When it comes to losing weight, what you drink can have a major impact on your results. Milk in particular is a ubiquitous beverage choice worldwide, but not all milks are created equal from a weight management perspective. This guide will explore the 10 best milk options for weight loss based on their nutritional profiles, research studies, and other health factors.
Here’s a more in-depth look at each milk variety and why it may or may not be conducive to achieving your weight goals:
1. Oat Milk
Oat milk is rising in popularity due to its creamy texture and neutral flavor profile that lends itself well to everything from smoothies and coffee to cereal and baking. There’s also evidence it is one of the most weight-loss-friendly milk options.
- Low-Calorie Density: Unlike cow’s milk, oat milk contains only about 40-45 calories per cup or 100ml. This makes it easy to incorporate into a calorie-controlled diet without breaking the calorie bank.
- High Fiber: Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. As opposed to other milk, the complex carbs in oat milk break down slowly, preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels. The fiber aids fullness for hours after a meal, reducing snacking.
- Gut Health Support: Fiber nourishes the beneficial bacteria in our intestines, supporting weight regulation through mechanisms like hormone regulation, efficient calorie processing, and appetite cues. Oat beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber with potent prebiotic properties.
- Heart Healthy: Studies link oat milk consumption to reduced LDL cholesterol levels similar to over-the-counter statins. Oats also contain healthy fatty acids and antioxidants that promote heart and arterial health over time.
- May Prevent Cancer: Plant compounds in whole oats are thought to have anti-inflammatory and cell protective properties that may play a role in cancer risk reduction, according to population research.
- Low Glycemic Index: The slow digestion of oats helps maintain stable blood sugar and insulin levels—an advantage for appetite and craving control as well as diabetes management.
- Cleanses the Body: Oats contain compounds that assist liver detoxification and the fiber promotes bowel regularity, flushing out impurities from the digestive system that can negatively impact health and weight.
When considering all these benefits, it’s clear why oat milk ranks as the number one choice if weight loss is your goal. The filling fiber, low-calorie count, and myriad wellness factors make it a nearly ideal weight-friendly beverage option.
2. Almond Milk
Clocking in at number two is almond milk. While not as filling or nutritious as oat milk, unsweetened almond milk is still one of the better dairy milk alternatives and brings its perks:
- Lowest Calorie Nut Milk: At only 40 calories per cup of unsweetened variety, almond milk has the lowest calorie content of any major plant milk product. This includes soy, rice, coconut, and cashew milks.
- High in Unsaturated Fats: Almond milk contains roughly 2 grams of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats per serving. These aid satiety and may promote belly fat loss specifically when consumed as part of a calorie-conscious diet.
- Rich in Vitamins/Minerals: Almond milk packs a good amount of vitamin E, magnesium, riboflavin, calcium, and other nutrients in just a cup, making it a nutritious low calorie beverage.
- Versatile for Cooking/Baking: With its neutral flavor and creamy texture, unsweetened almond milk is a versatile substitute for recipes meant to use regular milk. This allows cooking and baking enjoyment on a weight loss diet.
However, almond milk is far lower in protein and fiber than oat milk. It may not aid feelings of fullness for as long or support gut and intestinal health in the same way as oat milk. For strict cutting phase of weight loss, almond milk probably won’t satisfy as well as oat milk either. Still, it’s a plant-based option with meaningful benefits worth considering.
3. Unsweetened Soy Milk
Even lower in calories than almond milk is unsweetened soy milk, with around 80-100 calories per cup depending on brand. While soy milk resembles the look and consistency of cow’s milk more closely, it provides additional perks for weight loss beyond just calories:
- Protein Powerhouse: Soy milk has a notably higher protein content than other non-dairy milk at 6-8 grams per cup. This essential macronutrient builds muscle mass, promotes fullness, and sustains metabolism all of which aid weight control.
- May Reduce Belly Fat: Isoflavones in soy are said to have mild estrogen-like effects that may specifically target dangerous visceral belly fat, according to some animal studies. Soy-based foods have also been linked to less body weight and smaller waist size in humans.
- Low on the Glycemic Index: Due to the carbs and fiber in soy milk, its carbs are digested slowly to promote stable blood sugar levels all day. This benefits metabolism and curtails cravings linked to spikes and crashes.
However, soy does contain more calories than oat milk. It also doesn’t provide as much gut-beneficial fiber or beneficial plant compounds as oats or nuts. Nonetheless, as a lower-calorie and higher-protein milk replacement, soy milk deserves consideration for weight loss.
4. Coconut Milk (Unsweetened)
While still higher in calories than almond milk at around 90 per cup, unsweetened coconut milk has properties that may aid weight loss when accounted for within a calorie deficit:
- High in MCTs: Coconut milk contains medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are metabolized differently than other fats, feeding directly into the liver and promoting fat burning. Studies tie coconut consumption to reduced abdominal fat storage.
- May Boost Metabolism: Test tube and animal research using coconut extract has found the potential to increase metabolism by 10-30% when consumed. This could help burn more calories at rest.
- Appetite Suppressing: Most research shows MCT fats promote more lasting feelings of fullness versus other fats after eating. This supports controlling intake and preventing grazing behaviors that sabotage weight loss efforts.
However, coconut milk lacks the protein and fiber of some milks, which may limit its fullness effects compared to options with more satiating macronutrients. High calories also limit coconut milk’s potential as an everyday weight-loss beverage swap. Still, those seeking a higher-fat milk alternative could find coconut milk useful.
5. Ripple Unsweetened Pea Milk
Made from yellow split peas rather than nuts or grains, Ripple pea milk lacks the calories of many similar non-dairy milks at only 60 per cup or unsweetened variety. More notably, pea protein offers key benefits:
- High Protein Super Milk: With 8 full grams of protein per cup, Ripple pea milk is comparable to cow’s milk in its protein content gram for gram. This exceeds most non-dairy options.
- Builds Muscle & Burns Calories: Protein has been found to boost calorie expenditure more than carbs or fat. It supports retention of metabolism-protecting muscle mass during weight loss as well.
- Low Glycemic Index; As with soy, the carb/fiber/protein macronutrient balance of pea milk promotes steady blood sugar and insulin control throughout the day.
On the other hand, pea milk is lower in fiber and certain vitamins like calcium compared to some milks. But for most weight loss stages, Ripple pea milk is a highly-protein, low calorie option worth considering regularly.
6. Cow’s Milk (Low-Fat or Skim Varieties)
For those uninterested in non-dairy milks, low-fat dairy like 1% or skim milk may fit into weight loss. Key points regarding skim or 1% cow’s milk:
- High Calcium: In addition to calcium benefits in maintaining muscle mass and metabolic function, research ties higher calcium intake to modestly reduced belly fat.
- Protein Source: Like pea milk, cow’s milk contains around 8 grams of protein per cup which enhances fullness and rebuilds metabolically-active muscle lost during weight loss.
- Low in Sugar/Carbs: Skim cow’s milk has only 12g carbs per cup with naturally occurring sugars and lactose for easily digestible fuel versus higher glycemic junk carbs.
However, any variety of whole cow’s milk contains more calories (about 130-150 per cup) due to saturated and monounsaturated fats. When consumed as part of an overall calorie deficit, however, low-fat dairy can aid weight control goals.
7. Rice Milk
Nutritionally, rice milk resembles almond milk in its profile but with fewer heart-healthy fats and fewer benefits beyond low calories. More specifically regarding rice milk:
- Nutritionally empty: Rice milk provides few essential nutrients compared to other milks. At only 0.5g protein per cup, it falls far short of protein powerhouses like soy, oat, pea, and dairy milk.
- Very low fiber: With less than 1g fiber per serving, rice milk doesn’t promote gut health or aid fullness like higher-fiber choices.
- High GI carbs: The carbohydrates in rice milk are rapidly digested, causing fast rises and falls in blood sugar levels that can trigger cravings. This makes it more suited for bulking muscle diets versus weight loss.
- Processing damages nutrients: During production, rice undergoes high heat processing that reduces or eliminates bioavailability of vitamins like A, D and E present in small amounts.
- May spike appetite: Some research links the glycemic properties of rice to increased appetite and food intake versus alternate grains or isoenergetic non-rice meals.
- Better choices exist: For comparable calories, other milks like unsweetened almond milk provide healthier fats or plant-based protein not found in rice milk.
While rice milk has a place as a lower calorie option alongside other substitutions, its inferior nutrient profile limits its weight management capabilities compared to top milk choices. People seeking to maximize weight control outcomes would do better choosing a more nutritious milk.
8. Hemp Milk
Hemp milk contains qualifying qualities for weight loss when accounting for calories within a total diet plan:
- Moderate Protein: Unlike rice milk, hemp milk supplies 3-4g protein per serving to aid muscle retention during calorie reduction.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: The essential fats in hemp support metabolism, and heart health, and reduce systemic inflammation linked to weight gain.
- Low Calorie: Unsweetened hemp milk has around 80 calories per cup which is less than coconut milk but provides protein and omegas lacking in coconut milk.
However, hemp contains relatively little fiber for gut benefits. Additional research on practical daily amounts is still needed to assess its anti-obesity potential specifically. Overall, hemp milk can contribute beneficial macros to a calorie-controlled weight loss plan as an option.
9. Cashew Milk
Like almond milk nutritionally, cashew milk has upsides for people mindful of calories and satiety when losing weight:
- Very Low Calorie: Unsweetened cashew milk checks in around 45 calories per cup, similar to oat milk’s calorie density.
- Monounsaturated Fat: The HEART-Check-approved fats in cashews may aid belly fat burning through mechanisms involving fat cell size regulation.
- Plentiful Micronutrients: Cashews provide important bone-supporting minerals like magnesium and phosphorus along with antioxidant vitamin K in each serving.
On the other hand, cashew milk lacks fiber and protein relative to milk alternatives higher up our list. Still, for matching oat milk’s low-calorie density, cashew milk can remain an option on a weight management regimen when consumed judiciously.
10. Homemade Milk
Depending on the base ingredient—nuts, seeds, legumes, or grains—making your own milk allows customizing recipes with specific attributes like:
- Full Control of Ingredients/Additions: No concern over added sugar, stabilizers or other unhealthy ingredients manufacturers may use.
- Addition of Appetite Suppressing Boosts: Blend in protein powder, fiber, fat sources, and other metabolism helpers, not in storebought versions.
- Flexible Macronutrient Ratios: Tailor recipes toward your needs like high protein, and low carb for weight loss versus alternative diabetes control goals.
- Budget Friendly: Bypassing store prices of packaged milks can save money to instead spend on whole foods supporting your daily calorie goals.
However, homemade milk requires time to prep and clean up. Storebought options are more convenient for those short on kitchen time. Either way, swapping heavier milks like whole cow’s for lower-calorie plant milks constitutes an effective weight loss tactic.