Exploring Plant-Based Milk Alternatives!
Would you believe that the one very simple action of moving your hand just a matter of 30cm in the dairy aisle can make all the difference to your health, the environment, and the lives of dairy cows and their baby calves.
As any one of you will probably know, there is a growing number of plant-based milks turning up in the milk aisle at all major supermarkets nowadays. Also, most cafés and restaurants offer plant-based options too.
Maybe you’ve seen this array of plant-based milks arriving in the shopping aisles but haven’t put them in your shopping trolley because you are not sure what they taste like, or how you could use them. Or you may have tried a plant-based milk in the past and hated it, and haven’t tried another. I’m hoping the following article will help you understand the various options available, give you some idea of how each taste, and inform you on how you could use them in your daily life.
There are so many choices available – many brands of soy milk (some organic some not), numerous almond milk varieties (some with larger percentages of almonds than others) – but don’t let this confuse you. My advice to you if you don’t usually place plant-based milk in your trolley, is to jump in and start trying some. You will eventually find many that you love, feel great drinking and enjoy cooking with, and they will become staples in your home.
If you check the nutritional labels of these plant-milks compared to dairy milks you’ll see that the plant-milks usually pack a punch in the calcium and protein stakes and more often than not offer significantly more of these nutrients than the cow’s milk.
The price of dairy milk vs plant-based milk is pretty much on par, so swapping it up won’t impact your weekly shopping budget. Plant-based milks have a longer shelf life and also last longer once opened and stored in the fridge – which is a mega bonus as there is less wastage.
All plant-milks are lactose-free, and you will find options of non-GMO, gluten-free, unsweetened, no added sugar, additive and preservative free (choices galore).
A Quick Overview Of Plant-Based Milk Use
The consistency is smooth and of similar consistency to dairy milk. Some brands have a slightly nutty taste and replicate a similar sweetness to dairy. Soy milk is one of those tastes that you might not instantly like but over time you will grow to love it! You’ll notice there are sweetened and unsweetened varieties but I always reach for the unsweetened as I think it tastes much better and more usable in the kitchen.
My favourite plant-based milk by far – so versatile and tastes great. Soy is perfect on your morning cereal or muesli, used on your porridge, in coffee, for baking… it works for nearly everything! Bonsoy is by far the best soy milk and worth the extra expense in my opinion (it also tastes like dairy when used in tea).
Think of almonds plus creaminess and you have a good idea of how almond milk tastes. It is smooth and white, and the flavour is quite subtle. It’s a good idea to check the supermarket almond milk varieties for the percentage of almonds used as flavour varies depending on almond density. If you feel enthusiastic it is relatively easy to make at home if you have a nut milk bag.
Almond milk is yummy for almost everything – great on cereal, granola, chia pudding, coffee and turmeric latte, baking and cooking. It’s good to remember that you can’t send kids to school with anything containing almond milk as many children have nut allergies.
Oat milk is thick like cow’s milk with an oaty taste. This milk is made by combining groats (hulled grain broken into oat fragments) with water, barley and other grains. This plant-based milk usually is light brown in colour.
Oat milk is really great in smoothies and shakes, and perfect for baking. You’ll either love it or not, however it is a great milk as the oat taste isn’t too noticeable when used in smoothies and baking, and the nutritional content is good (oat milk contains 10 minerals and 15 vitamins. Just one cup of oat milk contains 36 percent of the recommended daily allowance, or RDA, of calcium).
Rice milk is thin and runny in consistency – a little like skim milk. Some people love rice milk and enjoy it more than soy milk. It is the least likely of all plant-based milks to trigger allergies. Give it a try and you be the judge.
If you like rice milk the application for its use are wide – hot drinks, smoothies and shakes, cooking and baking. It is however very low in nutritional value unless vitamins and calcium are added. It contains no protein but on the upside is lactose-free with no cholesterol (which makes it really healthy for your heart).
Coconut milk has a slightly sweet taste and the scent of coconut. Some varieties are quite watery, whereas others are quite thick and creamy.
Coconut milk is easy to digest and contains an abundance of nutrients (plus the plant-based saturated fat in coconut milk provides health benefits not found in the animal-based saturated fat of dairy milk). It can be drunk plain, blended into smoothies and shakes, or used for baking and cooking. Coconut milk is a healthy, plant-based, environmentally friendly alternative to dairy milk.
Macadamia milk has a thin consistency like milk and shares a similar taste to dairy milk. It is quite plain tasting, with a little hint of fattiness, without the nuttiness you’d be expecting from this milk.
Macadamia milk is perfect for use in smoothies and shakes, breakfasts like porridge and quinoa, and absolutely great for baking anything dessert related! Beware that you can’t send kids to school with anything containing macadamia milk due to nut allergies.
Other milks I’d like to review once I find them on the supermarket shelves are hazelnut milk and hemp milk.
Why should you try plant-milks?
Plant-based milks are a great alternative to dairy and are readily available in your local supermarket, plus they offer a range of health benefits.
Did you know…
- Dairy milk is highly inflammatory, linked to acne and has been implicated in constipation and ear infections. Dairy is also the most common self-reported allergen in the world! In fact, most of the world’s population cannot adequately digest milk due to lactose intolerance.
- In observational studies, both across countries and within single populations, higher dairy intake has been linked to increased risk of cancers, particularly prostate and ovarian.
- Cow’s milk protein may play a role in triggering type 1 diabetes through a process called molecular mimicry.
- Across countries, populations that consume more dairy have higher rates of multiple sclerosis.
- In interventional animal and human experiments, dairy protein has been shown to promote increased cholesterol levels (in the human studies and animal studies) and atherosclerosis (in the animal studies).
(Source: http://nutritionstudies.org/12-frightening-facts-milk/ – Full references provided at the base of article)
However, if the health benefits don’t convince you… here is some information about the industry itself that you may not realise.
Dairy milk is cow’s milk – just like human breast milk is human baby’s milk. Milk is produced by lactating mothers after pregnancy and the birth of their babies. When we drink dairy milk it means the calves have been removed permanently from their mothers just days after birth so that dairy cows can be routinely milked for their breast milk so it can be packaged and placed on supermarket shelves for human consumption. The female calves become the next round of dairy cows – milking machines for a few years, until they are ‘spent’ and no longer producing high levels of milk, and are thus sent to slaughter. The male ‘bobby’ calves are deemed waste products of the dairy industry and the majority are slaughtered within days of being born, the remainder are grown for about 6 months to then be slaughtered for veal.
Reducing your dairy intake, in any way possible, is a very positive thing for your health, the environment and the lives of dairy cows and their babies! Even if you are dubious about drinking your hot drinks with anything other than dairy then perhaps start with small steps and switch to using the plant-based milks for baking and cooking, then progress to making all your smoothies and shakes with plant-based milks, then perhaps one day you’ll feel you’re ready to take dairy off the shopping list for good.
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