plant based milks

The ‘white’ stuff

Well actually it’s more cream then white, however I wanted to talk about which plant based milks are the most nutritious.

With the success of Veganuary and now stepping into February, more and more people have been turning to plant based milks as a great alternative to ‘cow’s’ milk.  I often get asked which plant based milks I use in teas, cereals, smoothies as well as in baking and my answer differs depending on the use.

In my view and through much research, plant based milks have been proven to be much better for you and much more nutritious then ‘animal’ milks.  Plant based milks are environmentally friendly without causing any suffering to animals!

Here we talk about the different nutritional values between plant based milks and cows milk.

Sugars

Dairy milk contains approx. five grams of sugar per 100 grams – that’s more than most plant milks, even the sweetened varieties! Milk sugar (lactose) is a natural component of milk, so is always present. It’s a simple sugar, which means it breaks down fast and is quickly absorbed by your body in the same way as table sugar.

Unsweetened plant milks have almost no sugar and even the sweetened varieties (with apple juice) is better for you than sugar.

As a rule of thumb, milks made from pulses, nuts and seeds are lower in natural sugars and grain milks are slightly higher – simply because of the carbohydrates in the plants.

Fats

Dairy milk always contains saturated fats, which are a risk factor for heart disease. Regardless of sensationalist media stories, the advice to avoid saturated fats remains.

Coconut milk is similar, as it’s the only type of plant milk that naturally comes with higher saturated fat content. All the other plant milks have a healthy fat profile and are very low in fat. Hemp milk is unique in that it also comes with an extra dose of essential omega-3 fats, closely followed by soya with its healthy unsaturated fats. Rice, oat and almond milk have the absolutely lowest fat content.

Lowest in fat: soya, almond, oat, hemp and rice milk

Protein

Protein levels vary and although dairy milk has about the same protein content as soya milk, cow’s milk proteins, such as whey and casein, are difficult for the human body to digest. In fact, they used to make furniture glue out of casein!

Soya not only contains a good amount of protein, it is better protein! Soya protein lowers cholesterol and may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Other plant milks have less protein, but as milks are not usually the main source of protein in any diet, it’s not a big deal.

Best for protein: soya milk

Calcium

The amount of calcium you get from most fortified plant milks is the same as from cow’s milk. However, not all varieties are fortified, so check the carton! Other dairy alternatives such as yoghurts and some desserts are often fortified too. The calcium in dairy milk is why we’ve been told to drink the white stuff, but don’t forget that cow’s milk also packs a good dose of hormones and pus by default. No one needs that! There’s plenty of calcium in fortified plant milks, sesame seeds, almonds, figs, green leafy vegetables etc.

Best for calcium: all fortified plant milks

Roughage in your drink?

All plant milks contain some fibre, which is essential to good health, while dairy milk never contains any. Fibre helps to keep your digestive tract healthy and can slow down sugar digestion. Soya, almond, hemp and oat milk are best for fibre, but oat milk beats the others.

Best for fibre: oat milk

Environmental impact

It takes 1,020 litres of water to produce one litre of cow’s milk. To produce the same amount of soya milk, you need 297 litres of water, and even less for other crops such as oats! Almonds drink a bit more, but they’re certainly not as thirsty as cows

So which milk will you be adopting into yours and your family’s healthy diet?

Information and content courtesy of Vegan Food Magazine 

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