A Guide To Plant-Based Milk Alternatives
The consumption of dairy milk and its derivatives has declined in the U.S. in recent years. In fact, sales of plant-based beverages have been increasing at a rapid pace, with almond milk leading the trend and oat milk pushing its way to the top.
There are many reasons why people are switching from drinking dairy milk to plant-based milk. It is not just about personal preference when it comes to drinking different types of milk—it’s about long-term health benefits as well.
Here we will discuss the cons of drinking cow's milk, popular milk alternatives, the health benefits of plant-based milk alternatives, how to make plant milk, and how to use it.
The Cons Of Drinking Cow's Milk
Cow's milk is not for everyone, it's estimated about 68% of the world and about 36% of people in the United States have lactose malabsorption. This means a large percentage of people struggle to digest the main sugar (lactose) found in animal milk and its products (like cheese and ice cream). Lactose intolerance can look like bloating, upset stomach, diarrhea, and gas. NIH
Consumption of dairy products has been linked to an increased risk of cancers associated with the reproductive system, like breast cancer, prostate cancer, and ovarian cancer. PCRM
Consuming dairy products increases exposure to hormones. Cows naturally produce hormones and growth factors that are present in their milk. In addition, artificial hormones are given to cows to increase milk production. Increased hormone levels have also shown links to acne.
Traces of antibiotics have also been found in dairy products. Cows are given antibiotics to treat mastitis (udder infections) which occurs often due to farming practices that cause cows to produce more milk than they are naturally able to.
Other contaminants include pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and dioxins. These toxins build up in the body over time and can eventually lead to health issues with the immune, reproductive, and nervous systems and increase the chances of cancer. PCRM
Dairy products increase cholesterol and saturated fats in the diet. Diets high in saturated fat increase the risk of heart disease and stroke which can lead to other health issues. PCRM
Other Reasons To Switch To Vegan Milk
The dairy farming industry isn't the most ethical industry. Dairy cows are often mistreated and treated like a machine rather than sentient beings.
Dairy cows, just like us humans, only produce milk after being pregnant and giving birth. "Milking cows", a misleading name, are continually artificially inseminated in order for continual milk production. The process is very unnatural, forcing the cows to continually get pregnant purely for human milk consumption.
This process shortens cows' life dramatically and the quality of their life. They often are then fed antibiotics in order to reduce mastitis, a condition caused by over-milking.
We are the only animals that drink milk from other animals and continue to drink milk after our developmental stage. No other animal on the planet does this.
Popular Plant-Based Milks + The Health Benefits
Soy Milk is made from whole soybeans. It is one of the creamier plant milk due to its fat content. Soy milk has a mild taste and can easily be used as a direct substitute for cow's milk. Soy milk has 7 grams of protein in just 1 cup of milk, which is comparable to cow's milk. There is a lot of controversial information on soy products, but soy has actually been shown to be protective against breast cancer. When choosing soy go for organic or non-GMO soy products. Why soy products have gotten a bad rap.
Almond Milk is another popular option. It is lighter milk with a nutty flavor. This nut milk can be found in many stores, but making almond milk at home can improve the quality and consistency of your milk by soaking the nuts for the proper amount of time. Soaking the almonds will reduce phytic acid and activates enzymes. When making almond milk at home you can also control the level of creaminess by adjusting the ratio of almonds to water.
Oat Milk is made from oats and water and typically other additions to increase the taste and texture. Oat milk makes a great substitute for dairy milk and has a similar milk flavor and creaminess. Beta-glucan (found in oats) has been linked to lower cholesterol levels linked to increased risk of heart disease.
Coconut Milk is made from the white flesh of coconuts and water. It is sold in cartons or cans and at varying levels of creaminess, from lite to full fat. Often times guar gum is added to coconut milk to thicken and bind the milk. It has a creamy consistency with a mildly sweet coconut flavor.
Cashew Milk is made from cashews and water. It has a sweet and subtle nut flavor. It can be made creamier depending on the ratio of water to nut. It is one of the easiest milk to make at home. Learn how to make cashew milk.
Other popular vegan milk alternatives are rice milk, macadamia milk, hemp milk, flaxseed milk, and hazelnut milk. All of these kinds of plant milk are suitable for those who are lactose intolerant or who have issues digesting dairy milk.
How To Make Plant-Based Milk
Although there are many different options of plant based-milk available in stores, it is actually really easy to make at home. It does require a highspeed blender and nut milk bag or cheesecloth for straining.
Vegan milk alternatives can be made from nuts, seeds, and grains. Like: oats, rice, almond, cashew, hemp, flaxseeds, macadamia, and soy.
It's important to rinse and soak nuts and seeds before blending, this activates enzymes making them easier to digest. To learn more about the importance of soaking and activating nuts and seeds and learn about soak times follow this guide to soaking nuts and seeds here.
After your nut, seed, or grain -- whichever you choose, is prepped you will add them to the blender along with water and blend on high speed. Once broken down into milk-like liquid you will run it through a nut milk bag to remove any pulp. This step is important so that your milk is a smooth and creamy consistency.
Then store your vegan milk in a jar with a lid in the refrigerator.
Plant-Based Milk, Final Words
Dairy milk is not a necessity for good health and reducing dairy products in your diet or even completely removing them has health benefits that will decrease your risk of potential diseases down the line. Plant-based milk in its large selection, from oat milk to soy milk, does a great job at replacing dairy milk and the endless options add a variety of subtle flavors to meals depending on which vegan milk alternative you choose.
If you want to go plant-based but are confused about where to start, check out our course that will guide you on how to go plant-based and make more health-conscious choices.