It’s 2021, which means you have probably already heard about the many plant-based, non-dairy milk alternatives on the market. Today most supermarkets and quality food shops such as Prinos Farm&Deli, stock a wide variety of vegan milks. Soya milk for example, has long been a popular choice. But shoppers can also find coconut, rice, oat and nut milks. As well as milks made from grains such as quinoa or hemp. In fact, it’s never been easier to be vegan or eat a more plant-based diet, with so many options available.
And these alternatives are certainly gaining popularity. In fact, sales are soaring as people look for healthier and more environmentally friendly choices. While most people swap cow’s milk for non-dairy substitutes because of ethics or environmental concerns, health is another growing factor. But are plant-based milks actually better for you? And what are the nutritional benefits of non-dairy milk alternatives?
With so many options, it can undoubtedly get a little bit confusing. So, to help you choose which plant-based milk is best for you, here are the health benefits of each option below.
It’s the plant-based milk that is perhaps the most well-known. And of all the vegan milks available, soya milk has also long been considered the most common, popular and nutritious. For starters, this rich, thick and creamy drink is packed full of protein. In fact, it has as much protein as cow’s milk thanks to the soya beans used to make it. This makes it unlike other non-dairy milk substitutes, which are usually low in protein.
In addition, soya milk is very low in fat and is a rich source of nutrients such as riboflavin, folate, Vitamin K, magnesium, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12 and potassium. B12 is particularly important for those following a plant-based diet. This is because it is commonly found in animal products. Chiefly it is linked with supporting healthy bones, nerve cells and red blood cells. This important Vitamin also boosts energy, reduces the risk of heart disease and improves memory.
Another health benefit of soya milk is its high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These important healthy fats are linked to improved brain health. To this end, they have been shown to reduce the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Coconut milk has a long and impressive list of health benefits. This non-dairy milk substitute is a veritable powerhouse of nutrition. Moreover, it is deliciously creamy, with a natural sweetness and a unique taste. In essence it’s the perfect alternative! So, let’s start with the health benefits. Firstly, coconut milk is loaded with medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Unlike other saturated fats which get stored in the body, these healthy fats actually convert to energy. They also help to reduce appetite, increase metabolism and aid with weight loss. In addition, the saturated fats found in coconuts play a key role in increasing and balancing good cholesterol. As if that wasn’t enough, they also boost the immune system, and fight the oxidative stress caused by free radicals.
What coconut milk lacks in protein, it more than makes up for in nutrients, vitamins and minerals. To begin with, this powerhouse non-dairy milk is loaded with manganese. For example, one cup of the milk contains around 110% of your recommended daily intake of this vital trace mineral. Manganese not only helps to strengthen the bones, but also reduces inflammation and supports natural blood clotting. The mineral also helps to create antioxidants which protect the body against cell damage caused by free radicals.
Finally, coconut milk is a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, selenium and calcium. Thus, is supports the production of collagen and elastin, promoting healthy, young looking skin. In addition, it supports the immune system and the digestive system, and also helps to preserve energy for longer. Perfect at breakfast, in cereal or coffee, this milk is also a delicious option for cooking, thanks to its unique, fragrant taste and creamy texture.
Rice milk is one of the thinner of the non-dairy milk alternatives. Although the drink has a light, watery texture and almost no taste at all, it still acts as a great milk substitute. Especially in tea and coffee, for those who don’t want the extra flavour that comes with some of the other options. Rice milk is naturally high in sugars, so it does raise the blood sugar levels in the body. However, the sweetness is subtle and almost undetectable in the flavour. And while it may be high on the glycaemic scale, rice milk has no cholesterol at all. So, this means it can help reduce the risk of heart attacks.
And this plant-based milk drink has a whole host of nutritional benefits. For example, it contains antioxidants that help protect the skin and keep it looking healthy and young. Furthermore, the antioxidants in rice milk also help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation or oxidative stress. Essentially, this means that rice milk can help to protect the body from chronic diseases.
Together with the above benefits, rice milk is a good source of carbohydrates, which give the body a quick boost of energy. This makes it a great choice for athletes or before a work-out. This drink is also the least allergenic of the milk substitutes. So, it’s a good choice for those who have soya or nut allergies or intolerances. Rice milk is also often fortified with calcium, so be sure to check the label when you buy the product.
Another milk alternative which is a particularly good option for those with soya and nut allergies is oat milk. Owing to the drinks thick creamy texture and subtle flavour, it is perfect in tea and coffee instead of dairy milk. What’s more, oat milk is loaded with nutritional benefits, vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy, plant-based option. Firstly, oat milk is packed full of fiber, which is essential for a healthy gut and digestive system. The soluble fiber found in this milk substitute also helps to boost the immune system.
Secondly, this vegan milk is a great source of riboflavin and B vitamins including Vitamin B12. Oat milk is also often fortified with Vitamin D, A and calcium. Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. And Vitamin A is important for healthy eyes, skin, immune system and bones. Lastly, this milk is high in natural occurring sugars and carbohydrates. However, it is not a good option for those following a gluten free diet or with celiac disease.
Almond milk is a thick, creamy milk, with a subtle nutty flavour. Made using almonds and water, this milk substitute is particularly delicious in smoothies, or with cereal. By now, we all know that eating nuts is good for our health. So, it’s little wonder that almond milk is one of the healthiest options when it comes to plant-based milk replacements. Not only is almond milk a great low-fat option, it’s also low-calorie, containing around 80% less calories than cow’s milk. In addition, the fats it does contain are unsaturated and therefore healthier. This milk option is also naturally low in sugar. So, all in all, almond milk is a great option for people looking to lose weight.
Moreover, almonds are high in Vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant with a range of impressive health benefits. For example, Vitamin E is known to fight inflammation in the body. It also works to protect the body against certain diseases including cancer and heart disease. It improves brain health and not only reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, but also slows deterioration caused by the disease. Additional benefits include improved eye, skin and bone health.
Many popular almond milk brands also enrich the milk with calcium or vitamin D for added nutritional benefits. Make sure to check the label to check whether the milk has extra sugar added.
Cashew milk has a rich, creamy taste, with delicious nutty undertones. It is a particularly good choice for cooking and is a delicious substitute for dishes that use dairy milk or cream. Packed full of vitamins and minerals, cashew milk is loaded with nutritional benefits. Specifically, cashew milk is rich in Vitamin K which plays an important role in helping the blood to clot. It is also packed with copper, which contributes to the production of collagen and elastin. Thus, drinking cashew milk can help keep your skin looking strong, young and healthy. Equally important is the high levels of zinc and iron found in cashew milk. Zinc is known to help fight disease by boosting the creation of immune cells. It is also a powerful antioxidant which prevents cell damage
Another benefit of cashew milk is that it helps to maintain healthy blood sugar levels in the body. Furthermore, it is particularly high in free radical fighting anacardic acid which has been found to prevent cancer cells from developing. While cashew milk might be high in fats, most of these fats are monosaturated. Consequently, they are linked with health benefits such as improved heart health and lower risk of heart disease.
Cashew milk may not be as high in protein content as soya milk and has more calories than almond milk. But on the plus side, it is packed full of antioxidants. These particular antioxidants – called lutein and zeaxanthin – are linked with decreasing inflammation and boosting the immune system. They are also known to improve eye health and prevent damage to the eyes caused by free radicals. Another benefit is the reduced risk of eye disease, cataracts and eye degeneration.
Are Plant-Based Milks More Sustainable?
Here we have focused on the health benefits of plant-based milks. But the environmental impact is another important factor to consider when choosing which milk is right for you. Dairy milk undoubtedly tops the list as the milk with the heaviest environmental impact. Indeed, cow milk uses significantly more water, requires more land and produces far more greenhouse gas emissions than non-dairy alternatives. Rice milk produced the most greenhouse gas emissions compared to the other plant-based options. The next highest emitter is soya milk, followed by oat milk, then almond milk. However, while almond milk might emit less greenhouse gases, it does require the large amounts of water for production. To sum up, the main thing to remember is that whichever plant-based milk you choose, it will definitely be better for the planet than dairy.
Prinos Farm&Deli stocks a wide range of high-quality vegan products including a selection of original and flavoured plant-based milks. So whether you are vegan or vegetarian, or you just want to adopt a more plant-based diet this year – head down to our stores in Larnaca and Nicosia, or visit our online e-shop today.