How to Choose Your Plant Milk

Aug 22 2017 - 3:50pm

Today is World Plant Milk Day (August 22, 2017). There are so many vegan options to replace dairy milk and thankfully they are becoming easier than ever to find in almost every grocery store!

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According to Worldplantmilk.com, plant-based milks are becoming increasingly popular. According to a recent report from Innova Market Insights, sales are forecast to reach $16.3 billion dollars in 2018, up from $7.4 billion in 2010.

Probably the first mainstream milk in your local store was soy milk. Soy milk, which is produced by soaking dried soybeans, grinding them in water, boiling the mixture and then filtering out the residues, actually originated in China possibly as early as 202 BC. Soy milk was first sold commercially in the US in the 1950’s, but become much more popular when re-introduced in the late 1970’s to mid 1980’s.

However, much of the more recent growth of plant-based milks has been due to the popularity of almond milk which went from “virtually zero” in the mid-2000’s to more than $1 billion in 2016, says Innova. It is now the leading plant-based alternative to dairy.

If you haven’t perused the dairy counter at your local grocery in a while, you may be surprised at the sheer number of plant-based milks available to you now!

We each have unique nutrition needs, so which plant milk you choose will likely be based on a variety of factors. Obviously, you will want it to taste good, but also if you will be using it in milk – how well does it perform in your favorite dishes? You will also want to check for calories, protein content, and calcium fortification.

Soy Milk
Soy milk has about 8-10 grams of protein per cup (about the same or slightly more than dairy milk). It is usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D. According to Silk.com, soy milk can generally be substituted cup for cup for a recipe that uses dairy milk, but it will scorch if cooked at too high of a temperature, so be sure to stir (just as you would when cooking dairy milk). However, because it is low in saturated fat, you may need a little extra thickener if you are using soy milk in puddings and custards (try 3 Tablespoons of cornstarch, per the website.)

Almond Milk
These are often lower in protein, but also often lower in calories as well. Again, many commercial products are fortified with calcium, so read labels carefully. Almond milk can be used in many recipes to substitute for dairy milk, but not in pudding recipes, says The Joy of Cooking.

Coconut milk
Coconut milk is often used in Indian cooking, but is now becoming a popular plant-based milk beverage alternative. It is naturally sweet and creamy, but be aware that coconut is higher in calories and does contain more fat than other vegan milks.

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Other Nut Milks
More and more nut milks are making their way into mainstream grocery stores, including Cashew, Macadamia and Hazelnut. Like Almond milk, these are often lower in protein than dairy milk.

Rice Milk
Rice milk is often thinner than other plant-based milks, and often low protein. Many brands also add sugar to sweeten as well. But it is a great option for those who may be allergic to either soy or nuts.

Hemp Milk
Hemp is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids and contains 10 essential amino acids. And bonus for those who are unable to digest soy milk, hemp milk does not contain the oligosaccharides that can sometimes lead to gas and bloating.

Oat Milk
This milk may not be the most readily available in your area, but it has been described as being the most creamy. It again does not have a lot of protein, but it does often contain fiber and is fortified with calcium and iron.

Flax Milk
This is a newer milk that has been popping up in my area. The Good Karma brand advertises 5 grams of protein and 1200 mg omega 3 fatty acids. This also is a good option for those allergic to soy or nuts.

Pea Milk
Ripple brands make a delicious vanilla and chocolate beverage that can be consumed straight from the bottle! A one-cup serving has the same protein content as cow’s milk and is low in saturated fat. It is also advertised to have 50% more calcium than almond milk.

With all plant based milks, be aware that many do add sugar to provide sweetness and some may even contain sodium. You can always make your own! Vegan Woman offers this template for making your own vegan milk:

Ingredients:
1 cup nuts, grains or seeds
4 cups water
1-2 dates for sweetness
vanilla or almond extract or any other flavor you enjoy

Directions: Soak the nuts, seeds or grains overnight in water to cover. Drain and discard the water. Place the soaked nuts, seeds or grains in your blender and add the 4 cups of fresh water. Blend for several minutes until the mixture is smooth. Strain in a strainer or special nut milk bag, saving the nut pulp for use in baking. Return the strained milk to the blender and add dates and any additional flavors. Blend until smooth. Nut milks will keep for 3-4 days in a glass jar in the refrigerator.

For More on World Plant Milk Day, visit http://www.worldplantmilkday.com/about

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