Which Plant-Based Milk Is Best For You?
Whether the dairy industry likes it or not, plant milks are here to stay. People’s reasons for switching from dairy vary widely from lactose intolerance, animal welfare, environmental concerns, or a wide variety of health reasons.
Let’s look at the environmental impact and health benefits of some of the most popular plant based milks.
What Are The Environmental Impacts Of Various Plant Milks?
At this stage, it's safe to say that plant milks have been proven to have a far lower impact on the environment than dairy. But how do their benefits stack up?
According to a 2018 study, these are the environmental impacts of Rice, Soya, Oat and Almond milks.
In terms of GHG emissions, Rice Milk is the highest. This is due to the way rice is grown and the flooding of paddy fields which releases a significant amount of Methane.
Close behind then is Soy, then Oat and then Almond Milk.
As far as land use goes, all the plant based milks have a minimal land-use footprint, with very little difference between them – especially when compared to dairy. Soy milk often gets a bad reputation as having a bad relationship with land use in the Amazon. However, the vast majority of Amazonian slash and burn agriculture is used as livestock feed.
Water use is where we see the most significant difference in plant milks. Almond milk notoriously has a poor relationship with the environment. It takes almost 80 litres of water to produce just 200 mls of Almond Milk. However, this is still vastly superior to dairy, which uses around 120 litres to make a 200 ml glass.
Rice milk also uses relatively high volumes of water at over 40 litres per 200ml glass. In contrast, Oat and Soy milk used very little water to produce the same.
What Are The Nutritional Benefits Of Various Plant Milks?
Many (probably most) plant milks are fortified with calcium these days. But did you know that recent studies have shown that the calcium in dairy may not prevent osteoporosis and bone fractures?
Due to the differences many brands use in fillers and sweeteners, it can be hard to compare specific details for each milk type. But here's a general overview of some of the most popular plant milks available.
Almond Milk is generally one of the lowest calories, fats and protein.
Oat Milk tends to be higher in carbohydrates, fibre and calories while low in fat and protein.
Coconut Milk is usually low in calories, fats, sodium, and protein.
Soya Milk is higher in protein and calories while being moderately low in sodium, low in carbohydrates, and very low in fat.
Rice Milk is the highest in calories, high in carbohydrates and very high in sugar.
So, Which Is Best?
There isn't one clear winner, and choice is going to come down to why you’re drinking it. Do you care most about GHG’s? Health? Protein? Taste?
Ultimately, all plant milks are processed food. These days it's pretty easy to make your own plant milks at home with blenders or commercially produced milk machines. This can be a good way to avoid unwanted fillers and preservatives.
What’s your favourite plant milk? Let us know!
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