Is plant-based milk better than cow’s milk?

  • Plant-based milk is a good option for vegans or vegetarians, or those with lactose-intolerance.
  • However, dairy milk still contains more calcium and protein.
  • According to a study, kids who drank cow’s milk are taller than kids who drank plant-based milk.

The plant-based milk market

Milk is a healthy staple in many diets. However, not all people like traditional cow’s milk, while some may have a dairy sensitivity. Fortunately, there are now several non-dairy milk options you can choose from. 

According to the global research marketing firm Research and Markets, the plant-based milk market in the U.S is expected to be a $21.5 billion industry by 2024. According to a report by the Plant-Based Foods Association, plant-based milk sales now make up 14 percent of the entire milk category.

Here’s what you should know about plant-based milk.

Who can drink plant-based milk?

According to the research firm Statistica, two-thirds of plant-based milk consumers choose the beverage because of its taste, while others choose it because it suits their vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. 

The body uses the enzyme lactase to break down lactose, a sugar present in milk and other dairy products. People with lactose intolerance don’t make enough lactase, so their small intestine can’t digest all the lactose from the dairy products they consume. 

The National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine reports that about 65 percent of people have a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases says most people who are lactose intolerant may not experience symptoms, while some may experience digestive issues like diarrhea, bloating, and gas after consuming products with lactose. 

Lactose intolerance is different from having a milk allergy. The latter is an immune system disorder and is usually triggered by one of the milk proteins, including lactoglobulin, lactalbumin, casein, and whey.

1. Almond milk

Almond milk is the most popular plant-based milk, per the research firm SPINS, as reported by Food Navigator.

Almond milk is low in calories, fat, and carbs, and high in vitamin E. It’s lactose-free. Almond milk bought from the store is sometimes fortified with calcium and other nutrients.

To make almond milk at home, you will need raw almonds, water, vanilla, and maple syrup.

2. Oat milk

Oat milk is relatively new in the market and the second most popular plant-based milk. It’s dairy-free, nut-free, and soy-free, making it a good choice for people with allergies.

While oats are naturally gluten-free, cross-contamination can happen when oats are grown or processed near fields or in the same facility with grains that contain gluten. Store-bought oat milk also contains added vitamins and minerals, flavoring, sugar, and preservatives. Make sure to always check the label. 

3. Cashew milk

Cashews are packed with nutrients, fats, fiber, vitamins, and protein, and are good for the heart. You can enjoy most of those nutrients when cashews are turned into milk. Store-bought cashew milk also contains extra nutrients.

4. Soy milk

This milk is made from soy that is rich in vitamins and other nutrients. According to a report in the Journal of Food Science and Technology in 2017, it’s the closest to dairy milk and therefore a popular replacement. However, soy is a common allergen, so steer clear of soy milk if you are allergic.

5. Hemp milk

This plant-based option is made out of hemp seeds from the hemp plant used for making marijuana and CBD (cannabidiol) products.

But hemp milk may only contain trace amounts of the compound delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which affects the mental state, so hemp milk does not get you high.

Other kinds of milk to try

There are several other plant-based kinds of milk made from a variety of nuts and other plants, including:

  • Rice
  • Coconut
  • Hazelnut 
  • Sesame 
  • Pistachio 
  • Flaxseeds 

Concerns about plant-based milk

Non-fortified plant-based milk may not contain as much calcium or protein as dairy milk. Talk to your children’s pediatrician before giving them plant-based milk. 

According to a 2017 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that involved over 5,000 Canadian children, kids who drank cow’s milk were taller than those who drank non-cow milk.


Source: The Healthy

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