High in important nutrients and low in calories, plant-based milk is slowly gaining popularity.
With the rise of veganism, plant-based milk has begun to grace supermarket shelves. It’s also a healthy alternative for people who are lactose intolerant or with whom dairy doesn’t otherwise agree. Retail sales show that cow’s milk is the most popular. However, according to data collected by the market research firm Mintel, plant-based or non-dairy alternatives touched approximately $2.95 billion in 2020 in the US.
To make plant-based milk, the nut, grain or legume is pressed and the liquid is then strained. Enthusiasts have even taken to making plant-based milk at home. Here’s a comparison of the different types of plant-based milk:
A nutty flavour and low calorie content make almond milk the most popular plant-based milk, says SPINS, a wellness-focused data technology company. Almonds are soaked in water overnight so that they become soft enough to be blended and then strained to extract the ‘milk’. It’s an excellent source of Vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps maintain healthy skin, hair and eyes, and also supports the immune system.
Thick and creamy, oat milk is rich in potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure levels, and also iron, which helps prevent anaemia. The oat milk brand Oatly is very popular and has very little saturated fat. Oat milk is also safe for people with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. It doesn’t curdle or separate easily, and this makes it an ideal ingredient for baristas who want to make frothy coffee.
If fortified with Vitamins A, B2, B12 and D and calcium, soy milk is the only plant-based milk that is comparable to cow’s milk in terms of a healthy nutrient balance. It is prepared by soaking soybeans in water and then grinding them. It’s high in antioxidants and may even help prevent menopausal symptoms in women. Studies have suggested that the protein found in soybeans may be comparable to animal protein.
Made with grated coconut flesh, coconut milk has about half as many calories as whole milk and a natural sweetness. Coconuts contain a significant amount of fat, but tinned coconut milk is available as an alternative with reduced fat. Due to its creamy texture, coconut milk makes a great base for smoothies and can even be used in place of regular milk in baking. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.
Another popular variety of nut milk, cashew milk may help boost immunity and improve heart and eye health. It contains healthy fats that come from unsaturated fatty acids, which are good for the heart. Cashew milk could easily be made at home but commercial varieties are usually healthier since they are fortified with vitamins and minerals. Homemade cashew milk need not be strained; this increases its fibre content.
Other types of plant-based milk include banana milk, flaxseed milk, pistachio milk, rice milk and hemp milk. Depending on ingredients that someone may be allergic to, it’s easy to substitute one plant-based milk with another.