Could you discuss the nutritional differences of soy, hemp and rice milks? Also how do they perform in cooking?

Could you discuss the nutritional differences of soy, hemp and rice milks? Also how do they perform in cooking?

— M.L. M., Ashland

Nutritionally speaking, soy and hemp "milks" are more similar than rice-based beverages. Common brands of the first two products have similar calorie counts per serving (about 100), carbohydrates and sugars ( 8 to 9 grams and 6 grams, respectively). But soy milk boasts more protein (7 grams) and less fat (4 grams) than hemp milk (2 grams and 6 grams, respectively).

Rice milk has about 120 calories per serving but far more carbohydrates (23 grams) than the other two dairy alternatives, more sugar (10 grams) but less protein and fat (1 gram and 2.5 grams, respectively). That rice milk is basically a diluted rice-based syrup helps explain its relatively low nutritional value as a dairy substitute.

The other drawback to many of these "milks" is the addition of sweeteners and thickening agents, says Mary Shaw, culinary educator for Ashland Food Co-op. She makes a whole-food alternative by combining in a blender 1/4 cup almonds soaked overnight and 1 cup water. Cashews blend up even creamier, with no need to strain she says.

Soy, hemp, rice and nut milks can replace dairy in some dishes, depending on the fat content needed. But as with any recipe adaptation, you'll need to experiment and possibly adjust quantities of other ingredients.

Local cooking instructor and vegan chef Jeff Hauptman says he prefers almond and coconut milks in place of dairy. Both are interchangeable with whole milk. But both, of course, contain more saturated fat than the products you mentioned.