Almost 25% of the UK population are now drinking plant based milks. There is a huge range of different plants queuing up at the milking station. Gone are the days where soy or rice milk were the only options ( and I am SO happy about it)
There are three main types of non dairy milks:
- The beans: soya & pea
- The cereals: rice, oat, hemp.
- The nuts and seeds: almond, coconut, cashew, hazelnut, brazil nut, tiger nut, walnut
No plant based milk is a direct replacement for cow's milk in terms of nutrients. Soya milk is closest in terms of protein, carbs and fats, but is often highy refined ( you can read my previous post on soy). Oat milk is higher in carbs and lower in fat, and depending on the brand of nut milk you choose, these are often low in all macronutrients and mainly consist of water and gums.
When choosing a nut milk or seed milk you want to look at the percentage of nut/seed to water ratio. The higher the nut content the more nutrients, which is where the good stuff is. You also want to look out for additives and thickerners that are used to prevent the milk from seperating. These are not designed to be regular within our diets and overtime can irritate our gut lining.
Often non dairy milks can be filled with added sugars, so its best to opt for unsweetened versions.
The other imporant factor to take into consideration is fortification. Some milks are fortified with calcium, B12, and other nutrients, but many are not. This is especially important if you have elliminated dairy, meat, fish and eggs as you may be lacking in vital nutrients and need to consider supplementing.
The most popular non dairy milk right now are:
Almond milk has a subtle, nutty taste and is a popular choice for smoothies & baking. Due to the high water content, I don't find it is a good replacement for milk in tea or coffees as it just waters it down. Many almond milks offer little in the way of nutrition, and are not fortified with vitamins. My favourite brands for almond milk are Rude Health & Plenish, that have a nice taste and good ingredients. However these milks should not be used in placement of cows milk as they are not fortified with essential nutrients. I would acutually reccomend making your own nut milks as they are a lot cheaper and taste much nicer without all the fillers.
Oat milk is a delicious creamy consitency and works perfectly in coffee. Oatly Barrista ( probably the most popular oat milk) is fortfied with Calcium, Vitamin D, B12, & Iodine so is a good option for vegans & those eating a plant based diet.
Coconut milks have a very distinct flavour, so I often find people will either love it or hate it. I personally don't enjoy the taste of coconut milk in tea or coffee, but will often add to smoothies or dressings. Coconut milk are often higher in carbohdyrates and fats and lower in protein. Again making coconut milk at home is a good option and takes only a few minutes.
As with everything variety is key. I like to switch up the milks that I use. I don't think I could use anything other than oatly for my coffee (who is with me? ) but I do love making my own nut and seed milks for smoothies and cereal. You can make DIY milk in a matter of minutes, by adding 2 large tbsp of nut butter with 4 large cups water. If you like it a little sweeter you can add 1-2 dates or a tbsp. of maple syrup.
Key take away
If you are replacing dairy milk for plant based milks then make sure they they are fortified with Calcium, B12, Vitamin D and Iodine so that you are not missing out on essential vitamins. Make sure to choose unsweetened and avoid those brands that use lots of fillers & artificial preservatives.
If you are unsure as to whether you are getting all the essential nutrients, a Registered Nutritional therapist or Nutritionalist can help you work out if you are getting enough.