Are you looking for an alternative to cow milk? There are plenty of reasons to ditch the dairy, and seeing as though its second nature for coffee shops to have nut milks it'd be rude not to give them a go. So, what does science say about dairy and what are how do the non-dairy alternatives stack up?
Many plant-based milk alternatives provide similar nutrients and can be just as nutritious as conventional cow’s milk when consumed in moderation. It may also be healthier too, because there are copious hormones, and cringe worth contents inside cows milk which we aren't necessarily told about.
When choosing an alternative milk, it is important to stay away from alternatives with hidden ingredients that can have a negative impact on your health. These hidden nasties include: sugars, natural flavours, stabilisers, acidity regulators, emulsifiers and preservatives.
The good news is there’s no need to change where you shop. You can find a huge number of affordable options at your local supermarket. More and more alternatives are making their way onto shelves.
What 4 milk alternatives do I recommend and why.
1. Soy Milk
Soy milk is a popular vegan milk alternative and is suitable and great for people with a lactose, milk protein, or gluten intolerance.
It is made from soybeans and filtered water however it may contain thickeners to improve consistency and shelf life.I recommend steering clear of these options and choosing something fresh, from the cold section of the supermarket.
"It's high in polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and low in saturated fat. Natural soy products — like tofu or edamame — could replace red meat and other animal sources of protein higher in saturated fat," says dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Soybeans naturally contain a class of phytoestrogens called isoflavones. When we hear the word “estrogen” in the word “phytoestrogens,” we may assume that means soy has estrogen like effects on the human body. However this is not necessarily the case. Estrogen usually, within our bodies, has positive effects in some tissues and potentially negative effects in others.
Studies show however that soy seems to lower breast cancer risk, an antiestrogenic effect, but can also help reduce menopausal hot-flash symptoms, a proestrogenic effect.
So soy is a “selective estrogen receptor modulator” meaning it has proestrogenic effects in some tissues and antiestrogenic effects in others.
This bad wrap that soy is given constantly stems from studies done by the dairy industry to scare people off soy, as soy is the big competitor to dairy milks.
2. Oat Milk
Oat milk is another great vegan alternative to dairy milk that’s made by blending water and oats, and then straining out the liquid. It is relatively new to the market, however in my opinion it is the best milk for coffee and teas. This is because it provides a warm nutty flavour that helps highlight the coffee flavours.
Oats, as a 100% whole grain, are filled with fibre, plant-based protein, B vitamins, and minerals, including iron, calcium, and magnesium. It is a wholesome and nourish milk alternative that has been shown to create very little upset in peoples digestive systems.
Beta-glucan, a fibre found in oats, have been shown to improve cholesterol levels. This fibre also provides prebiotics, which fuel your body’s probiotics and help these friendly bacteria survive and thrive. Moreover, eating foods with beta-glucan has also been linked to improved immunity and gut health.
To conclude, oat milk has the least down sides and the only thing to look out for when deciding what brand to choose is looking at the amount of additives and preservatives are in said product.
3. Almond Milk
Almond milk is one of the top-selling plant-based milks because of its rich texture and smooth flavour. It is also very subtle in flavour which is great if you dont like overpowering tones in your meals that you may add it too. It is a fairly easy nut milk to make, as you blend almond and water together then remove the pulp which leaves with you a smooth silky liquid.
Most people purchase almond milk pre-made. Buying ready made however means you're often buying almond milks which contain lots of additives which end up making the healthier alternative, less healthy.
Almonds are an excellent source of vitamin E, which is a fat-soluble vitamin important for protecting your cells from free radical damage. Vitamin E promotes eye and skin health and can play a role in protecting against conditions like heart disease.
The downside however is that almond milk is very low in protein. Which is fine if your diet contains adequate protein however most peoples do not.
Personally almond milk is not my favourite milk for coffee or tea, however I quite like it in my protein oats as it doesn't spoil the flavour of my protein.
4. Coconut Milk
Coconut milk comes from the flesh of mature brown coconuts.
Coconut milk is a great alternative if you don't necessarily enjoy soy milk. Its creamy, and mixes very well with coffee, tea and is great in smoothies as its coconut flavour is quite complimentary to most tastes.
Coconut milk is classified as either thick or thin based on consistency and how much it's processed.
Thick: Solid coconut flesh is finely grated and either boiled or simmered in water. The mixture is then strained through cheesecloth to produce thick coconut milk.
Thin: After making thick coconut milk, the grated coconut remaining in the cheesecloth is simmered in water. The straining process is then repeated to produce thin milk.
Coconut milk contains small amounts of MCTs. Although MCTs may increase metabolism and help you lose belly fat, the low levels in coconut milk are unlikely to significantly affect weight loss.
Some test-tube studies suggest that coconut milk may reduce inflammation, decrease ulcer size and fight viruses and bacteria that cause infections — though some studies did not solely examine coconut milk.
Always choose coconut milk from BPA free cartons too!
Lastly, I love to bake and make desserts with coconut milks as the flavour it adds is great.
There are a lot of options on the market and these are my 4 recommendations.
There are other factors to consider, environmentally speaking, however from a health and taste perspectives oat and soy milk are my personal favourites.
And NO, there is absolutely nothing to worry about when deciding to consume soy products.
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2.Davidson, K. (25 June 2019) What is Almond Milk, and is it Good or bad for you?, retrieved 11 November 2019 from Health Line: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/almond-milk#downsides
3. London, J. (11 April 2019) Is Oat Milk Healthy? Here's What you Need to Know, According to a Nutritionist, retrieved 11 November 2019 from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a27079365/oat-milk-nutrition/
4. Greger, M. (1 October 2018) Does Adding Milk Block the Benefits of Coffee?, retrieved 2 November 2019 from Nutrition Facts: https://nutritionfacts.org/video/does-adding-milk-block-the-benefits-of-coffee/
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