Soy milk has the best nutritional profile out of the most-commonly consumed dairy-free alternatives, according to researchers from McGill University in Montreal.
A new study, which was recently published in Journal of Food Science Technology, looked at almond, soy, rice, and coconut milk - and compared the nutritional values of the unsweetened versions.
The researchers - PhD Candidate Sai Kranthi Vanga and his supervisor Vijaya Raghavan of the Department of Bioresource Engineering - then compared the plant-milk to cow's milk, which they described as 'a wholesome, complete food, providing all major nutrients like fat, carbohydrates and proteins', and claim offers the best nutritional profile of all the milk options.
The study bills soy milk as having 'the most balanced nutritional profile', of the plant-milks, linking its health benefits to the anti-carcinogenic properties of phytonutrients present in the milk.
Rice milk fared poorly in the test, with scientists claiming it has 'sweet taste and little nutrition'.
The report says: "Concerns, apart from the high carbohydrate count, is that consumption of rice milk without proper care can result in malnutrition, especially in infants."
Coconut milk contains 'no protein and few calories, with most of them fat', according to the study; almond milk has larger amounts of healthy fats and can help lower cholesterol, but the study quotes a 'need for complementary sources of food to provide essential nutrients'.
Despite the study's assumption that cow's milk is best, many health experts disagree.
According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, '[cow 's] milk and dairy products are not necessary in the diet and can, in fact, be harmful to health'.
"Milk products also contain dietary cholesterol. Diets high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease, which remains America’s top killer."
Leading physician Dr. Michael Greger associates dairy products with harmful health conditions, including acne, cancer, asthma, Parkinson's disease, and elevated blood pressure.
The McGill researchers also noted there are potential health issues with cow's milk, saying: "The presence of various pathogens like Salmonella spp and Escherichia coli O157:H7 in milk have been associated with disease outbreaks around the world."