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   Apr 09

Which milk should you pick? From cow’s to soy to PEA – we explain the pros and cons of dairy and vegan milks

The alternative dairy market has surged recently, and was worth $7.37 billion in 2016

About 65 percent of people cannot drink cow’s milk without getting an upset stomach and many more have dietary restrictions that keep them from the drink

The grocery store sections for ‘mylks’ are ever-expanding

Daily Mail Online breaks down what you’re getting in each glass

Milk alternatives have enriched the lives of the 65 percent of the human race that does not tolerate milk well after infancy and provided a much-needed option for anyone who wants to avoid animal products.

The emergence of these non-dairy options has also enriched a whole new corner of the food and beverage market, raking in $7.37 billion in 2016.

But what is good for veganism and business is not necessarily good for your nutrition.

Daily Mail Online breaks down what you get when you don’t get cow’s milk (and when you do).

Cow’s milk: the true original has it all

Once we’ve outgrown our mothers’ breast milk, cow’s milk is a great stand-in source of calcium, protein and vitamin D.

These nutrients are particularly important for growing children and elderly people, both of whom need boosts to their bone strength.

In two percent milk, there are about 8g of protein, 293 g of calcium, 342 mg of potassium and 120 IU of vitamin D, which is added to milk during manufacturing in order to bolster its benefits for osteoporosis.

For bone, muscle and even heart health, cow’s milk is hard to beat, and has the added benefit of being nearly sugar free, though it does lack fiber and contains both good and bad fat.

Cow’s milk is also a bit heavier in terms of calories, with 150 calories in whole milk, and 122 calories in a glass of two-percent milk.

But for 65 percent of people who are lactose intolerant, the 0.5 percent of people who are vegan, and the approximately 11 percent of households that said they were gluten-free in 2014 – cow’s milk is off the table.

Soy milk: the classic is still the most nutritious substitute

The gold standard of the non-traditional milk world, soy is the most popular alternative dairy product.

Soy milk is made by boiling a mixture of ground up soy beans after they have been soaked to soften them.

The original dairy alternative actually quite closely matches the nutritional values of regular cow’s milk, according to Meagan Bridges Durkin, a registered nurse and nutrition support specialist at the University of Virginia Health System.

‘Soy milk has gotten a bad rap lately, as other alternative forms have come onto the market, people are maybe trying to find reasons not to drink soy milk,’ she says.

But, in terms of nutrition that is misguided.

‘Soy milk is a really good alternative and the best thing is that, from a nutrition standpoint, it’s as close to cow’s milk as you’re going to get in terms of protein, vitamin C and calcium,’ she says.

As compared to an eight ounce glass of cow’s milk, soy milk matches cow’s milk almost exactly for protein, calcium, vitamin D and comes pretty close for potassium, with just 43 fewer mg of the nutrient.

‘If you’re reading the label and are looking for a fortified version of soy milk, you’re pretty much getting everything you would in cow’s milk,’ Bridges Durkin says.

There are only a couple of potential drawbacks to drinking soy milk.

First, be sure to check the nutritional labels for added sugars, as some – especially flavored – soy milks use them to enhance taste.

It’s a slightly more low-calorie option, but not by much with about 118 calories in an 8oz glass.

There have also been some studies showing ‘discrepancies’ in estrogen levels – high levels of which can be a cancer risk factor for women – among soy drinkers, but Bridges Durkin says that the ‘jury is still out’ and the research is inconclusive.

Pea milk: the newest, creamiest alternative to cow’s milk

This alternative is the new kid on the block, but becoming a more common sight on the grocery store shelves.

Pea milk ‘is very similar to cow’s milk and soy milk with pretty much the same nutritional values,’ says Bridges Durkin.

The dairy alternative is made by mixing a flour made out of yellow peas with water, sunflower oil and sea salt and enriched with vitamins, including B12, which vegetarians who don’t drink cow’s milk are often deficient in.

Pea milk contains 8g of protein, only 70 calories, and actually beats out dairy milk for calcium, with a whopping 451 mg per serving – as compared to just 293 in cow’s milk.

From her sampling, Bridges Durkin says that pea milk ‘tastes really good and if you like the taste and texture of milk, it’s the closest,’ whether you are drinking it straight, stirring it into your coffee or even baking with it.

The new nondairy has the added advantage of being unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. About 10 percent of people who have a peanut allergy also have a bad reaction to beans and peas, accounting for somewhere between 0.06 and 0.1 percent of the American population.

Pea milk is also, of course, dairy-, gluten-, and soy-free, making it nearly universally harmless.

It’s not just good for its drinkers: pea milk is among the most environmentally friendly nondairy drinks, requiring very little water and only small plots for peas to grow on, ‘so it has a pretty small footprint,’ says Bridges Durkin.

Almond milk: America’s favorite is nutrient-poor and bad for the planet

Americans have flocked to almond milk in recent years.

Sales of nutty dairy alternative surged by 250 percent between 2010 and 2016.

Its meteoric rise to popularity may be driven in part by fears over the hormonal contents of soy, but many have questioned how healthy almond milk actually is for people – and the environment.

Almond milk is enriched with calcium too, so it has a high content around 450mg and contains only 40 calories.

But it leaves much to be desired when it comes to protein, with just 1 g, as compared to the eight found in cow’s, soy or pea milk.

Almond milk is really a bit of a misnomer, says Bridges Durkin.

Making almond milk involves simply grinding almonds, blending them with water, then straining out the almond parts.

‘The way they process almonds are such that it basically just leaches all those great nutrients right out, so you’re basically drinking glorified water with some almond flavor,’ she says.

Recently, there has been some uproar over the environmental consequences of the drink’s popularity, however.

Every almond requires 1.1 gallons of water just to grow to maturity, and the farming boom for the thirsty nut has been blamed for helping to fuel crippling droughts in California.

Cashew milk: a nut milk with a richer texture is still lacking in nutrients

Milks – or ‘mylks’ as they are called in some circles – made from cashews have remained sleepers on the alternative dairy market.

Cashew milk is made in a similar way to almond milk. The nuts are soaked, blended into a paste with water and strained.

But the hearty nuts make for a more satisfying drink, to Bridges Durkin’s mind.

‘Cashew milk is great, it’s pretty close in terms of taste and texture to cow’s and pea milk, it’s a little bit creamier than some others,’ she says.

But, ‘like any of the nut milks, cashew is not really going to be very high in protein or the good nutrients that nuts are known for’ because the process of making it saps them, Bridges Durkin says.

Like almond milk, it has only about one gram of protein per glass relatively low micronutrient and mineral counts, and a similar calcium-count to the other alternatives by virtue of enrichment (451mg).

Coconut milk: the most milk-like non-milk

Long used for cooking, consumers now ‘have to distinguish between cans versus prepared coconut for drinking that you can find in the dairy section,’ says Bridges Durkin.

Coconut milk is not to be confused with coconut water, and the process of making the milk actually more closely resembles that of making a traditional dairy product than do that creation processes for other dairy alternatives.

The white flesh on the interior of a coconut is finely grated and soaked in hot water, which causes a creamy white layer to rise to the top, just as happens in milk. The cream is skimmed off, the liquid is strained, and the result is coconut milk.

Though it does not quite match up to cow’s, pea and soy milk, coconut milk is ‘pretty good, from a nutritional standpoint,’ says Bridges Durkin.

It has about three to 4g of protein in each glass, is fortified with about 100mg of calcium and 3mcg of vitamin B12.

Coconut milk is also somewhat fiber-rich with about a gram per glass, as compared to cow’s milk which is devoid of fiber.

The main precaution Bridges Durkin offers is that it does have a bit more fat than other nondairy alternatives, with three to 4g per glass, so ‘if you have a condition where it is really imperative for you to follow a low-fat diet, there are viable alternatives that are going to be lower in fat.’

Oat, flax and hemp milks: niche options for those who are allergic to everything

Though they are gaining popularity alongside the entire dairy alternative market, these milks are a little further off the beaten path from milk.

All three are ‘hypoallergenic,’ but that may come at the cost of taste, Bridges Durkin says.

Flax milk, however, has no protein in it and 300mg of calcium. Hemp has a better dose of protein, with 2g, and a comparable amount of calcium, while oat milk has 4g of protein, and slightly more calcium, at 300mg.

‘Hemp milk,’ for example, ‘is a really good alternative for people who have a lot of allergies, but it has a really earthy taste that a lot of people don’t like.

Though flax and hemp milks have been around for awhile, they have never quite found traction in the popular market.

Oat milk, on the other hand, is all the rage, in both the US and the UK.

Cafes are stocking up on oat milk, which is safe for most people as it contains no wheat and few people are allergic to it.

It stacks up reasonably well to the healthiest dairy alternatives, with a good showing of 2g of protein and an average calcium content of 350mg. But its calorie content is still high, at 130, and its tastiness may be partly attributed to the 19g of sugar in a glass.

‘Manufacturers will get around [earthy tastes in nondairy milks] by adding a lot of flavors or sugars to sort of mask that earthiness,’ Bridges Durkin warns, so be sure to check the labels of these ‘milks’ for sugar content.

Source: Daily Mail

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