One of the more recent trends in the food industry is focused around nondairy alternatives to traditional milk. The big question that many people wonder is how did we end up with so many alternatives, and are they really as good as (or better than) the real deal?
Plant-based milks have been around for centuries but they didn’t gain main stream appeal until the early 2000s with an increase in alternative plant-based foods. In the US, plant milks are mainly seen as an alternative to dairy milk as opposed to being the primary type of milk. In fact, up until recent years, plant milks were not as common to find in local grocery stores and instead shoppers would have to travel to another city to find their favorite milk alternative.
There are dozens of reasons someone might choose plant-based milks, just as there are dozens of milk alternatives to choose from. In this article we will highlight some of the more popular dairy alternatives and why many people have been switching to plant-based milks.
Here are the 5 most popular plant-based milks!
1. Soy Milk
Soy milk is made from soybeans or soy protein isolate and is known for having a comparable amount of protein to cow’s milk. Depending on the brand, Depending on the brand soy milk can contain anywhere from 7-9 grams of protein while generic dairy milk has 8 grams per serving.
Originally made in China during the 14th century, soy milk is also eco-friendly! With greenhouse gas emissions much lower than producing dairy milk and comparable to that of almond milk. Additionally, soybeans use approximately 1/10 the amount of water as almonds to produce the same amount of milk.
Soy milk is definitely an option when trying to replace dairy but it still has some downsides. The biggest downside of soy is the constant debate as to its effects on people’s health. Soy is rich in high-quality protein, fiber, potassium, and B vitamins. Soy also contains all nine of the essential amino acids that you body need from its foods. However, soy also has a high concentration of isoflavones which can potentially lead to hormonal fluctuations or the growth of cancer cells. The negative affects of soy are still under debate and effects can range depending on your ethnicity, hormone levels, and the type of soy you are consuming.
In all, soy has many upsides and an ongoing debate on its downsides. When it comes to your diet and needs there is no harm in going to the store and trying some. You may like it so much that your cereal is never the same again!
Soy milk costs about $2.60-$4.00 per half gallon.
2. Almond Milk
Almond milk is another good alternative to traditional dairy. Made from primarily almonds it can have a creamy texture and nutty flavor with sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla, and chocolate flavors. While almonds are a valuable source of protein almond milk is not naturally rich in proteins. However, most companies will enrich their products by adding vitamin D, calcium, and protein.
Compared to the 8 grams of protein in one serving of dairy milk leading almond milk brands only contain 1 gram per serving. Almond milk does contain 30-35% of a healthy calcium intake along with higher levels of vitamin A, E, and D ( silk , Blue Diamond )
One downside of almond milk is how it is produced. Creating almond milk involves a lot of water. On average, one glass of almond milk requires 130 pints (74 liters) of water. The water requirement for this drink is higher than soy or oat milk which makes it a heavy user of resources.
Almond milk is a smooth tasting and healthy alternative to dairy. It’s a little lacking when it comes to protein but it makes up for it through its calcium and essential vitamins.
Almond milk costs $1.90-$2.80 per half gallon.
3. Oat Milk
Oat milk is another great plant-based milk. Oat milk is made from steel-cut oats or whole groats. It has a whole 2 grams of fiber per serving, which is double the amount from almond and soy milks! Oat milk is not rich in protein with just about 3 grams of protein per serving but it does contain calcium and anywhere from 10-50% of your daily vitamin B12 value depending on the brand.
Oats are also a rich source for B-glucan which is a viscous fiber that is know for its ability to lower people’s cholesterol. Oat milk generally has similar vitamins and minerals to those found in cow’s milk but this is generally due to fortification during production. It also has a similar calorie count with slightly more carbs.
Oat milk generally has a thicker consistency and its slightly sweet flavor makes it a favorite to drink plain. It also works great as a 1:1 alternative to dairy milk in your favorite recipes. From an environmental perspective, oat milk uses 80% less land to produce than dairy milk, making it a top choice when it comes to sustainability. (Check out pg.30 of the linked article)
Coming in at $3.30-$5.00 per half gallon, oat milk is one of the more expensive nondairy milks.
4. Rice milk
Rice milk is also a great plant-based milk. Rice milk is generally made using brown rice and brown rice syrup. Rice milk is also the least likely of all plant-based milks to cause allergies making it a good substitute for soy, nut, or dairy milk. Rice milk also contains the most carbohydrates at about 22 grams per serving. Rice milk has a low protein content with a little less than a gram per serving.
When it comes to cooking rice milk is not one of the best options. It tends to be thinner than other options due to its high-water content. A thinner milk can do more harm than good for many sauces or soups but it works great with many desserts and drinks due to its above average sweetness.
Rice milk is a solid option for a plant-based milk but the FDA recommends staying away from relying on just rice for your food. Rice has a higher level of inorganic-arsenic meaning its not a great option for infants and young children.
Rice milk costs about $3.48 for a half gallon (64 Fl Oz).
5. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk, not to be confused with coconut water, is commonly used in Thai and southeast Asian dishes. Coconut milk is made by adding water to the white meat of a matured brown coconut. Known for its rich and creamy texture one serving has about 4 grams of fat with no protein or carbohydrates ( Pacific Foods ).
Coconut milk is a good option for people trying to reduce their carb intake. In addition, 90% of the fats found in coconut milk are saturated fats known as medium-chair triglycerides (MTCs). MCTs are thought to improve cholesterol, reduce appetite, and promote weight loss.
Coconut milk costs about $3.98 for 32 Fl Oz.
Why use Plant-Based Milk?
We just learned about some of the most popular options when it comes to non-dairy milks but what are some of the reasons plant based milks have been growing in popularity?
One of the biggest reasons for non-dairy milk is the high percentage of people that are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is most prevalent in Asian and Africa Americans with 95% of Asians and 60-80% of African Americans being lactose intolerant. However, anyone can become lactose intolerant leading to roughly 30-50 million American adults suffering from some form of lactose intolerance.
Another reason to switch to plant-based milks is because they can be vegan and vegetarian friendly! Veganism is a popular lifestyle around the world where people cut animal and animal byproducts out of their diets. While going vegan can be limiting for some people many have found ways to enjoy their favorite foods while sticking to their beliefs and plant-based milks are a great and healthy way to make that happen!
Plant based milks are also better for our environment than traditional dairy. Animal agriculture is one of the major contributors to climate change and cows produce higher levels of green house gasses than any other animal! Dairy milk also takes a heavier tole on our resources than plant milks. Not only does dairy produce the most emissions of any milk alternative but it also uses significantly more land and water. Check out this great article by the BBC to learn more!
Non-dairy milks are a great way to reduce your carbon emissions and promote a plant-based diet! Whether you simply want a glass of rice milk or decide to put soy milk in your Mac and Cheese, there are so many options for implementing plant-based milks into your diet.
When it comes to nutrition every plant-based milk is a little different but it is more than possible to get your daily protein, calcium, and a variety of essential vitamins.
Plant based milks also vary greatly when it comes to taste and consistency. Even if you don’t want to cut Dairy from your diet we recommend you go out and try some of the options at your local grocery store. Who knows, you might find a new favorite in the process!
It’s also important to note that Weight Loss Direct is vegan friendly! By being as inclusive as possible, we try to make a positive affect on as many lives as possible.
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