With World Plant Milk Day rapidly approaching, we wanted to share some facts around plant based milks that we hope will provide an introduction into the wide range of cow's-milk alternatives. There are so many different reasons you might consider making the switch from cow's milk to a plant based alternative - maybe you're trying to change your consumption habits to benefit the planet, or perhaps you suddenly found yourself with a new dairy allergy. Whether you've been an oat-milk loyalist from the start or afflicted with lactose intolerance, below is some general information to help you navigate this growing trend.
A serving of cow's milk has vitamins D and A, calcium, as well as a slew of other micronutrients that are needed for a healthy diet, however, there is no rule or requirement stating you need to drink/ingest milk specifically to receive them. While there has been plenty of propaganda about how drinking milk leads to strong bones, the research proving things like cow's milk causing less bone fractures or breaks is limited. There are other ways to receive the same nutrients, for example you could always take a calcium supplement or other vitamins as needed.
The production of dairy products contributes significantly to global emissions; making up roughly 4% of emissions per year. This doesn't mean the production of alternative milks is waste free or is without a significant carbon footprint, but overall plant based milks like soy and oat have lower environmental footprints and require less water to make.
Keep in mind how you use and consume cow's milk when thinking about which plant based alternative might be best for you. Unfortunately, when it comes to alternatives there really isn't a catch-all that works across the board for cooking. For example, soy milk is (overall) best used in savory cuisine, almond is great for most baked dishes, oat milk shines best in cereals and coffee, and cashew milk is great for thickening smoothies or as a substitute for cow’s milk in desserts.
When thinking about switching to a plant based milk, remember to read your labels to ensure you're getting enough nutrients. Find milk alternatives that contain good amounts of protein, vitamin D, iron, and calcium (best to aim for one with 8 or 9 grams of protein per serving). Also, be mindful of some large-scale producers of alternative milks that add a lot of sugar to improve the taste. Be sure to check how much sugar per serving the milk contains. Finally, keep an eye out for the inclusion of vitamin B12 - we can get this from eating a range of animal products, so if you're making the switch to plant based milk as a larger avoidance of animal products in your diet, you might consider brands that fortify with B12.
Making plant based milk is incredibly easy - typically it only requires water, a blender, a cheesecloth, a little patience and whichever plant based ingredient you're using (nuts, oats, coconut, soy beans, etc.)
Did you know? Oat milk contains beta-glucan, which can help lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Did you know? Coconut milk contains a kind of saturated fat called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) which may help reduce appetite, assist with weight loss, and improve blood cholesterol levels.
Did you know? Almond milk contains less than a quarter of the calories compared to cow's milk.
Did you know? Cashew milk is generally low in calories, carbohydrates and sugar.
Did you know? Soy milk is similar in nutritional value to cow's milk.