Guide to Plant-Based Milk Alternatives

Guide to Plant-Based Milk Alternatives

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Even in case you are not one of many 30 to 50 million individuals within the United States who’re lactose intolerant, you could, like myself and over 1,000,000 others, undergo from an allergy to one of many proteins present in milk, akin to casein or whey. For the allergic, it means we will’t devour any milk, cheese, ice cream, yogurt, or any dairy product made out of cow’s milk.

While allergic reactions and intolerances are certainly an inconvenience, there are lots of different causes to keep away from this animal-derived beverage touted because the primary supply of calcium (trace: it’s not). Many plant-based meals — akin to collard greens, spinach, chia seeds, sesame seeds, okra, and almonds — surpass cow’s milk with regards to calcium.

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Reasons to Avoid Cow’s Milk

Today, you don’t must be vegan to have heard in regards to the horrors of milk manufacturing. According to the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA),

Cows produce milk for a similar cause that people do — to nourish their younger — however calves on dairy farms are taken away from their moms when they’re just one day old. They are fed milk replacers (together with cattle blood) in order that their moms’ milk might be offered to people.

We are the one species that ingests one other animal’s milk — and proceed to take action after infancy. Cow’s milk is designed for the dietary wants of their calves who, by the way in which, possess 4 stomachs.

cows and calves
Cows produce milk to fulfill the dietary wants of their calves, not people. Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

In addition to this and the overuse of antibiotics, 20% of U.S. dairy farmers (on non-organic farms) nonetheless inject cows with growth hormones, akin to man-made bovine development hormones (rBGH) or artificial recombinant bovine development hormone (rBST) developed by agricultural biotech large, Monsanto, to extend milk manufacturing. Genetically engineered bovine development hormone (rBGH/rBST) has been linked to breast, colon, and prostate cancers. However, in accordance with the American Cancer Society,

At this time, it’s not clear that consuming milk, produced with or with out rBGH therapy, will increase blood IGF-1 ranges into a spread that may be of concern relating to most cancers threat or different well being results.

Nonetheless, European nations, Japan, and Canada have banned rBGH to guard their residents. But it’s nonetheless authorized within the United States. USDA organic milk standards, alternatively, prohibit natural farmers from injecting their cows with development hormones.

Plant-Based Milk: Healthier for You & the Planet

Think milk is making youngsters more healthy? Think once more. Today, one-third of youngsters are chubby or overweight, one in 10 are Vitamin D poor, and lots of youngsters and teenagers aged 4 to 18 don’t get enough calcium. You could hear claims that the consumption of copious quantities of milk is one of the simplest ways to get the calcium wanted for sturdy bones and good well being. However, it’s attention-grabbing to notice that the United States has among the many highest charges of osteoporosis on the earth.

Many plant-based options have simply as a lot — and lots of even greater — quantities of calcium per serving than cow’s milk. For instance, a cup of two% dairy milk incorporates 293 mg of calcium, whereas 1 cup of Original Unsweetened Ripple brand pea milk incorporates a whopping 450 mg of calcium. That’s 50% extra calcium than cow’s milk. It additionally incorporates 32 mg of DHA omega-3 fatty acids and eight grams of plant protein per serving; that’s extra protein than an egg, which boasts solely 6 grams.

Ripple plant-based milk

In addition to dietary elements, think about the carbon footprint of milk manufacturing. It takes about 4.5 gallons of water to provide one gallon of dairy milk. Unfortunately, almond milk shouldn’t be your best option both, because it takes 1.1 gallons of water to develop a single almond.

In addition, cows require huge quantities of feed, produce equal quantities of waste, and create methane, a robust greenhouse gas. The manufacturing of only one gallon of dairy milk ends in 17.6 pounds of CO2e.

5 Things to Avoid in Plant-Based Milk

1. Thickening Agents

Thickening brokers, akin to gums and carrageenan, can usually upset digestive methods. If you might have a gastrointestinal sickness, it is best to be careful for a few of these.

  • Carrageenan has been linked to most cancers, diabetes, and irritation, in accordance with a report by the Cornucopia Institute. Derived from crimson seaweed, carrageenan is added to many processed meals and drinks to thicken the merchandise. However, gastrointestinal signs have been extensively reported with its use. Dozens of peer-reviewed research cited the risks of not simply degraded, however food-grade (undegraded) carrageenan.
  • Guar gum is a soluble fiber. Soluble fibers are prebiotics that promote the expansion of fine micro organism within the intestine, however they’re carbohydrates that the physique can’t break down. According to Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietitian Karen Graham, individuals who have SIBO or IBS might be delicate to guar gum. Extracted from the cluster bean, guar gum may cause health effects together with gasoline, bloating, and free stools.
  • Xantham gum might be an ingredient you acknowledge. It’s in lots of merchandise, together with wallpaper glue, herbicides, pesticides, and even private care merchandise. It’s additionally generally used as a thickening agent in meals — particularly in gluten-free meals. Xanthum gum is a soluble fiber that’s deemed protected for consumption however has additionally been linked with laxative results when consumed in portions of 15 grams a day or extra. Since it’s created from a sugar derived from corn, soy, wheat, or dairy, it’s greatest prevented when you’ve got allergic reactions to any of those.
  • Locust bean (carob) gum is a poorly soluble dietary fiber. Locust bean gum can produce comparable digestive points, in accordance with Graham. It is derived from the carob tree. Those allergic to legumes could want to keep away from this gum.
  • Gellan gum, like xantham gum, is produced by bacterial fermentation. There aren’t sufficient research out there but to find out its impact on digestive well being. However, one human study discovered it to be a bulking agent with no adversarial well being results.

Gums can have well being advantages and aren’t dangerous, says Graham; nonetheless, they will make individuals with gastrointestinal points very uncomfortable. She recommends gum arabic for anybody involved about digestive points, as individuals normally should not have issues digesting it.

2. Sweetened Versions

With so many unsweetened variations of plant-based milk out there in the present day, it’s greatest to keep away from the pointless sugar load within the many sweetened plant-based milk options. Of course, you may splurge, however with rising charges of weight problems and diabetes within the U.S., it’s advisable to limit your sugar consumption.

3. Non-Organic Versions

Glyphosate. If you aren’t already acquainted with it by identify, it’s a probable cancer-causing herbicide that’s extensively utilized by non-organic farmers. Look for USDA Organic licensed plant-based milk choices, that are produced with out antibiotics, added development hormones, or pesticides.

4. Genetically Modified Versions

Genetically modified crops, notably corn and soybeans, are standard with U.S. farmers. St. Louis-based Monsanto is the main developer of such crops. If you might be involved about genetically modified substances, search for the Non-GMO Project Verified certification on the label. A GMO, or genetically modified organism, is a residing organism that has had its genetic make-up altered by the insertion of unrelated species’ DNA.

5. Soy

Soy has been touted as a “well being meals” and unrightfully so. A extremely processed meals, soy incorporates anti-nutrients that block digestive enzymes and is excessive in plant estrogens. Today, over 80% of U.S. corn, soybean, and cotton crops are genetically modified. Two dozen international locations, together with the U.S., permit the cultivation of biotech crops, whereas a lot of Europe, Japan, and most of Africa stay against genetically altered crops.

Tofu and soy milk are unfermented soy merchandise that you could be need to keep away from. Soy is a phytoestrogen that incorporates isoflavones, a compound comparable in construction to estrogen. Too a lot estrogen can result in estrogen dominance and different hormonal imbalances; it’s even been proven to trigger a “spare tire” across the center and “man boobs.” Women with a historical past or household historical past of breast most cancers, and post-menopausal men and women ought to keep away from soy merchandise on account of their excessive phytoestrogen (plant estrogens) content material.

bowl of almonds and almond milk
While it’s a wholesome plant-based different, almond milk may not be your best option for the planet, as almond cultivation could be very water-intensive.

Suggested Plant-Based Milk Brands


One model Karen Graham, RDN, recommends is Elmhurst. Founded in 1925, Elmhurst operated as a conventional dairy model for 90 years. Today, nonetheless, Elmhurst gives solely 100% plant-based drinks containing not more than six and as few as two substances per product. Elmhurst doesn’t use any gums or emulsifiers of their nut milk.

Graham recommends their unsweetened walnut milk, which incorporates simply filtered water and walnuts. It’s chock-full of heart-healthy omega fatty acids: 1,400 mg ALA omega-3s per serving. In addition, research from Marshall University discovered that consuming walnuts adjustments our genes to assist suppress the expansion and survival of breast most cancers.

Elmhurst is sustainable, too. In truth, by way of their HydroRelease zero-waste course of, all components of the nut or grain are used, which maintains a easy and creamy texture. Elmhurst’s cartons are 100% recyclable and are licensed by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Elmhurst unsweetened milked walnuts
Elmhurst unsweetened walnut milk incorporates simply filtered water and walnuts.

Don’t like walnuts? No worries. Elmhurst also offers different plant-based milks together with Hazelnut, Almond, Cashew, and Oat. They additionally supply a number of plant-based creamers.


Another clear model Graham suggests is Ripple. Ripple’s unsweetened pea milk incorporates 0 grams of sugar, 0 carbohydrates, and eight grams of protein per serving; that’s eight occasions the protein contained in almond milk. Lower in sugar and energy than dairy milk, Ripple milk has 50% extra bioavailable calcium and potassium.

Ripple makes use of bottles made out of PET plastic that’s 100% recyclable, and the substances are licensed Non-GMO Project verified.

11 Plant-Based Milk Alternatives

These plant-based drinks can be found from quite a lot of manufacturers, however some are simpler to search out than others. That’s as a result of many are new to market and never but on retailer cabinets — particularly conventional grocery shops. However, you’ll possible discover most at Whole Foods or your native well being meals retailer. If you may’t discover a particular plant-based milk kind domestically, you could discover it on Amazon. Better but, make your own — they’re actually not that sophisticated when you’ve got the time.

Each of those plant-based drinks gives completely different dietary advantages, however most embody calcium and protein. For the healthiest milk options, we advocate you select natural, non-GMO, and unsweetened plant-based milk each time potential.

  1. Oat milk
  2. Hazelnut milk
  3. Cashew milk
  4. Macadamia milk
  5. Almond milk
  6. Coconut milk
  7. Rice milk
  8. Hemp milk
  9. Pea milk
  10. Flax milk
  11. Walnut milk

Comparison Chart

To view our printable comparability chart of plant-based milk options, click on the picture beneath. Each nut milk model varies barely, so we’ve offered common info on an unique or unsweetened model of every plant-based milk different. Details will range by model.

Earth911 milk alternatives comparison chart

The assortment of manufacturers in the present day gives quite a lot of plant-based milk options coupled with quite a few dietary advantages, quite a lot of flavors, and a low carbon footprint. I hope you’ll think about switching from dairy milk to nut- or different plant-based milk.

Originally printed on April 3, 2019, it was up to date in March 2022.