DV
Potassium 176 mg - 390 mg -
Iron - - - 6% DV

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom