Rice milk and cow’s milk have many important differences despite both being called “milk.” Rice milk, also known as rice drink, has a distinctive taste that separates it from its dairy milk counterpart. In addition, rice drink has a unique nutritional makeup and offers several potential health benefits.

This article will provide details about the taste, nutritional content, and potential health benefits of rice milk.

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How Does Rice Milk Taste?

Based on the name alone, you may guess that rice milk tastes like rice soaked in milk. However, the flavor profile of this drink is a bit more complex.

Rice drink is typically a bit sweeter than dairy milk. The drink’s main ingredient (rice) is a carbohydrate that breaks down into sugar when processed. Rice milk is white or beige and has a creamy texture not unlike cow’s milk.

Many types of rice milk sold in the grocery store contain natural or artificial flavoring. This allows the drink to be offered in various flavors, including chocolate and vanilla. Other versions of the beverage are fortified with minerals like calcium and vitamins A, D, and B12 in an effort to replicate some of the health benefits of dairy milk.

Rice Milk Nutrition Facts: One Serving

A single 1-cup (8-ounce) serving of rice milk contains about 120 calories. This makes the beverage less calorically dense than a serving of whole milk, which contains about 150 calories, but higher in calories than a cup of low-fat or skim milk.

While rice drink and low-fat dairy milk have similar amounts of fat—equaling about 8 grams (g) per serving—the rice version contains no saturated fats.

Several other nutritional factors make rice drink unique from dairy milk. Most types of rice milk sold in stores contain almost no protein (1 g per serving) or fiber (0 g per serving).

In addition, rice drink is quite a bit higher than dairy milk in carbohydrates. A 1-cup serving of the rice-based liquid contains 23 g of carbs, 13 of which are from starches and 10 of which are from added sugars.

Making Rice Milk: The Commercial Process

Several steps go into making rice milk commercially. First, the rice grain is milled, meaning several components are removed. Full milling refers to removing the grain’s husk, germ, and bran to produce white rice.

While this process creates an optimal rice milk texture, it also strips away many different vitamins and nutrients. As a result, some brands of rice milk choose to partially mill their grain, which produces brown rice by removing only the husk.

Once the milling is finished, the rice is combined with water, ground into a slurry, and filtered to create a smooth liquid. Next, enzymes are used to break down the starch in the mixture. Oils, salt, stabilizers, and flavors are also typically added at this point.

Finally, the rice milk is homogenized to create creaminess and stability.

Homemade Batches

While it may not be an exact substitute for store-bought rice milk, it is also possible to create homemade versions.

To make rice milk:

  1. Combine 1 cup of cooked and cooled rice and 4 cups of water in a food processor or blender and blend the mixture until smooth
  2. Filter the liquid into a container through two layers of cheesecloth or a fine sieve to ensure any solids are removed.
  3. The rice milk can be stored in a refrigerator for up to a week.

Benefits vs. Drawbacks

Several potential health benefits make rice milk worth considering as an alternative to dairy milk. Rice milk is lactose-free. People with lactose intolerance may have an easier time digesting it. It also lacks the proteins casein and whey that trigger symptoms in those with a dairy milk allergy.

Rice drink is also low in both phosphorus and potassium, making it a better choice for people with chronic kidney disease. Rice milk that is fortified with nutrients provides comparable amounts of calcium and vitamins A, D, and B12 as dairy milk.

A few possible drawbacks should be considered. Rice milk is high in carbohydrates (carbs) and may lead to increased blood glucose levels and inflammation in people with diabetes.

Carbohydrate Warning

While rice milk is healthy to drink on a daily basis, people with diabetes or prediabetes (when blood glucose levels are not quite high enough to be considered diabetes) should use caution due to its high carbohydrate content.

Rice milk may also contain higher levels of arsenic, a naturally occurring but toxic metal found in the soil and readily absorbed by rice. While commercially available versions of the beverage are most likely low in arsenic, it is still wise to consume rice milk in moderation.

Is Rice Milk as Nutritious as Other Milk?

Rice milk can be a healthy and nutritious choice for certain people. The beverage is lower in calories than whole dairy milk and has no lactose or saturated fat. Rice milk can be a nutritious alternative for people who have nut or soy allergies and must avoid those types of plant-based milk.

Rice Milk Is Gluten-Free

Like dairy milk, rice milk does not contain gluten, making it safe for people with celiac disease.

Potential drawbacks include rice drink’s high glycemic index (a measure of how fast a food raises blood sugar levels). As such, it may not be desirable for people managing their blood sugar levels in diabetes. And because it is high in carbohydrates, it can affect other health conditions in which people need to count carbs.

Non-fortified versions of rice milk also lack the calcium, vitamins, and protein found in cow milk.

How to Choose Rice Milk?

Choosing trustworthy rice milk means paying attention to labels and nutritional information. Many people try to avoid brands that contain high amounts of added sweeteners, as the drink is already high in carbohydrates. These versions are often the ones that are chocolate or vanilla flavored.

Reading the nutritional panel and finding fortified rice milk that contains protein, calcium, and vitamins can also be important. Because everybody’s palate is unique, you may want to sample several different brands to identify which tastes the best.

Summary

Rice milk is a dairy-free alternative to traditional cow’s milk. This commercially available drink is made by combining milled rice with water and small amounts of salt, oils, and stabilizers.

While rice milk is lactose-free and provides an alternative for people with lactose intolerance, it is also high in carbohydrates and may not be the best choice for people with diabetes. Fortified rice drinks containing vitamins and nutrients and flavored variations are widely available at most grocery stores.


By Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS

Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS, is a board-certified orthopedic specialist who has practiced as a physical therapist for more than a decade.

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