By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
If you are lactose intolerant, which reportedly about 30 million of American adults have some degree of by age 20, then regular cow’s Milk may not be the beverage for you. Some of you may also be vegan or simply prefer a dairy-free diet.
Milk alternatives like almond, soy, hemp and oat milk are just a handful of the many plant-based milks out there. And another milk alternative I have been interested to explore is Rice Milk.
What is rice milk?
To state the obvious, Rice milk is made from rice (an edible starchy cereal grain). More specifically, it is made from boiled brown or white rice (I highly recommend only going for brown rice milk, because brown rice is more nutrient-dense and less processed than white rice). Rice milk can also be made from milled rice and water. Check out how to make your own brown rice milk at home, here.
Is rice milk the milk alternative for you?
Well, it really depends. It depends on a variety of factors, including your specific individual nutrient needs and current health status. So let’s go through some of the pros and cons of rice milk and how this milk alternative may affect certain groups of people.
Rice milk may be great if you have allergies.
Several reports say that rice milk is the most hypoallergenic milk substitute. Some people are not only lactose intolerant and unable to have cow’s milk, but they may also have a soy and nut allergy (which takes soy and almond milk off their list of milk alternatives). Rice milk is also said to be more digestible than soy milk.
Rice milk appears to be safe for those who have G6PD deficiency, but if you have this condition it is imperative that you speak with a competent healthcare professional about what foods you are including in your daily diet.
Rice milk is cholesterol-free.
According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 95 million U.S. adults age 20 or older have total cholesterol levels higher than 200 mg/dL. Nearly 29 million adult Americans have total cholesterol levels higher than 240 mg/dL.
(To find out what is considered to be a healthy cholesterol level, check out this pH blog).
Furthermore, the CDC reports that seven percent of American children and adolescents (ages 6 to 19) have high cholesterol.
Having high cholesterol raises the risk of developing heart disease and having a stroke. So for those with high cholesterol, it may be important to incorporate low-cholesterol or cholesterol-free foods into the diet. Rice milk may be a viable option, especially because regular cow’s milk contains cholesterol. Rice milk is also low in fat.
Rice milk is more naturally sweet.
Key word here being “naturally.” For some people who try plant-based milks, a major complaint is that it just doesn’t taste the same as regular old cow’s milk or that it just tastes weird! And although taste has nothing to do with health and nutrient value, we want people to enjoy their lives and consume healthy foods and beverages they actually enjoy the taste of. During the process of making rice milk and milling the rice, the carbohydrates in the rice become sugar which gives it a natural, sweet taste.
Downsides to rice milk?
I think you can gather that if you are following a low-carb diet, rice milk might not be the best option for you. However, I’m not really one to be an advocate for any “low-anything” diet, unless it is per the instruction of a competent healthcare professional.
So if you are overall healthy and don’t need to lose weight in a drastic way, I think a cup of brown rice milk thrown in your pre-workout smoothie is great to give you some energy before your workout.
On the other hand, due to its higher carbohydrate and natural sugar content, rice milk may not be a good milk alternative option for those who are prediabetic or diabetic, as rice milk may cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
Another factor to keep in mind is that rice milk is low in protein. If you are going to choose this milk alternative, be aware you may need to get enough protein on a daily basis from other food sources such as legumes and fish.
Another major downside to rice milk is that it has less nutrients than most other plant-based milks. For example, it does not contain the heart healthy fats you get from almond milk.
However, many milk alternatives are fortified with nutrients found in regular cow’s milk, including vitamin D, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and calcium. But not all plant-based milks are fortified equally so check whether the rice milk you buy is fortified appropriately.
For example, a registered dietician in this video discusses how some plant-based milks are fortified up to 45 percent (per serving which is usually a cup) of the daily value for calcium whereas others may only be fortified up to 10 percent. She then points out a brand of rice milk that is fortified up to 30 percent of the daily value for calcium.
The daily value of calcium for most people is 1,000 milligrams. So 30 percent per cup would be 300 milligrams of calcium, and that is about the amount of calcium you would find in a regular cup of cow’s milk.
(The dietician then points out a coconut milk that is only fortified at 10 percent for calcium).
And several reports say that rice milk tends to be very highly fortified with nutrients in general.
So when you are picking out your milk alternative, be sure to look at these percentages regarding nutrient value. And remember to avoid buying milk alternatives with additives and sugars if possible.
Go for organic or make your own milk alternative at home. As always, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any existing health issues, speak with a competent healthcare professional about which milk alternative is best for you. Also consult your pediatrician about whether cow’s milk or a plant-based milk is best for your child.
Do you like rice milk? What is your favorite milk alternative?
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.