Memorable media campaigns used to tell us if we “got milk,” we would be healthy. Yet nowadays many people are making the switch to plant-based alternatives for reasons such as digestive health, the environment, and avoiding allergens. But are these milk alternatives really better than their competitor, cow milk? Learn what to look for when picking plant-based milks.
Cow milk was once a must when it came to western diet staples such as milk and cookies or morning cereal. The benefits of cow milk include high-quality protein, bone-strengthening calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D (1). So why would so many people be moving away from this nutrient-rich classic?
Some reasons include switching to a more plant-based way of life for health or environmental awareness. There’s also more information available about food allergies and intolerances as many people seek a deeper understanding of how certain foods make us feel. Learn more: Lactose Intolerance & Milk Allergy: What Is The Difference?
Regardless of your reason to consider plant-based milk, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common types and if they are right for you.
Oat milk tends to be a favorite substitute for coffee drinks because it mimics the consistency of cow milk. It’s a good option for people with nut allergies, such as almonds, but not ok for people with celiac disease because some oats are cross-contaminated with gluten during the production process.
Oat milk tends to have the highest amount of calories and carbohydrates when compared to other plant-based milk products, and the health quality can depend on whether it contains added sugar and oils, so it's a good idea to check the ingredient list before you buy it.
Almond milk is made from ground almonds which are combined with water and then strained. Whole almonds are excellent sources of protein and antioxidants such as vitamin E, however, almond milk is not unless it's made at home and you keep some of the almonds in the mix (2). Manufacturers will typically add calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D back in.
It's typically lower in calories and carbohydrates when compared to other plant-based milks, as long as you go for the unsweetened types. Many brands contain a seaweed extract called carrageenan, which some people may have trouble digesting. Another concern is that almonds are not the most environmentally friendly food, so may not be recommended for the Climatarian Diet.
Coconut milk is made from a blend of water and the flesh of the coconut. This is much more diluted than canned coconut milk, which is used for cooking.
It contains more fat when compared to other milk alternatives but some fat comes in the form of healthy medium-chain saturated fatty acids, which have some benefits for our digestive system and brain (3). Coconut doesn’t naturally contain much protein, calcium, vitamin A or vitamin D, so manufacturers may add it in.
Pea milk is made from yellow peas, which contain a high amount of protein. In fact, it’s comparable to cow milk. Peas also tend to be hypoallergenic, meaning that they have a very low chance of causing an allergic reaction.
The unsweetened choices are lower in calories, carbohydrates and sugar, making them a good option for weight management. It’s also more environmentally friendly than cow or almond milk. One con to watch out for is that the processed types may have unhealthy oils and sugar.
Potato milk is made by boiling and pureeing potatoes and then mixing them with water. One of the main perks of this type of plant-based milk alternative is that it’s easily sustainable. Potatoes are also free of common allergens. Potatoes are naturally a good source of calcium, magnesium and folate alongside nutrients added in during the processing of store-bought versions. A con is that it doesn’t contain much protein and not everyone is a fan of the taste or consistency.
When choosing your ideal plant-based milk, it comes down to your eating preferences and what you balance it with for the rest of the day. For instance, if you get plenty of protein from other foods but love the rich consistency of coconut milk, go for it! To make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need for an overall healthy lifestyle, try Lifesum.
All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.
All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.