Plant Milk Musings
Plant-based diets are gaining immense popularity in the wake of a rising numbers of allergies, obesity, diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, etc. As part of a plant-based diet or preference, more people are including dairy-free alternatives in their diet than ever before. In fact, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than one-third of 15,000 high school students surveyed drink a glass of milk per day. A survey by Mintel, a research firm, found that half of a sample of Americans bought non-dairy milk in three months (summer 2018). Plant-based milk sales rose to 9 percent to 1.6 billion, according to Nielsen data in 2018.
Let's analyze the most popular plant milks under the nutrition lens. Pointers for choosing plant milk: unsweetened, fortified with vitamin D and calcium, naturally low in sugar, free from additives like carrageenan or any other gums.
Soy Milk – Nutritionally, soymilk is close to cow’s milk. A cup of soymilk boasts 7 to 12 g protein — one of the highest among the alternative milks. And the calories in unsweetened soymilk compares to skim or 1 percent milk at 80 to 100 kcal per serving. It's important for the soymilk to be fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Plain soy can have a slightly "beany" taste, but the nutrition attributes of sweetened or flavored varieties outweighs the taste factor.
Almond milk – Good source of polyunsaturated fats along with vitamins A and E. Some brands of nut milk are low in protein, as low as 1.5 g per cup. Almond milk is pretty easy to prepare at home and can be refrigerated for 3-4 days. Homemade nut milk benefits includes more protein per serving (about 7 gms), free from carrageenan the plant gum that can induce inflammatory responses in human body or cause GI distress and improved digestibility. Nuts are soaked in the process of making the milk so that harmful phytochemicals are leached out of almonds making the nutrients in nuts more bioavailable.
Pea milk – Made from humble split yellow dal, fortified pea milk contains 8g of protein per serving, 50 percent more calcium than 2 percent dairy milk, more vitamin D and iron. It is naturally sugar-free. Pea protein also contains all nine essential amino acids.
Rice milk – It is naturally sweet but low in protein. It's often consumed by those allergic to both soy and nuts.
Coconut Milk – Most of the calories in unsweetened coconut milk are from lauric acid, a saturated fat that might aid in increasing HDL cholesterol. The medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) in coconut milk are purported to support metabolism, resulting in consumer craze. Coconut milk lacks in protein.
Hemp milk – One cup contains about 80 calories and 5 gms of protein. It is a good source of omega-3 fats and magnesium but lacks calcium and vitamins D and B12 unless fortified. Magnesium, a co-factor for several enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions, is required for energy production and membrane transport, vital for absorption of calcium as well.
Oat milk – On an average, 1 cup contains 130 calories, 4 g of protein, 2.5 g fat, 19 g sugar, 2 g fiber. Oat milk does not contain saturated fat or cholesterol.
Recipes of the month:
Homemade Almond milk
- Ratio of 1 cup almonds to 2 cups water, makes roughly 2 cups milk close to consistency of 2 percent milk.
- 1 cup almonds soaked in 2 cups water for 6-8 hours.
- 1 ice cube and 2 cups of water
- 2 mejdool dates as sweetener
- Vanilla extract/cocoa powder optional
- 1 calcium/magnesium tablet
- 1 Vitamin D3 vegan tablet
- Flax oil optional
- Cheesecloth for straining
Drain the water from soaked almonds. Blend all the ingredients except for vitamins and oil, for about 2 minutes in Vitamix or blender, pulse in between to break the almonds. There is an option to strain the milk through cheesecloth. After straining, add the vitamin tablets and oil and blend the milk for a minute. Alternatively, add vitamins and oil to unstrained almond milk and blend for a minute.
Cashew milk recipe
Yields about 2.5 cups
- 1/2 cup raw cashews soaked overnight
- 1 Medjool date
- 1.5 cups water and three ice cubes
- 1/8 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 tsp saffron or any flavoring agent like cinnamon, cardamom
- Vitamins as stated in the recipe above for almond milk.
Drain water from the soaked nuts and combine all ingredients in blender except for vitamins, blend for 2 minutes. No straining is required for cashew milk. Add vitamins and oil and blend for another minute.
To Our Health!
Bhavi Nirav is a Registered Dietitian/M.S., R.D., L.D., certified yoga practitioner, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.