Many people decide to become vegetarian or simply replace the dairy products they consume. A difficult step in this decision is to find the non-dairy choices, milk substitutes, that can replace milk.
Who can benefit from plant milk?
There are health benefits from switching to plant non-dairy products, especially for some groups of people. For people intolerant or sensitive to lactose, switching to alternative sources of dairy products can help them avoid symptoms such as bloating or diarrhea and maintain a healthy gut.
Some people are allergic to cow’s milk and may have a potentially dangerous allergic reaction to it. Anyone allergic to milk should completely avoid dairy products. Some people eliminate dairy products to avoid taking steroids or hormones. A recent study has shown that small amounts of hormones and steroids that are used to animals seem to be passed on the milk and hence to the person who consumes it.
Plant Milk – Milk substitutes
There is a wide range of milk substitutes in the market. One cup of whole milk (250ml) contains about 150 calories, 8 grams of protein and 8 grams of fat. It also contains nutrients, vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, potassium and can be enriched in vitamin D.
Similarly, some plant non-dairy products are extremely nutritious and many producers offer products enriched with trace elements such as calcium and vitamin D. Milk substitutes suitable even for vegan are coconut milk, soy, almond, hazelnut, rice and oat milk.
Almond milk is the most popular alternative milk option. It is delicious and does not have the intense flavor as other milk substitutes may have. So, it can be good transition milk for many. Per 100g. contains about 37 calories and 3 grams of protein and fat. Available in many forms and flavors, with or without sugar, as well as calcium-enriched or not.
Soy milk can have a peculiar taste for people who are not familiar with it. It is available in its simple form as well as with various flavors or taste enhancers, such as vanilla extract or apple juice, which make it sweet and easy to consume. Soy milk contains 3-4 grams of protein, 2-3 grams of fat and just 50 calories per 100g.
Coconut milk is quite fatty. It has a similar texture to cow’s milk and because of its creamy texture it is mainly used for making sweets, coffee or cocoa. It is particularly nutritious as it contains medium chain fatty acids (MCT). It is available in its natural form mainly for cooking as well as in beverages which can also be used as a substitute for milk. Its natural and enriched form due to its high-fat content has many calories (160 kcal) 16g. of fat and less than 1g. of proteins.
Rice milk has a sweeter flavor than other milk substitutes and a more watery form. In the market, there are non-dairy milks from white and brown rice, which is more nutritious. It is low in fat and protein (<1g) and contains about 55 calories per 100g.
Oat milk has a neutral and full flavor. It is a delicious and easy-to-digest low-fat drink and is a nutritious choice for breakfast. It is available in several flavors, such as natural, with vanilla or cocoa. Its natural form contains 48 calories, 0.5g protein and 1.3 g fat per 100g.
Cannabis – Hemp milk
Hemp milk is quite special as it has a characteristic nutty flavor. It is particularly nutritious as it is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, iron, plant proteins and amino acids. Per 100g. contains 40 calories, 1g. protein and 3g. fat.
Things to consider
It is vital to understand that simply because something is of plant origin does not automatically mean that it is healthy. Food labels should always be checked for any additional ingredients or other factors that may alter the nutritional value of the food. Things to keep in mind regarding milk substitutes are:
- additional sugars and starch
- texture improvers
- added flavor
- lack of nutrients and trace elements