Dairy is still king, but stats show that milk alternatives are on the rise. The reasons are many, including dairy-intolerance issues, a trend toward plant-based proteins and a widespread perception that nondairy milk alternatives are healthier (see the Q&A on this page). Plus, the variety of milk substitutes is much broader, and tastier, than ever before. Explore these options.

Almond

Why we like it: Smooth and nutty, almond milk naturally contains a bit of calcium and vitamin E, but most brands fortify their products to contain high levels of these and other nutrients, including B vitamins. Although almond milk is low in protein (1 gram), its mild flavor makes it very versatile.

Top picks: Califia Farms Vanilla Almondmilk / Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almondmilk

Our testers say: “A perfect complement to a nutty granola.”

Best for: cereals and granolas, smoothies, baking

Soy

Why we like it: If you rely on milk for a protein source, soy is a strong alternative, offering 6–8 grams per cup (cow’s milk has 8 grams). Plus, studies have linked daily soy consumption to a reduced risk of heart disease and breast cancer, thanks to compounds called isoflavones.

Top picks: Pacific Ultra Soy Original / Simple Truth Organic Vanilla Soymilk

Our testers say: “A distinct flavor—best when lightly sweetened.”

Best for: lattes, smoothies, cooking

Coconut

Why we like it: Made from coconut flesh, coconut milk delivers ample heart-healthy fatty acids, as well as decent levels of potassium, magnesium, phosphorus and iron. Its fatty acids are a great source of lauric acid, a compound with antibacterial and antiviral properties. Downside: 0 grams of protein.

Top picks: Silk Pure Unsweetened Coconut Milk / Simple Truth Coconutmilk

Our testers say: “Rich and tropical—makes me feel like I’m on the beach!”

Best for: curries, stir-fries, lattes, smoothies, drinking plain

Cashew

Why we like it: Cashews are blended with water to make this low-calorie drink, with a milk-like look and texture, but a nutty taste. It’s low on protein, but contains micronutrients such as magnesium, vitamin K, iron and fatty acids; plus, most brands are fortified with calcium, vitamin D and B vitamins.

Top picks: So Delicious Unsweetened Cashew Milk / Silk Cashew Original / Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Cashew Blend Unsweetened Vanilla

Our testers say: “Strong nut flavor, especially when not sweetened.”

Best for: cereals and granolas, cooking, baking

Goat

Why we like it: Naturally high in calcium and protein, goat’s milk is similar to cow’s milk but is often better tolerated by those who can’t have dairy. It also contains higher levels of essential fatty acids than cow’s milk, and at least one study suggested it may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Top pick: Meyenberg Ultra-Pasteurized Goat Milk

Our testers say: “Like cow’s milk, but less sweet—has a tiny bit of an edge.”

Best for: baking, smoothies, cooking

Are milk alternatives healthier? As with most nutrition questions, there’s no simple answer. Most dietitians tout cow’s milk as an excellent source of protein, calcium and other nutrients, while other camps insist that no one can digest cow’s milk and it should be avoided. Many plant-based “milks” have far less protein than cow’s milk, but they can offer healthy micronutrients. The biggest danger: Milk alternatives may have high levels of added sugar or other added ingredients to improve taste and texture. If you’re watching your sugar intake, buy unsweetened varieties.