Eco-Friendly Plant Milk : Which Is Best for the Planet?
Eco-Friendly Plant Milk:
- Plant-based milks have been all the rage in the past few years, but which one is best?
- If you are looking to drink eco-friendly Plant Milk, you may be wondering if coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk or rice milk is the healthiest and most environmentally-friendly option available to you.
- Each type of plant-based milk has its own unique nutritional profile and comes from different sources, so how do you decide which one to go with?
Rethinking The Dairy Industry
If you’re looking to cut down on your dairy intake, you may want to consider going out of your way to choose plant-based alternatives.In fact, when compared with cow’s milk, many plant-based milks have a much lower carbon footprint.
According to some estimates, making dairy products contributes anywhere from 200 million to 500 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
So in addition to saving yourself from lactose intolerance and other potentially harmful effects of drinking milk (including cancer), you can also give Mother Earth a big assist by choosing a vegan alternative over cow’s milk.
The Health Benefits of Non-Dairy Milks
Although dairy milk is relatively easy to digest, many people are sensitive to it or choose not to consume it.
Fortunately, there are plenty of non-dairy alternatives that pack a punch when it comes to calcium and protein—and taste just as delicious in your favorite coffee or cereal.
In fact, some even have higher amounts of these nutrients than cow’s milk does! When choosing a non-dairy milk, look at ingredients.
Coconut and soy milks contain saturated fats (the main type of fat found in food), which can increase LDL cholesterol levels and put you at risk for heart disease.
Almond, rice, hemp and flaxseed milks generally have lower amounts of saturated fat than coconut or soy; nut milks often have less protein than other options too.
What Are The Different Kinds Of Non-Dairy Milks?
There are a number of different plant-based milks on store shelves and in coffee shops across America. Soy milk has long been considered to be one of, if not the go-to non-dairy milks in America.
In recent years, almond milk, hemp milk, and coconut milk have become increasingly popular and are starting to overtake soy in terms of sales.
However, there are many more kinds of non-dairy milks out there—can you name them all? Check out our infographic below for a list of different types of non-dairy milks available and how they differ from each other.
Soy milk is a popular choice among vegans, lactose-intolerant people and those who follow a dairy-free diet. Soy milk has very few calories, about 30 per cup.
Soy milk also provides several essential nutrients including calcium, vitamins D and B12, magnesium and selenium. Soy milk does not contain any cholesterol or saturated fat, which are often found in dairy milk products.
However, soy milk contains phytoestrogens that may mimic estrogen in your body. This can cause problems for men with prostate issues and women with breast cancer or uterine fibroids.
While some studies show that soy milk may lower your risk of heart disease, others have shown that it increases your risk of developing diabetes by promoting insulin resistance—and it’s unclear whether soy milk actually reduces your risk of developing heart disease to begin with.
You may not see a cow, but there are still many environmental costs associated with almond milk production. Almonds require lots of water to grow and must be hand-picked from trees, so a vast amount of labor and fossil fuels are used in their production.
According to Blue Diamond Growers, it takes 2 gallons of water to produce 1 almond, which is 50 percent more than it takes to produce 1 gallon of soybeans.
Additionally, almonds aren’t nutritionally superior to soybeans; both have 6 grams of protein per serving. However, almonds require large amounts of fertilizer that can damage soil quality and groundwater; as much as 7 pounds per every pound of almonds produced in California.
Hemp Seed Milk
Hemp milk is a popular dairy alternative that’s high in protein and vitamins. Many commercial brands add extra omega-3 fats, along with sweeteners like stevia or agave to improve flavor.
Hemp milk may be low in calcium, but adding calcium-fortified soy milk can help make up any nutritional shortfalls.
Overall, hemp seed milk is a good choice if you’re looking for a vegan option and want to enjoy plant-based versions of your favorite foods.
Some studies suggest that hemp seed oil may boost metabolism, helping people lose weight. Hemp Seed Milk
This slightly sweet dairy alternative is made from whole oats that are soaked in water, blended and strained. Oat milk has a creamy texture similar to traditional milk but with a slight grit.
It’s made with mostly water and has approximately four times more calcium than most plant-based milks. With less protein than other plant-based alternatives, oat milk can still be a good option if you’re watching your calories.
One cup of oat milk contains around 160 calories. Though oat milk is touted as an eco-friendly alternative because it uses fewer resources than cow’s milk, its high water content means it produces more waste per serving, making it less sustainable than soy or almond alternatives.
Unlike many plant-based milks, coconut milk contains saturated fat. But that doesn’t make it unhealthy. In fact, research shows that saturated fats can improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Coconut milk also has fewer calories than other plant-based milks, making it a good choice if you’re watching your weight.
Research even suggests that including coconut in your diet could be healthy—but there’s a catch: One study found that adding coconut to a high-fat diet could increase LDL cholesterol (the bad kind).
If you do decide to go with coconut milk as an eco-friendly option, stick to one cup per day and keep your intake of high-fat foods low throughout the rest of your diet.
This milk is made from ground flaxseeds that are soaked in water, which are then pressed and strained to remove excess water.
The result is a nutty flavor—think of it as an earthy almond milk. Flaxseed oil, on its own, has numerous health benefits including reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.
Studies show that ground flaxseed may also be helpful in fighting cancer, especially prostate cancer. Flaxseed milk has added fiber (three grams per serving) but no protein or calcium, so it’s better suited to smoothies than cereal or coffee drinking.
Most rice milk sold in stores isn’t exactly nutritionally dense, but it’s one of the least likely plant milks to cause allergic reactions and intolerance symptoms. Most people with lactose intolerance or a casein allergy can drink it without side effects.
Rice milk is generally lower in calories than other plant milks—about 60 calories per cup—but it has more carbohydrates and less protein than most alternatives.
It also has more natural sugar and more sodium, which makes sense because so much of what is milked from rice (like juice) is added back into rice milk.