Easily made at home and readily available in stores, rice milk offers a healthy alternative to cow's milk but lacks many of cow's milk's important nutrients. Even fortified rice milk doesn't offer the same nutrient balance. Individuals who shift from dairy to rice milk for philosophical reasons or because of allergies risk serious health problems unless they replace those lost nutritional building blocks in other parts of their menu.
Rice Dream Original rice milk holds 120 calories per 8 ounce. serving -- the same as 2 percent cow's milk. Twenty-eight grams of carbohydrates provide most of the total calories, and 2 grams of safflower oil account for 18. The serving of rice milk provides only 1 gram of simple vegetable protein, compared to the 8 grams of complex protein in cow's milk. Rice Dream Original rice milk offers only 2 percent of the recommended daily value (DV) of calcium. Fortified Rice Dream rice milk adds enough calcium to provide 30 percent of the DV and provides 25 percent of the DV of vitamin D. Other nutrients in Fortified Rice Dream include 10 percent of the DV of vitamin A, 25 percent of the DV of B12, 4 percent of the DV of iron and 15 percent of the DV of phosphorous. Nutrients in commercial rice milks vary by brand.
Modern rice milk resembles an ancient drink called horchata. Moors brought the milky beverage to Spain, but based the drink on ground tiger nuts, or chufas. Lack of chufas in Latin America prompted Spanish colonists to find substitutes. Modern Latin Americans often base the drink on rice and almonds, but older versions used squash or melon seeds. In the United States, rice milks gained popularity along with the vegan movement. More traditional vegetarian cultures like India accept ordinary dairy products as a welcome part of the daily diet.
Rice milk drinkers should bolster their diets with other sources of vitamins and protein. Rice milk may help the lactose intolerant or those with allergies to milk protein, but it doesn't serve as a nutritional cornerstone. Substituting rice milk for infant formula could cause serious diseases like kwashiorkor or rickets. Kwashiorkor results from a diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein, while the development problems of rickets stem from a lack of vitamin B12.
Many recipes for rice milk use only the simplest ingredients: rice, water, vegetable oil and salt. Cooked or raw rice may be the main part of the mix. Blended at high speed with added water and vegetable oil, the nutrients in the rice dissolve and form the milk. Settling separates fiber from the milk. Horchata, a popular Mexican drink, adds ground almonds and spices like cinnamon for extra flavor. Some American companies flavor rice milk products with brown rice sugar syrup or vanilla extract.
According to the Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom, arsenic levels in rice milk make the drink unsafe for young children up to 4 1/2 years old. Even a half pint of rice milk consumed daily could double a child's arsenic intake. Seek a doctor's advice if your child develops milk allergies and requires an alternative to cow's milk in the daily diet.
- King County Public Health: Nutritional Content - Rice Milk and Soy Milk
- Food Standards Agency: Arsenic in Rice - Research Published
- PubMed: Severe Nutritional Deficiencies in Toddlers Resulting from Health Food Milk Alternatives
- Taste the Dream: Rice Dream Enriched Refrigerated Original
- Live Ibiza: The History of Horchata
- brown rice image by Steve Lovegrove from Fotolia.com
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.