With lactose intolerance on the rise, between 2-4% of children and 15-75% of adults globally, finding a suitable dairy-free milk alternative has led to a large variety in plant-based. The predominant choices in the market today are soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk, and hemp milk. Despite all being widely seen as wholesome, nutrient rich dairy alternatives, there hasn’t been much, if any, short-term or long-term research done on their consumption.
Understanding this short-coming, researchers from McGill University looked at the four leading competitors in the market; soy, almond, coconut, and rice. For the purposes of their work, they compared each plant-based milk’s unsweetened version.
Interestingly enough, each one had a different nutritional profile that can be used for various patterns specific to benefitting an individuals lifestyle. They found that soy milk had the most balanced nutritional profile, and it is widely consumed for the benefits of the anti-carcinogenic properties of phytonutrients found within it. The benefits of almond milk are the high amounts of monounsaturated fatty acids, which contribute to weight loss and a reduction of bad cholesterol; but, there’s a need of further supplementation to provide missing essential nutrients. For those already consuming diverse healthy foods it may make a perfect compliment. While consuming coconut milk can help reduce bad cholesterol, there is no protein and very few calories. Though coconut milk is also known for it's energy rich saturated fat called medium chain triglycerides. This fat is not readily stored as fat by the body but instead gets processed more closely to sugar but has twice the energy. Perfect for endurance athletes or those on low carb diets. Rice milk is a typical alternative for those with soybean or nut allergies, but it has little nutritional value. The flavor profile for some may prove to be the most benefit.
Sai Kranthi Vanga, Vijaya Raghavan. How well do plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow’s milk? Journal of Food Science and Technology, 2017; 55 (1): 10 DOI: 10.1007/s13197-017-2915-y
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