Plant milk is a beverage created from products of plant origin, such as seeds, cereals or nuts. It can be an interesting alternative to cow's milk, especially among vegetarians and vegans, as well as among people struggling with lactose intolerance or allergy to cow's milk protein.
Plant milk can be distinguished by its low glycemic index and lower energy content than cow's milk. In addition, vegetable drinks do not contain cholesterol and saturated fatty acids. But are they actually a good substitute for the commonly used cow's milk?
Plant milk - what is it?
Plant milk is a drink created from plant products - cereals, seeds, legumes, nuts or seeds. It is created by soaking and grinding specific plant products.
Plant drink is commonly referred to as milk, as it is distinguished by its similar color and texture, but according to European Union Law, only zoonotic products can be referred to as milk.
In the article we will take the liberty of using these terms interchangeably, but it is worthwhile for you to be aware, when standing in front of a store shelf, that you will not find plant milk on it.
Cow's milk is a completely different product than plant-based milk. These articles differ in the presence of macro- and also micro-nutrients. Plant drinks, for example, are distinguished by their very low calcium content, unless they are enriched in this ingredient.
Plant milk - for whom?
Plant-based drinks are products that almost everyone can reach for. Only people with allergies to individual ingredients should be careful when using these products.
However, plant milk is most often used by people who:
- suffer from lactose intolerance,
- have an allergy to cow's milk protein,
- are vegetarians, vegans or those interested in plant-based cuisine,
- want to diversify their daily diet.
Popular types of plant milk and their properties
There are many different plant-based drinks available on store shelves. As these products are growing in popularity, among other things related to the growing awareness of the public, they are becoming more commonplace.
Types of plant milk differ not only in taste, but also in properties.
Which plant-based drinks are best known? And what health-promoting properties do they have?
- Soy milk - can be a valuable source of B vitamins, which, among other things, can support the proper functioning of the nervous system. Calcium-enriched soy milk most closely resembles cow's milk among available plant-based beverages. It can be a valuable source of protein, and at the same time a product that does not provide the body with too much fat and carbohydrates.
- Rice milk - does not contain nuts or gluten, so it can be a good alternative for people with allergies. It is a low-energy drink that has negligible amounts of fat and protein. It can be a good source of B vitamins, as well as selenium and manganese, and thus can support nervous system function and help neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.
- Oat milk - may contain more protein and dietary fiber than other plant-based drinks. Due to the presence of beta-glucan, the product may have an effect on lowering serum cholesterol levels, as well as supporting intestinal peristalsis.
- Almond milk - almonds naturally can be a valuable source of calcium, so a drink made from them can stand out for its richness in this element. In addition, significant amounts of protein can be found in the product. Almond milk has a slightly nutty taste, so it enhances the flavor of dishes and drinks to which it is added. Almond drink can be a source of arginine, which can support the proper functioning of the circulatory system, and histidine, which can have a positive effect on the digestive and immune systems.
- Coconut milk - can contain many valuable fatty acids and minerals. In addition, it may exhibit antibacterial and antiviral properties. It stands out for its low glycemic index and is gluten-free.
Due to the presence of phytoestrogens, it can relieve symptoms and discomforts associated with menopause. In addition, the product does not contain cholesterol, and thus can have a positive effect on the cardiovascular system.
Due to possible arsenic contamination of rice, do not give rice drink to children.
Oat milk is distinguished by its sweet taste and may be one of the most environmentally friendly plant-based beverages.
There are also plant-based beverages such as cashew nut milk, hazelnut milk, flaxseed milk, pea milk or sunflower seed milk, but these are somewhat less popular, and thus harder to find, products.
Which plant-based beverage is best for coffee?
In fact, choosing a plant-based beverage for coffee is a matter of taste. Baristas, however, usually recommend oat milk, almond milk or soy milk.
Almond milk can give coffee a slightly nutty flavor, while oat drink can make coffee sweeter than usual. Soy milk, on the other hand, may have a slightly grainy aftertaste, but it is perfect for frothing and is the most popular among plant-based drinks, which is why it is the most common alternative to cow's milk in cafes.
Is plant-based milk healthy?
Plant milk does not contain lactose, as well as cholesterol and saturated fatty acids, making it a healthy beverage that can be widely used in the daily diet.
However, it is worth remembering that plant-based drinks may contain potential allergens, such as nuts or soy, and their composition is based primarily on carbohydrates. In addition, plant milks are naturally deficient in calcium and vitamin B12, so you should always reach for beverages fortified with these ingredients, and the resulting nutrient deficiencies should be supplemented with other products present in the daily diet.
Plant-based beverages can be better absorbed by the body than cow's milk and can be a source of healthy fatty acids. Rice milk is hypoallergenic and can also be used by people with allergies and sensitivities.
Which plant milk is the healthiest?
The plant milk that is most similar to cow's milk is calcium-enriched soy beverage. In addition, soy milk can contain significant amounts of B vitamins and more protein than other plant-based drinks. In addition, it is distinguished by its low glycemic index.
Soy milk can therefore be considered one of the healthiest and best substitutes for non-animal milk, but it is worth including other plant-based beverages in the diet, which are distinguished by their distinctive taste qualities and various health-promoting properties.
What should you pay attention to when buying plant-based drinks?
- On the composition - the shorter, the better. Typically, to produce a plant drink, all you need is water, the main ingredient such as soybeans and salt.
- Added sugar - or rather, for the lack of it. In the composition of a good plant drink, there should be no added sugar, glucose-fructose syrup, maltodextrin or other sweeteners.
- High content of the main ingredient in the milk - if it is a coconut drink, it will be all the better the more coconut in it. The situation should be analogous for other plant-based beverages.
- Added calcium or vitamin B12 - since plant-based beverages are often used as replacements for cow's milk, they should provide the body with the valuable ingredients that zoonotic milk contains. Therefore, among the available plant-based drinks, it is advisable to choose those that are enriched with, among other things, calcium and vitamin B12.
How to make plant milk yourself - recipe
Honestly have to admit that plant-based drinks are not among the cheapest, but did you know that you can prepare your favorite plant-based milk yourself at home? And you don't need specialized equipment for this at all! All you need is a blender, a bowl and a piece of clean gauze or a strainer to hand.
Here's a recipe for homemade soy milk!
Ingredients needed to prepare the drink:
- cup of soybeans,
- pinch of salt.
Method of preparing soy milk:
- Thoroughly rinse soybeans under running water, then soak them in water for a minimum of 12 hours, so that all the seeds are covered. After this time, rinse the seeds again and get rid of unnecessary husks.
- Drain the grains and transfer to a blender. Add 4 cups of hot water and blend until smooth and liquid (add a little more water if necessary).
- Strain the drink through gauze (or a strainer) and pour into a pot.
- Boil the milk, bring to a boil and remove the resulting foam. Then cook them over low heat for about 15 minutes. At the end, add a pinch of salt.
Similarly, you can prepare a vegetable drink from other grains or cereals, such as oats, or coconut chips. Homemade vegetable milk can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. Although it seems to us that it will disappear much faster.
How to use plant milk?
Plant-based beverages are often used by people with lactose intolerance or cow's milk protein allergies as replacements for traditional zoonotic milk. They can also be an alternative for vegetarians and vegans, as well as people who simply don't like the taste of cow's milk. Therefore, plant-based beverages can be widely used in the kitchen, as can zoonotic milk.
Use them as an addition to your coffee or cocktail. Use when preparing various dishes and baked goods such as pancakes or homemade cakes. Create delicious desserts with plant-based drinks. Experiment, combine!