Get to Know Your Plant Milks

Demand for plant-based milk is on the rise, as evidenced by the constant innovation in the "alternative milk" market. This newfound interest in alternate dairy products can be related to things like medical reasoning, or a change in lifestyle.
by on Monday, December 2, 2019

Got Milk? Where from?


Demand for plant-based milk is on the rise, as evidenced by the constant innovation in the “alternative milk” market.

At the same time, consumption of cow milk in the United States has decreased by 13% in the last couple of years. This newfound interest in alternate dairy products can be related to things like medical reasoning, or a change in lifestyle.

This cultural shift could be related to a variety of factors including new medical research and widespread changes in lifestyle and diet. In addition, it has created an opportunity for consumers to become better informed about their milk choices.

The nutritional profile of cow milk is indeed different from that of alternative dairy products. Even amongst alternative milk, you will find significant variation in nutritional value, depending on the plant ingredients used. What’s more, there are big differences between different companies’ products, and between store-bought and homemade.

Keeping all that in mind, we know that cow milk is a good source for nutrients like protein, vitamin D, Calcium, and Phosphorus. Of all the dairy alternatives, only soy milk naturally provides proteins in a similar quantity to cow milk (approximately 8g per cup). Almond milk, on the other hand, only contains 1g of protein per cup. Of course, this isn’t a problem if your primary focus is finding culinary alternatives to dairy milk, rather than maximizing protein intake.

Here’s the low down on all your favorite alternative milk:

Soy Milk

Along with pea milk, this is the only dairy alternative that naturally contains as much protein per cup as cow milk. The majority of manufacturers also fortify soy milk with vitamin D and calcium, and it naturally contains healthy fats like Omega-3’s.

Nut Milk: Almond & Cashew

These two kinds of milk have risen to popularity in recent years, especially among those seeking to keep soy out of their diet.

They are low in calories and naturally provide a good source of vitamin E. Through fortification they can hold as much or more Vitamin D and calcium than cow milk, but still contain much less protein than cow or soy milk.

Cashew milk has the added bonus of being creamier and thicker than most nut milks.

Coconut Milk

There are differences between canned coconut milk mostly used for cooking and the coconut that comes in a carton and is meant for drinking. Both are made of the meat of the coconut, but the later is diluted and fortified, while the former is concentrated, with a high percentage of fat. We’ll focus on the “dairy alternative” coconut milk that comes in a carton and naturally contains iron and potassium, and is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Cereal/Grain Milk

These are normally produced with oats or other cereals like brown rice. Because of this, they tend to contain more carbohydrates than nut milk.

These milks naturally contain iron, fiber, and folic acid, and about half the protein of cow milk. They are usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D as well.

Hemp Milk

Along with rice milk, this particular dairy alternative is one of the most hypoallergenic on the market, as it is free of nuts, gluten, and soy. Thus it makes a great choice for a large portion of the population. even though it’s lower in carbohydrates.

While low in carbohydrates, this alternative milk is a good source of essential fatty acids like Omega-3’s and Omega 6’s.

Pea Milk

This is another hypoallergenic alternative like hemp and rice milks, but with more carbohydrates, and about 7g of protein per cup—almost as much as cow milk.

Like most plant milk, pea milk is fortified with calcium and vitamin D.

Its sustainability is important, too, as peas are easy and cheap to produce. Pea milk has a much smaller water footprint than almond milk and a much smaller carbon footprint than cow milk.

There is no shortage of sources for dairy milk alternatives. Once again, plants demonstrate never-ending beauty in their versatility, generosity, and vast functionality with these few examples. There’s more!

So, where do you get yours?

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