What Can I Drink Instead of Soy Milk?

The most frequent question I get is probably “What can I drink instead of soy milk?”   Here’s a cross section of those letters and some answers.

Since I’m lactose intolerant, sometimes I substitute milk with soy milk.  What should I do if soy milk is not so good after all?  Rice milk, almond milk?   — Stacy

Rice, oat, almond and other dairy alternatives are better than the soy because they do not contain plant estrogens, but  I cannot recommend any of these highly processed products.

For starters, they have no nutritional value to speak of.   Worse, they are usually loaded up with sugar to make them palatable   The companies also add cheap, poor quality, hard-to-absorb calcium, Vitamin D2 (instead of the better D3) and other supplements to give them a nutritional profile similar to that of dairy.   And why do all these companies add D2 instead of the far superior D3 and beta carotene instead of true Vitamin A?  It’s so these non dairy products will be acceptable to vegans.

What to drink instead?    Many people who cannot tolerate supermarket or health food store milks find they thrive on raw milk from pastured cows.   For info on the benefits, safety and availability in your area, go to www.realmilk.com.   If you cannot obtain raw milk where you live — or are one of the rare people who cannot tolerate any dairy whatsoever — then consider coconut tonic.  You’ll find the recipe below at the end of this blog. You can also get lots of absorbable calcium and other macro and trace minerals by including homemade bone broth in your diet.   There’s plenty on brothmaking right on this website as well as two wonderful books by Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig:  Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat/Lose Fat.

I came across the advice to avoid soy. We make our own soy/oat milk from organic soy beans and can also make our own tofu from it. Is this still bad?  We are vegetarian and gluten free so being able to eat something with protein is very valuable to us .  .  . — Marta

We want you to know we make our own soy milk.   It’s organic and fresh and no sugar or cheap additives.   We use the SoyToy.  You do your readers a grave disservice by not telling them about this wonderful little machine.   —  Jason

Homemade soy milk would appear to be fresher, cleaner and safer than readymade packaged brews.  And if you insist on soy, organic is far superior to GMO.     That said, it’s “buyer beware” when it comes to some of the speedy new machines on the market.   Robert Cohen — the “Not Milk Man” who has assertively publicized the health dangers of commercial dairy products — is the man who came up with the soy milk machine known as the SoyToy.  Ignoring centuries of accrued wisdom, Cohen boasts that his machine makes soy milk in only 25 minutes and does not require presoaked beans.  Soy milk that has not been properly soaked, skimmed and cooked at length is “all natural” all right and guaranteed to deliver a full load of the soybean’s antinutrients.   While it’s tempting to try to improve on tradition,  our Asian elders knew better.

I enjoyed your article/book on soy.    Am I to understand that ALL soy is bad for us?I drink “SILK” brand organic unsweetened soy milk.  It has no additives, sugar etc. Is this product included in your evaluation of the hazards of soy?     I am doing all I can to be healthy.  I am told that dairy is not good so I went to soy for my oatmeal breakfast and dairy substitute.    Please share your opinion with me on this as I sincerely value your input — Barbara

It is good that the soymilk you drink is unsweetened and organic, but it still contains a load of phytoestrogens as well as phytates, protease inhibitors etc.  The level of isoflavones you are getting from just one glass could lead to thyroid damage within a few months.   Risk is not certainty, but wise to exercise caution here.    Old-fashioned fermented soy products like miso, natto, tempeh are fine.  A little tofu — a precipitated product —  once in awhile is not a problem for most people, but soy milk every day puts you at risk.   I would agree with you that there are many problems with supermarket dairy and also with the pseudo “organic” ultra-pasteurized dairy found in most health food stores.  However, raw milk from healthy pastured cows can be incredibly healing.  For info on the benefits, safety and availability in your area, go to www.realmilk.com.   If that’s not for you,  then consider coconut tonic.   You will find the recipe is below.

I was on soy milk but will stop using the soy due to your nutritional information.    I have tried almond milk but it is too sweet, as I do not use sugar except for fresh fruit.    Rice milk also seems to sweet.  What else might I do?   I have never tried raw milk.  — Jean

You are in for a treat!   To find a good source of raw milk in your area, call or email your local WAPF chapter leader.   If raw milk doesn’t work out for you,  try coconut tonic.   Recipe below.

I am not really a fan, as it does not seem the right term, but an avid reader of your information.  After consulting your information and book, I immediately stopped giving my daughter soy milk —  at age 2 — even though it was recommended by her doctor in place of milk.  Since this realization — discovery — we have been on a roller coaster ride of problems.   You have such an extensive knowledge on this issue – I wanted to ask you if you have delved into the corn area. We discovered my daughter has an allergy to milk, wheat, citrus, soy and corn (plus more). These are not considered “true” allergies by most medical professionals and they have suggested therapy and psychological medications (Ritalin, etc) and even suggested that it is simply bad parenting. I have her on an allergy regimen, p/n or provocation/negation therapy encouraged by Dr. Doris Rapp, MD and discovered that the corn is the most severe of her allergies. You must know, as a nutritionist and doctor yourself how prevalent corn is and what a nightmare it is for people with sensitivities. It strikes me that my daughter might have a Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) allergy and not a corn/soy allergy per se. But anyway the point of the email is to ask if you are or have delved into this area in addition to soy or if you would consider it. The medical community all but ignores it – like we are somehow just supposed to get over it or ignore it. Thank you for your time —   Sharon

When severe allergies are in the picture,  it is obviously very challenging  to find  safe foods to eat.  Milk, wheat, soy and corn ingredients are present in just about every food product manufactured today.   Corn allergies are extremely prevalent and becoming increasingly virulent because of GMO issues.    I am sad to say that your daughter is not alone in reacting severely to corn.

What to do?   Reading ingredient lists on all foods you buy is mandatory.  But given the fact that incorrect labeling or cross contamination would put your daughter’s life at risk, my advice is to quit reading labels and stop buying anything that has a label.   In other words, prepare all your family’s foods from scratch.   Yes, a lot of work, but relying on real foods, whole foods and slow foods is not only the safest route for your daughter but the healthiest for your entire family.   The cookbook Nourishing Traditions will help though you obviously must choose recipes free of any ingredients your daughter might react to.

The most important advice I have for you is to start making genuine bone broth.  I suggest you serve it to your daughter several times a day  — as plain broth, soups, stews or gravies.   I also would increase the broth in her diet by cooking rice, quinoa or other grains she tolerates using broth in place of of water.   She may also benefit greatly from the use of coconut milk in soups, stews, and other recipes.   It’s great in curries and many other Indian and Thai recipes as well as a substitute for dairy in chowders or other cream soups.  You can also use some coconut milk as well as broth when making rice.    Using broth and coconut milk will do much to help heal your daughter’s gut,  which is the first step towards reducing her sensitivities and allergies and beginning the healing process.    Very few people are truly allergic to animal products, but we’re seeing more and more people reacting  to the flesh and eggs of animals fed soy, corn, wheat and other allergenic ingredients.   For this reason you may need to buy grass-fed meats.   Do make sure these animals are not “finished” on corn, soy or wheat in the weeks prior to being butchered as that could be problematic for your daughter.   Use a rich variety of beef, lamb, chicken, turkey and fish broths, if possible.   Variety is important for all of us, but especially for allergic individuals who can easily find themselves developing allergies to foods they overconsume.

I have read through some of your stuff as it relates to SOY and the danger to people that drink it.  I have to ask, what does somebody do that suffers from severe milk allergies and can’t drink milk and has to use SOY or one of the other alternatives.   My daughter is 19 and has never been able to have milk due to her life threatening allergies.   As a result she has been on SOY, (yes, SOY formula, because at the time that was the only thing that was available for her) since her birth.  I would like to get her on something else, and we are looking for a sub for soy.  It can’t be milk but we are looking around.  Keep situations like this in mind when you talk about your stuff.      — Katherine

I am sorry to hear of your daughter’s challenges.   We at the Weston A. Price Foundation have been offering non-dairy options to soy formula and soy milk for years. Soy has never been the only option though many pediatricians remain unaware of either the dangers or alternatives.    Now that your daughter is grown up,  I hope some of the soy milk options discussed here  will work for her.   As for an alternative to soy infant formula, I advise parents to consider a homemade meat-based formula.    Before soy formula entered the market, Gerbers even offered a meat based formula commercially.   To find the meat-based formula designed by Dr. Mary Enig — and other healthy homemade formulas —  visit the Children Health’s section of this website.    We are doing our best to get the word out.    Please help us spread the word.

Coconut Milk Tonic

1 can whole coconut milk 3/4 cup filtered water

1-2 tablespoons maple syrup  (or use stevia instead)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon KAL brand dolomite powder

Mix all ingredients and heat gently. Serve in a mug. Note: Coconut Milk Tonic contains the same calories, fat and calcium as whole milk. However, this recipe should not be used as a substitute for raw milk in our recipes for baby formula. The tonic is still missing many compounds and nutrients found in raw milk. However, Coconut Milk Tonic can be used as a substitute for milk in a diet containing a variety of whole foods.

This recipe is from page 220 of Eat Fat, Lose Fat: Lose Weight and Feel Great with Three Delicious Science-Based Coconut Diets by Dr. Mary Enig and Sally Fallon (Hudson Street Press, 2005)

Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, is The Naughty NutritionistTM because of her ability to outrageously and humorously debunk nutritional myths. A popular guest on radio and television, she has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, ABC's View from the Bay, NPR's People's Pharmacy and numerous other shows. Her own radio show, "Naughty Nutrition with Dr. Kaayla Daniel," launches April 2011 on World of Women Radio. Dr. Daniel is the author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food, a popular speaker at Wise Traditions and other conferences, and recipient of its 2005 Integrity in Science Award. Her website is www.naughtynutritionist.com and she can be reached at Kaayla@DrKaaylaDaniel.com.

11 Responses to What Can I Drink Instead of Soy Milk?

  1. Janis Elliott says:

    Wondering if you can tell me more about Almond Milk. Why is it so bad?? I am confused

    • Dr Kaayla Daniel says:

      Low nutritional value. High in carbs. Inferior added supplements.

    • Dr Kaayla Daniel says:

      Poor nutritional value. High in carbs and in some brands a lot of added sugar. Hard to absorb poor quality added supplements, including vegetarian D2. . .

  2. Sara says:

    Dr. Kaayla, can I give homemade almond milk to my 14 month-old baby without the almond extract and the vanilla extract (I made vanilla extract with vodka 2 years ago but I am not giving vodka to a baby…)? He has been on homemade WAP baby formula recipe and was thriving but he developed eczema. Raw milk is the trigger and it is getting worse no matter what I put on his skin (castor oil, shea butter, olive oil with oregano EO…).

    Concerning other homemade formulas, grassfed liver is not an option here where I live and neither is coconut… we have brown rice but I am hesitant in doing so because my baby hasn’t had any grains or seeds yet…

    I really need some help with this. TIA!

    • Michael says:

      Sara, what did you do with your baby and how is he doing now, about 2.5 years later? I wonder if you and your baby increased your intake of pro- and pre-biotic foods and the response?

  3. Serena Thompson says:

    Can you chill the coconut tonic to have on bran breakfast cereal?

  4. James says:

    Re: Almond milk and coconut milk being too sweet? They sell unsweetened cartons. You do not have to buy the sweetened containers. Lose the sweet tooth. Also, vitamin D3 capsules can be taken. Jarrow, Carlson, and others available. The amount of vit D in milk is not much and will not put a dent in your daily requirements. Just my opinion.

    SO Delicious Coconut Milk – unsweetened
    Almond Breeze – unsweetened

  5. Naz says:

    My 15 month old eats a variety of meats, beans, rice–a well rounded diet. But she has allergies to dairy and nuts (previously she didn’t do well with coconut either). I’m at a loss as to how to provide her with calcium and vitamin D requirements. She also didn’t respond well to fortified orange juice and the only option left seems to be soymilk. She is getting enough calories because she is growing, but I’m still concerned about the calcium, vitamin D and phosphates that are present in soy milk and cow milk. Please help!

    • Tim Boyd says:

      From Sally:

      For vitamin D, and the balancing vitamin A, your child needs cod liver oil. We recommend Green Pasture, 1/2 tsp per day, and it is easy to give with the syringe that comes with the bottle. Do not give vitamin D alone. As for dairy, have you tried raw milk? (Raw, whole milk from pastured cows) Most children who are allergic to dairy do fine on raw milk. For nuts, try soaking them to make crispy nuts (recipe in Nourishing Traditions)

      • Stephanie says:

        Actually, Tim (if you are still around a year later), most children who are allergic to dairy canNOT tolerate raw dairy at all! IgE -mediated (in other words, get the epipen) food allergies to casein and whey, the two dominant proteins in milk, are not accommodated in any way. In addition, 90% of cow’s milk allergic children will also react to goat milk, in case that was the next suggestion.

        Naz, one way that we try to cover our bases with calcium for my allergic son is to give calcium carbonate/antacids like Tums as a vitamin. Since he grew 5 inches in one year (he’s now 11), I feel pretty good about his calcium intake!

  6. David Blair says:

    How do we determine if the soy milk one grandson has been given (2 glasses a day) and soy-based formula another grandson gets in a bottle (three times a day) has damaged them? Can the damage be reversed?

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