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Plant-based milk alternatives

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

According to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), 190 million tonnes is the approximate world milk consumption in 2020. India has been the largest milk-producing country and consumer of dairy products since 1997. But surprisingly, about two-thirds of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant. And this condition is found majorly in the African and Asian populations. People are becoming increasingly aware of lactose intolerance in recent times. Hence, many are consciously shifting to plant-based milk products instead of dairy. There is a surge of 7.2% in the CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of global sales of plant-based milk.

The main advantages of using plant-based milk are to tackle lactose intolerance and low cholesterol. There are a number of options available in plant-based milk. The common ones are almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, and cashew milk.

The traditional cow milk gives 60 kcal of energy, 4.67 g of carbohydrates, 3.28 g of protein, and 3.2 g of fat.

But can plant-based milk substitute traditional milk in terms of nutrition? Let’s have a look at the above-mentioned options.

Almond milk

Nutritional facts (for unsweetened, 100 g):

Energy: 19 kcal

Carbohydrates: 0.67 g

Protein: 0.66 g

Fat: 1.56 g

Almond milk is rich in Vitamin E which is an antioxidant and protects our body from free radicals. Some varieties of almond milk are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D. But almond milk has very less of protein. This is a major drawback of almond milk. If you are preparing this milk at home, then it is okay. But if you are sourcing it from some companies, then they might be processed and also have certain additives, preservatives, sweeteners, and emulsifiers.

Soy milk

Nutritional facts (for unsweetened, 100 g):

Energy: 41 kcal

Carbohydrates: 3 g

Protein: 2.78 g

Fat: 1.96 g

Soy milk is better than almond milk for its protein content. Soy is also rich in isoflavones which may help in decreasing the risk of cancer or osteoporosis. These isoflavones have ‘estrogen-like’ effects which will aid menopausal women to manage their symptoms.

Coconut milk

Nutritional facts (for unsweetened, 100 g):

Energy: 200 kcal

Carbohydrates: 2.6 g

Protein: 2 g

Fat: 21.3 g

Most of the calories in coconut milk come from fat. This fat is saturated fatty acids called Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCTs). It also contains some vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, folate, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. In a small study performed on overweight men, it was found that upon ingestion of 20 g of MCT oil at breakfast, ate less lunch than those who consumed corn oil. One study stated that coconut milk helps in decreasing Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) and increasing High Density Lipoprotein (HDL).

Hemp milk

Nutritional facts (for unsweetened, 100 g):

Energy: 33 kcal

Carbohydrates: 0.5 g

Protein: 1.9 g

Fat: 2.8 g

Hemp milk is also rich in minerals like calcium and iron. The fat in this milk is unsaturated fatty acids mainly omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The proteins present in this milk are essential amino acids, especially arginine which is required to keep the heart healthy. If you are looking for lactose-, soy-, and gluten-free protein-rich milk, then hemp milk could be your right choice.

Cashew milk

Nutritional facts (for unsweetened, 100 g):

Energy: 23 kcal

Carbohydrates: 3.2 g

Protein: 0.4 g

Fat: 1.05 g

Cashew milk contains mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids; hence it may help in decreasing the risk of heart diseases. There are certain antioxidants present in cashews like lutein and zeaxanthin. These along with zinc present in cashew help in dealing with free radicals and increase immunity.

These are a few plant-based milk options for vegans or for those who are lactose intolerant. Among these, soy milk is generally considered as the most sustainable choice. Studies show that greenhouse gas emissions during the production of soy milk are lower than the diary. Soybeans use less than a tenth of the water used by almonds. Soymilk also has more proteins than almond milk and by growing more soybeans, nitrogen fixation happens which helps reduce the use of fertilizers. The price of these plant-based milk options ranges from $4.30 to $6.00. This is almost double the price that one pays for dairy.

Whichever your option is, choose one that suits your body and taste buds. Some commercially available milk may be fortified with certain vitamins and minerals. So, make sure to read the nutritional facts behind the packet. You can even prepare these at home, there are varieties of recipes available on the internet, go wild and experiment with your food!!

The nutritional facts present in the document were taken from:

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