Are you thinking about making the switch from Dairy but with so many products now on are confused about where to start ?
Its no longer uncommon to be standing behind someone who orders a soya latte or coconut milk flat white. Did you know that due to food scares and health concerns there has been a 10% drop in sales of cow’s milk over the last decade, as consumers make a move to so-called fake milks or ‘mylks’. All of them vaguely like the traditional stuff, but as my kids assure me taste nothing like 'proper-milk', plus they promise all of the benefits with none of the downsides.
Soya used to be the only milk alternative available, but due to demand manufacturers now offer an array of options, ranging from nut milks to rice and hemp milks. They are no longer a fad and the Financial Times reported that: Worldwide sales of non-dairy milk alternatives more than doubled between 2009 and 2015 to $21bn, according to Euromonitor
But is the move to a non-dairy milk actually any good for your health? Here Eat Yourself Gorgeous reviews the pros and cons of the various milk alternatives on the market, taking into account the calories, fat and nutritional content per serving.
PROS Though its name might be a bit misleading, organic hemp milk is a perfectly legal. Hemp milk is an incredibly nutritious and tasty alternative to cows milk as it supplies the body with essential nutrients without the harm that dairy causes to the body. It is produced from the seeds of the hemp plant. It is rich in protein and contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, B-12 and folic acid, and is rich in magnesium, potassium, iron and magnesium. All essential nutrients for a healthy diet and immune system.
CONS One concern that people have about organic hemp milk is that it might contain some of the chemical THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which is found in marijuana. Rest assured that this ingredient is not present or associated with hemp milk. Shop bought hemp milk is often made with thickeners. Some research shows that protein in hemp milk may not be as good as protein in soy milk. And its more expensive and harder to find than some other dairy free milks.
PROS Unlike coconut water (found inside the fleshy meat), coconut milk is made by grating the white coconut flesh and soaking it in hot water which sees the coconut cream rise to the top so that it can be skimmed off. The remaining liquid is squeezed to extract what we know as coconut milk. Coconuts are rich in a range of vitamins and minerals including C, E, the B group, iron, selenium, and magnesium. It is high in fat, but mostly the beneficial variety of medium chain fatty acids, such as lauric acid which is converted by the body into an antiviral and antibacterial compound called manolaurin, said to protect against illness. The milk is lactose free so can be used as a milk substitute by those with a lactose intolerance.
CONS It is hugely high in calories. Reduced-fat versions cut levels almost in half, but even ‘light’ coconut milk contains about close to 300 calories per glass.
PROS Produced in the Netherlands, this newcomer to the milk market is lower in fat and cholesterol than cow’s milk, but contains five times as much vitamin C. Studies in India show it contains high levels of insulin and is helpful to people with type two diabetes, as it keeps blood-sugar levels stable. In India it is used therapeutically to treat a range of illnesses.
CONS It is, shall we say, an acquired taste as it’s very watery and salty. No real advantage to drinking it (you can get the extra vitamin C from a couple of oranges) and it is not lactose free, so no good for those intolerant to cow’s milk.
PROS Soya and its milk, which is made from soaked, cooked and ground soya beans, has long been extolled as something of a wonder-bean. There are claims that the isoflavone compounds it contains (which mimic the female hormone oestrogen) can lower cholesterol, reduce menopausal symptoms, boost bone density and even ward off the risks of some cancers. Some studies have shown the main isoflavone in soya, genistein, can inhibit the formation of blood vessels that assist in the growth of small tumours.
CONS There is something of a backlash taking place against soya milk and other soya products, precisely because the isoflavones are so powerful. A few years ago, researchers at the Queen Victoria Hospital in Belfast discovered soya consumption could have a profound influence on male fertility. In short, they concluded, the more soya a man eats, the more difficulty he will have in fertilising an egg. Soya is known to contain so-called anti-nutrients that limit the body’s ability to absorb important vitamins and minerals including calcium, iron and zinc. It also contains trypsin inhibitors that reduce the efficiency with which the body digests protein. There are suggested links to thyroid problems and impaired endocrine function. In their natural state, soya beans taste quite bitter, so the milk is heavily processed to mask the unpleasant flavour, making it less of a ‘natural’ alternative than many people think. Some varieties are highly sweetened.
PROS It contains no saturated fats or lactose (milk sugar) and is among the lowest in calories of all the milk alternatives. It’s set to become the milk trend of the year as trendy eateries like The Pressery in East London have recently started selling high-end unpasteurised almond milk at almost £5 a litre.
CONS In many commercial almond milks, almonds are the second or third ingredient after water and sweeteners giving it a sweeter flavour than regular milk. It can also contain added sugar.
Fat 1.4 g
PROS Commercial oat milks are made from the liquid left when oats are soaked in water. Studies have shown oats help lower cholesterol levels and are a low glycaemic index food that provides a long lasting energy burst. It is thought the milk has similar benefits.
CONS Not all commercial oat drinks are fortified with the vitamins in regular cow’s milk so check the brand you buy has vitamins and minerals - such as calcium - added. Oat milks are not gluten free. They are a low gluten food, but anyone with Coeliacs Disease should seek medical advice before using them.
PROS Made from filtered water, partially milled organic brown rice and sea salt, commercial rice milk contains as much calcium and as many vitamins as cow’s milk but less fat even than soya milk. It is relatively high in fibre.
CONS Contains added salt and also tastes sweet so not good in savoury dishes. Low in calcium and protein.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!