Plant-based milk or vegan milk. I am pretty sure by now, everyone must have heard about them or maybe even tried it in some form. An alternative to milk, a non-dairy beverage that came into the market a long time ago is named ‘plant-based milk’ or ‘vegan milk’. The hype around it is just too big to ignore.
But what exactly is plant-based milk?
To be completely honest, when I heard about it a couple of years ago, I wasn’t very sure what exactly this thing is and needless to say, I had my own doubts. Traditionally, milk is the lacteal secretion from the mammary glands of mammals. Therefore, true milk is the natural secretion from the mammary glands of mammals. As per studies, milk is considered to be nature’s most complete food, dairy products are considered the most nutritious foods.
Plant-based milk is a non-dairy beverage made from the water extracts of legumes, oilseeds, cereals or pseudocereals that resemble cow’s milk in appearance. Some common examples are oat milk, soy milk, cashew milk, etc
Being a science student, the name itself was a big question for me and raises many doubts. Is it right to call it milk or is it more like a plant juice?
Anyway, what’s in the name? Therefore, I moved past the name and tried to see the brighter picture.
Plant-based milk is in massive demand. It could be either due to medical or modern lifestyle choices. Whatever the reasons are, there has been significant growth in the industry. Now you dont have an aisle of different kinds of cereal but you also have an aisle of different kinds of milk to go along with it. Even the most simple task of ordering a coffee has become very complicated from the various kinds of milk now available. There are just so many to choose from and even though I like options, trust me, I have ruined my coffee multiple times while ordering one decent cup of coffee until I found the ‘right one’ for me.
However, plant-based milk isn’t just a trend, people have opted for plant-based milk for various reasons.
Why People Are Choosing Plant-Based Milk?
1. Lactose Intolerance
A very common digestive condition in which a person suffering is unable to fully digest the sugar (lactose) in dairy products is called lactose Intolerance. Lactose is a disaccharide present in dairy products and to digest it in the body enzyme lactase is present in the body. The deficiency of this enzyme causes poor digestion resulting in symptoms such as belly cramps, nausea, bloating and even diarrhoea.
2. Milk Allergy
Milk allergies are often confused with lactose intolerance but they are two different things. It is a kind of food allergy caused by the proteins present in the milk. Similar to any other allergy, your immune system considers milk as a foreign substance and starts releasing chemicals called histamines in order to protect the body. It can thus result in vomiting and diarrhoea.
Veganism is a way of living in which all sort of animal products is prohibited to use, mainly in the diet. People adopting veganism not only stick to a strict plant-based diet but also oppose the use of animals in all areas of living. There has been a massive rise noted in the number of people adopting veganism and this growth has been a significant contributor to the rise of the plant-based milk production industry.
Due to the awareness of lactose intolerance, and widespread incidence of cow’s milk allergy or varied reasons such as an aversion to animal cruelty, a desire for a healthy lifestyle, and environmental awareness, a major hike in the sales of plant-based milk is observed.
In North America, as per research, the per capita consumption of cow’s milk has declined in recent decades. Between 1997 and 2016, the cow’s milk consumption per capita decreased from 89.14 L to 69.48 L in Canada. According to the report, retail market sales of plant-based milk substitutes are estimated to rise to $28 billion by 2021 in the USA alone.
Pros Of Plant-Based Milk
Plant-based milk is a great alternative but before switching to a plant-based diet, its pros and cons should be weighed down. Without Any Partiality. So here we have listed down all the pros and cons so that you can make your choice wisely.
1. Rich in minerals and vitamins
Considering plant milk is made up of seeds and legumes, they are a rich source of protein. However, in addition to that as per some scientific studies, it is found that plant-based milk may contain a higher level of Calcium in the form of calcium carbonate. They are fortified with fatty acids and Omega 3 to increase their nutrient value. Soy milk is considered to promote a balanced diet.
2. Cholesterol free and low-fat content
The biggest pro of plant-based milk is that it is low in cholesterol or completely cholesterol-free. This benefits a lot to people who suffer from cardiovascular problems because dairy milk does contain a level of high cholesterol. Also, they are relatively low in fat content, which makes them a good choice for a lot of people looking for a healthier alternative. Nut and seed milk are rich in antioxidants which reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, atherosclerosis, and diabetes by preventing free radicals from oxidizing nucleic acids, proteins, lipids, and DNA.
3. Environmental friendly and cruelty-free
Plant-based milk is environmentally friendly. According to some studies, they are believed to have a substantial lower emission of greenhouse gases during production when compared to animal milk. They are also cruelty-free as no animals are harmed in the making of this milk. It is plenty of times found that animals are forced to lactate in order to produce milk enough which could meet the demands of the people. However, plant-based milk is guilt-free.
4. Multiple options to choose from
Not just 2 or 3 or 4, there are dozens of plant-based milk to choose from. From the standpoint of flavour, taste, nutrition, cost etc the right choice can be made from the options available that suit the customer best keeping all the requirements in mind. From soy to coconut, there are multiple types of plant-based milk to try and chose from.
1. Doesn’t have all the required nutrients
Since plant-based milk is produced from seeds or legumes, they are generally rich in protein but sometimes lack other nutrients. There is no one kind of plant-based milk, which has everything in it when compared to animal milk. Sometimes, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D and calcium are added artificially to plant-based milk.
Plant-based milk does not necessarily contain all the nutrients naturally just like traditional milk. In order to match up with traditional milk, artificial nutrients and vitamins could be added. It has also been noted that plant-based milk contains a longer list of ingredients which may even include an artificial sweetener or thickeners like carrageenan to make the plant-based milk look and taste similar to traditional milk.
Plant-based milk is usually expensive when compared to traditional milk. Any milk produced by legumes or seeds goes through a long process in the factories. That may include roasting, dry grinding, peeling, blanching, filtration, sterilization etc. These processes of producing milk artificially are expensive which furthermore, increases the cost of production of the milk. Therefore, this milk is slightly on the pricer side.
4. Risk of allergy
With plant-based milk, the risk of allergy rises a little. Many people are vulnerable to nut allergies and plant-based milk could trigger allergies. This in turn could make people suspectable to problems in digestive problems.
Our Final Thoughts
Plant-based milk is certainly a good option for us but before switching to any other kind of milk from your regular dairy milk, all the pros and the cons should be checked out well. Only after that, the right choice should be made depending on your body’s needs and requirements. We dont need to follow a trend blindly. Not all plant-based milk is made for all, so a wise choice should be made before opting.