by Erin Fell
Growing up, at least for me, I was practically raised on cow’s milk. I would drink 3 to 5 glasses a day like it was water. This type of behavior nowadays does not exactly fly with many folks. With new environmental and health related concerns, people have been off the dairy bandwagon and trying new non-dairy milks left and right. Each milk has its own characteristics with benefits and detrimental effects, so let’s take a look.
First up is cow’s milk. The drink that raised me – and most of my generation, I’d say. Dairy milk happens to be a great source of calcium and protein. Environmentally speaking, it causes around three times as much greenhouse gas emissions than other non-dairy options. It also uses more land, and is the only option involving animals. In terms of cost, dairy milk is the cheapest to produce and sell, with a rather easy production process. It also has less sugar added, contributing to its nutritional value.
Soy milk typically has a mild taste and can taste the most like dairy milk. Its nutritional value also reflects dairy milk the most. It contains great protein, and supports heart and gut health. Soy milk also doesn’t use significant amounts of water to produce. The healthy fats in soy milk are beneficial for overall health. Soy milk is a great segway into the realm of non dairy milks.
Oat milk is created with an extremely complex recipe: oats blended with water. Depending on the brand, due to the recipe’s simplicity, it is more common to find oat milks with added oils and sugars which are a detriment to nutrition. However, oats are an excellent source of fiber, protein, and vitamin D. Oat milk also contains less fat than dairy milk. It has a creamier and slightly sweeter flavor, making it a great coffee additive. Environmentally, oat milks’ carbon footprint is spiffy clean. It uses less water and greenhouse gas emissions than other non-dairy alternatives.
Almond milk is the non-dairy alternative that switched me to non-dairy alternatives, and one of the most popular. It’s sweet, light, slightly nutty, and rich in Vitamin E. Unsweetened almond milk is also low in sugar and carbohydrates. It is on the lower calorie side of alternative milks as well. But, the production of almond milk uses excessive water and pesticides that other alternatives do not.
Coconut milk comes from the white flesh of mature brown coconuts. It is one of the thickest of the milk alternatives, and has a rich flavor and texture. Coconut flesh mixed with water is what makes up the milk itself. Depending on the thickness of the milk, coconut tends to be the option highest in fat and calories. Coconut milk is used globally in many different types of recipes as well. It has also been proven to improve cholesterol levels.