Taste Test: New processing techniques have vastly improved the taste of soy milk (thank goodness). But like high quality chocolate, each brand has its own unique taste. Shop around until you find one that pleases your palate. A good soy drink will have a thicker, richer texture than milk.
Brownie Points: "There's data indicating that soy's isoflavones can help fight off heart disease and some cancers," says Gidus. Replacing cow for bean in your smoothie may also reduce your LDL ("bad") cholesterol a few points. And, because soybeans are a natural source of iron, soy milk contains this important mineral that active women are commonly deficient in. (Cow's milk has no iron.) Soy milk also has the most protein of any non-dairy beverage. "This makes it a good choice post-exercise when muscles need protein to repair and get stronger," says Gidus.
Turning Sour: Soy contains phytoestrogens, a plant-based compound that scientists think may help prevent some cancers. But there's debate in the research community about the potentially negative effects of consuming too much. "A few cups of soy milk a day should pose little risk," says VanBeber. If you're worried, stick to the recommended amount of 25 grams per day. Also, much like the lactose present in milk, soy has its own tummy disturber: non-digestible carbohydrates called oligosaccharides. As these substances are broken down by bacteria in the gut, stomach discomfort can occur in some people. Soy milk may also curdle at higher temperatures making cooking a trickier undertaking.
What to Try:
Whole Foods 365 Organic Original Fortified Soy Beverage (wholefoodsmarket.com)
Per cup: 90 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 6 grams protein, 10 grams carbohydrate (6 grams sugar)
Silk Soymilk Plus Omega-3 DHA (silksoymilkplus.com)
Per cup: 110 calories, 5 grams fat, 7 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrate (6 grams sugar)
Taste Test: Its mildly sweet taste and smooth texture continue to make rice milk a popular non-dairy option.
Brownie Points: Rice is considered one of the least allergenic foods and its milk is free of lactose, so it's a godsend for milk lovers with dairy allergies.
Turning Sour: Apart from the added vitamins and minerals, Gidus says, rice milk does not offer many nutritional highlights, and has a less than impressive amount of protein. Rice milk also contains more sugar than soy milk.
What to Try:
Rice Dream Enriched Original (tastethedream.com)
Per cup: 120 calories, 2.5 grams fat, 1 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrate (10 grams sugar)