What is Rice Milk?
And how is rice milk made?
Rice milk is a kind of dairy alternative, made by grinding up or boiling the grain and mixing with water to create a rice-flavored, drinkable beverage. Since many recipes break down the naturally complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars, the drink is quite tasty, even in unsweetened form, though it’s also found in a variety of flavors, like vanilla and chocolate.
As with a lot of the dairy alternatives, rice milk has been gaining popularity, especially for those on vegan or cruelty-free diets, or those with lactose intolerance or dairy allergies. Because rice milk production and ingredients avoid this concerns, it can be a great replacement for people seeking to avoid those sorts of problems in their diet.
So, is rice milk a healthy alternative to dairy? And how does it stack up against the myriad competitors surrounding it in the “non milk” aisle now proliferating in every health food store?
Health Benefits of Rice Milk
Is rice milk good for you?
Depending on the formulation, rice milk can be somewhat comparable to dairy, as it is often fortified with some of the same vitamins, particularly calcium, iron, and B vitamins, to mimic the healthy profile of cow milk and make it a more comparable alternative, though generally dairy is better in this regard. Rice milk also has the advantage of having no cholesterol, in addition to its lack of lactose and other potentially allergenic ingredients.
The main differences are that rice milk generally has more carbohydrates than dairy, in the form of sugars. Many rice milk recipes actually break down the complex carbohydrates found in rice into simpler sugars, making it sweeter, but increasing its composition of simple carbohydrates, such as glucose. Either way, it has more sugar than dairy. It has about the same number of calories as a glass of 2% milk (120 for an 8 ounce glass, or 240 mL), so think of it as a dairy alternative, rather than a diet drink.
It also has significantly less protein than dairy, so people switching from cow milk to rice milk should realize they will need to offset the protein loss with some other food source rich in protein. The lower composition of other healthy ingredients is also important, so a balanced diet is still essential.
Rice Milk Dangers and Side Effects
Rice milk nutrition facts
Rice milk doesn’t have any real dangers, though its reduced protein and calcium content compared to dairy means that people switching over should have a plan in mind to get their protein needs met some other way, and perhaps take some sort of multivitamin, or consume other food sources, to make up the vitamin needs, too.
Rice milk does have calcium, particularly if it’s fortified, but this may be less than the content found in dairy.
What does Rice Milk Taste Like?
Even if it’s unsweetened rice milk?
Well, it tastes like rice. But since the complex sugars are broken down during the production process (in many recipes), it actually tastes a lot better than a bowl full of plain white rice. Imagine a bowl of rice with a packet of sugar added during the cooking process, and that’s about right.
Flavored versions include chocolate, vanilla, and other varieties, which can be helpful when attempting to get kids to drink it.
Where to Buy Rice Milk
Plus, other healthy dairy alternatives
A huge number of health food stores have started, or have always been, selling rice milk alongside soy, almond, hazelnut, and other more modern concoctions, in the “not milk” aisle. Generally these are more expensive than dairy, but often last longer in the refrigerator. Rice Dream is a particularly common brand.
Some of the DIY enthusiasts even make their own rice milk, though buying the cartons is not prohibitively expensive, so it’s not something to worry much about.
For those looking for something healthy, hemp milk is a great alternative to dairy, packed with nutrients and boasting a rich, nutty flavor, and is generally healthier than rice milk. Almond milk has a significantly lower calorie count, making it great for dieters.