Are Plant-Based Milks Good for Health?

Plant-based milk alternatives are commonly produced through a process of soaking the legume, nut, grain, or other primary component, followed by pressing and filtering to produce the resultant liquid, known as "milk". Many individuals opt for non-dairy alternatives due to their desire or necessity to avoid dairy, while others select them based on the belief that they are healthier compared to cow's milk. Experts advise consumers to go beyond the exaggerated claims and carefully evaluate the nutrition label, as certain products may not be as healthy as they appear.


Plant-based milk alternatives have varying nutritional compositions. It is crucial to thoroughly study and understand the nutrition profile in order to make the right decision that aligns with your requirements.


So, there are many kinds of plant-based milk (e.g. soy milk, almond milk, oat milk, pea milk, coconut milk, etc); which one is healthier and how should I choose?


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Different kinds of plant-based milk
Different kinds of plant-based milk

Soy milk

Soy milk is produced from either finely crushed soybeans or soy protein powder. Soy milk is a rich protein source and typically has a higher protein content compared to other plant-based milk alternatives. Due to the fortification of calcium in most soy milk, it exhibits a high degree of similarity to cow's milk.


Several brands of soy milk have been added with vitamin B12, a crucial ingredient for individuals adhering to a vegan diet and susceptible to deficiency in this particular vitamin.


Almond milk

Almond milk is a product derived from the pulverised form of almonds. Commercial almond milk exhibit a range of almond content, often around 5-15%. While there are various no-added-sugar options available, it is worth noting that some products may still have sweeteners.


Almond milk has a lower calorie content and saturated fat than dairy milk. Moreover, it is often lacking in protein, as a normal serving only contains one gram of protein.


However, there have been recent developments in which certain types have incorporated protein, with amounts reaching up to 10 grams per 250 ml. In contrast, cow's milk typically contains approximately 8 grams of protein per serving.


Almond milk is free of soy, lactose, and dairy. This makes it appropriate for individuals who have allergies or sensitivities to soy or dairy products, as well as those who have lactose intolerance. 


When substituting dairy milk with almond milk, it is recommended to choose those enriched with calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Fortunately, this is the case for most products available on the current market.


Oat milk

Oat milk is made by blending a mixture of oats and water and subsequently separating the liquid from the solid components through straining. It has a low amount of saturated fat.


Oat milk stands out from other plant-based milks due to its notable fibre content, which is attributed to the presence of beta-glucan. Research has demonstrated that beta-glucan can effectively lower cholesterol and regulate blood sugar levels.


Oat milk has a natural sweetness due to its high carbohydrate content, which is higher than that of cow's milk. 


Oat milk has a high level of creaminess among plant-based milk alternatives, making it an optimal selection for recipes requiring a smooth and silky texture. Due to its natural qualities, oat milk can serve as a viable alternative to cow's milk in culinary applications.


Oat milk contains an average of only 4 grams of protein per serving, almost half the protein content in dairy milk. Selecting a calcium-fortified oat milk is suggested as it generally has low calcium content. Also, choose a product that has been enriched with elevated levels of protein.


Oat milk is not gluten-free; it contains gluten and is therefore not suitable for individuals following a gluten-free diet.


Pea milk

Pea milk is produced by extracting pea protein from peas, typically mixed with water, sunflower oil, and other nutrients such as vitamin B12 for fortification. The protein level of pea milk is comparable to that of dairy milk.


Coconut milk

Coconut milk is produced by diluting coconut cream with water. Coconut milk has a lower carbohydrate and protein content but a greater saturated fat content than in dairy milk. Choose a calcium-fortified coconut milk product , as coconut milk has a low calcium content.

Are plant-based milks good for me?
Are plant-based milks good for me?

The nutritional impact of plant-based milk consumption varies based on the particular kind of plant milk, its fortification, the amount of added sugars, and its integration within one's overall dietary pattern. You should not assume that plant-based milks possess identical nutritional content to that of cow's milk, even if the beverage appears white and exhibits a similar creamy texture. Additionally, certain sweetened variations may include a higher quantity of additional sugar than a doughnut.


Cow's milk is naturally rich in protein, calcium, potassium, and B vitamins, and is frequently supplemented with vitamin A and vitamin D. The majority of plant-based milk or beverages lack the essential elements required to fully substitute dairy products. 


However, plant-based milk or beverages serve as crucial substitutes for individuals with milk allergies or intolerances, or those who deliberately avoid dairy products. They can be included in a nutritious diet, provided that you carefully examine the nutrition information label and ensure that you are obtaining the necessary critical components often found in conventional milk.

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