A recent study from McGill University points to soy milk as the best plant-based milk option out there, but the reality isn’t quite so simple.
The study examined the four most commonly consumed plant-based milks around the world: soy, almond, rice, and coconut. It compared them not only to one another but also to cow’s milk, which was the “clear winner” from a nutritional standpoint: the authors write that it has the “perfect composition of nutrients” for baby cows and is similar to the composition of human breast milk.
Out of the plant-based options, however, soy milk came out on top, and from a purely nutrient-based standpoint, it’s hard to argue: soy milk, the scientists found, “was found to be the most comparable to cow’s milk in terms of overall nutrient balance,” reports TIME. “It’s also the highest in protein of all the alternative milk options studied, with about 7 to 12 grams (and about 95 calories) per 8-ounce serving.”
By comparison, rice milk, especially, has relatively low levels of nutrients and a higher sugar content, leading the study authors to posit that infants consuming rice milk could even suffer from malnutrition.
Coconut milk, meanwhile, was found to be very low in protein, though the report does applaud its effects on good cholesterol; and almond milk, while rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and relatively low in calories, was found to be lower in both protein and carbohydrates than either cow’s or soy milk.