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Alternative Milk


Since ancient times, milk has been extracted and consumed by humans. Chocolate milk has always been a personal favorite, but not with just any milk. Cow’s milk is old school, alternative milk is the up and coming health trend and could be the perfect way to start off your day and reduce your impact on the environment.

Cow’s milk has a whopping 8 grams of protein, 400 mg of calcium and 300 mg of potassium; It’s a hard choice to beat nutrient wise but many reasons such as allergies, lactose intolerance, and thoughts about the animal agriculture business move eyes towards alternative milk. Other than health, the dairy industry is a grim and horrific place for cows. A female cow’s life goes as such “forced impregnation, the theft of her baby, and a return to the cattle crush (narrow trap) two or three months later” (Chas Newkey-Burden, thegaurdian.com). Here are the top 4 milk alternatives and their impacts on the world.

Soy Milk

Soy Milk is a top tier option for alternative milk, made from soybeans, comes in at 7-12 grams of protein and is the most nutrient similar to milk. Soy also contains nutrients that have cancer-fighting properties known as phytonutrients or isoflavones. A study done by the Journal of Food and Science Technology showed that soy milk was the most nutrient-rich and beneficial to health in comparison to almond, coconut and rice milk.

Soy milk is also a winner for sustainability but because they are grown in massive amounts, parts of the Amazon have been destroyed to make way for soy production but not to worry, listed below are some brands that are made in the U.S and Canada or have made a sustainable commitment.

Almond Milk

Almond milk has gained a huge amount of popularity of the years and stated by the New York Times “According to Nielsen, sales of plant-based milks have surged to $1.4 billion from $900 million in 2012” (www.newyorktimes.com). This popularity can be contributed to the good level of antioxidants, and high level of monounsaturated fatty acids that have proved to be helpful in weight loss/weight management.

However, According to the new york times “Most of the world’s almonds come from drought-stricken California, where farmers have been accused of diverting dwindling groundwater reserves to their almond orchards and producing just 16 almonds requires an estimated 15.3 gallons of water” This amount is nowhere near to the environmental effects the dairy industry contributes to which takes 144 gallons to produce one gallon of milk.  Here are a few listed almond milk brands, the healthiest options are usually unsweetened but go with unsweetened vanilla if you are looking for a sweet taste!

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is very rich in many nutrients such as magnesium, fiber, B6, B12, calcium and a few others but it is high in saturated fat. Luckily the type of saturated fat found on coconut milk is a chain called medium-chain triglycerides which does not cause cardiovascular problems and could even benefit those with normal to high levels of cholesterol but more research is needed. Coconut milk is also known to reduce inflammation, reduce stomach ulcer sizes and fight viruses and bacteria.

Coconut milk, although a very good natural product for any lifestyle, comes with some negative environmental impacts as well. Coconuts have seen a huge rise in demand for western countries and with that means a demand in production. However, coconuts trees have peak time around 10-30 years where they produce the most coconuts and take about 5 years to even begin growing coconuts. This is important because farmers “plant more and more coconut trees to maintain a constant stream of product. Replacing native plants and biodiversity to meet the demand for coconuts, can take a major toll on the soil, leading farmers [(in poorer countries who are usually paid low wages)]  to turn to chemical fertilizers to boost their productivity” (onegreenplanet.com). 

Within the brands, Silk, So Delicious, Pacific Foods and Califia Farms some of their milks are considered Whole30 compliant meaning they contain the least amount of ingredients, leave out sweeteners and are carrageenan free.

Rice Milk

For those with nut, soy or dairy allergies, rice milk is your best bet. Rice milk contains iron, selenium, vitamin D and magnesium, anti-oxidants and no cholesterol making it a good choice for those with cardiovascular issues. However, rice milk does have a high glycemic index, which can raise blood sugar levels and contains arsenic which has been known as a cancer-causing agent. Not to panic though, this only becomes an issue if your main diet consists of rice milk so adding other grains into your diet and nutrients and limiting rice milk consumption is the perfect way to prevent any potential risks.

Rice milk, according to an Oxford study in the Guardian, shows that rice milk produces the most greenhouse gas emissions than any other plant-based milk. And rice is also extremely water dependent.

To conclude:

Your choice of alternative milk is based on your preference and diet! 

Citations

Care2. “6 Alternatives to Milk: Which Is the Healthiest?” EcoWatch, EcoWatch, 31 Jan. 2019, www.ecowatch.com/6-alternatives-to-milk-which-is-the-healthiest-1891128088.html.

Coyle, Daisy. “The 9 Best Nondairy Substitutes for Milk.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 17 Jan. 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-milk-substitutes.

Eat This, Not That! Editors. “The Best & Worst Milk Alternatives Brands to Buy.” Eat This Not That, Eat This Not That, 4 Feb. 2020, www.eatthis.com/best-worst-milk-alternatives/.

Cassetty, Samantha, and Rd. “Plant-Based Milk vs. Cow’s Milk: What’s the Difference?” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 16 Aug. 2018, www.nbcnews.com/better/health/plant-based-milk-vs-cow-s-milk-what-s-difference-ncna845271.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13197-017-2915-y

MacMillan, Amanda. “Soy Milk Is the Healthiest Dairy Alternative, Study Says.” Time, Time, 15 Aug. 2018, time.com/5125580/soy-milk-healthiest-plant-based/.

O’connor, Anahad. “Got Almond Milk? Dairy Farms Protest Milk Label on Nondairy Drinks.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/well/eat/got-almond-milk-dairy-farms-protest-milk-label-on-nondairy-drinks.html.

 “Milk’s Impact on the Environment.” WWF, World Wildlife Fund, www.worldwildlife.org/magazine/issues/winter-2019/articles/milk-s-impact-on-the-environment.

Saner, Emine. “Almond Milk: Quite Good for You – Very Bad for the Planet.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Oct. 2015, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2015/oct/21/almond-milk-quite-good-for-you-very-bad-for-the-planet.

O’connor, Anahad. “Got Almond Milk? Dairy Farms Protest Milk Label on Nondairy Drinks.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 13 Feb. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/well/eat/got-almond-milk-dairy-farms-protest-milk-label-on-nondairy-drinks.html.

Newkey-Burden, Chas. “Dairy Is Scary. The Public Are Waking up to the Darkest Part of Farming | Chas Newkey-Burden.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 30 Mar. 2017, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/30/dairy-scary-public-farming-calves-pens-alternatives.

Macklin, Malorie. “Is Your Obsession With Coconuts Harming the Environment?” One Green Planet, One Green Planet, 29 Oct. 2018, www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/is-your-obsession-with-coconuts-harming-the-environment/.

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/coconut-milk#heart-health

“Whole30 Approved Coconut Milk Brands.” Olive You Whole, 18 Sept. 2019, www.oliveyouwhole.com/whole30/whole30-approved-coconut-milk-brands/.

“Almond Milk: The Best and Worst Brands.” Healthy Eater, 25 Sept. 2019, healthyeater.com/almond-milk.

McGivney, Annette. “Almonds Are out. Dairy Is a Disaster. So What Milk Should We Drink?” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 Jan. 2020, www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jan/28/what-plant-milk-should-i-drink-almond-killing-bees-aoe.

Lewin, Jo, et al. “The Health Benefits of Coconut Milk.” BBC Good Food, 5 Dec. 1970, www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/ingredient-focus-coconut-milk.