With increasing public concern about the potential negative impacts of antibiotics and growth hormones given to dairy cows, more and more people are now exploring alternatives or supplements to cow’s milk. Naturally, people are turning to milked nuts and grains in this search for a substitute, and the growing number of plant-based milk products lining up aisle after aisle of the milk sections of supermarkets is a testament to just how popular these products have become in recent years.
Those who are against plant-based milk products, on the other hand, believe that the public should be encouraged to continue drinking dairy milk instead because plant milks are just not nutritious enough. But are the criticisms against both dairy and plant-based milk products truly justified? Should people favor one over the other?
Our advice is for you to consider making both cow’s milk and plant-based milk a part of your diet. After all, a well-balanced adult diet should consist of different kinds of food products, particularly whole fruits and vegetables, in addition to whole grains, dairy, meats, and other healthy food items like fruits juices and plant-based milk products.
Nevertheless, if you’re wondering about the pros and cons of each type of milk product, we’re here to help. Read on to find out more.
The value of drinking cow’s milk has been popularized in the West since the beginning of the early 20th century, with dairy producers proclaiming it as the ultimate powerhouse of nutrition. To a great extent, this statement is true, considering that milk is a wholesome, complete food that is rich in carbohydrates, protein, calcium, fats, vitamin D, and potassium.
Dairy milk is particularly beneficial to young children, since fats are essential to the development of the brain. Moreover, according to a news release from Canada’s McGill University, dairy milk also provides an array of host-defense proteins that provide anti-microbial benefits. In fact, studies have shown that cow’s milk consumption among children significantly decreases the risk of fever and respiratory infections.
However, since dairy milk is rich in saturated fats, it may not be the best choice for people who are at a higher risk for health concerns like high cholesterol and heart problems. Moreover, many children (as much as 3.5 percent) suffer from lactose intolerance, a common digestive disorder in which the body is unable to digest a milk sugar known as lactose. This problem typically causes flatulence and diarrhea. Finally, dairy milk is also a potential source of foodborne illnesses, since unpasteurized milk may contain pathogens like Salmonella typhi, Escherichia coli, and Listeria monocytogenes. Nevertheless, infection can be prevented by choosing properly pasteurized milk products.
There are many types of plant-based milk products, with sources ranging from grains like oats and rice to nuts and legumes soy, peanuts, almonds, walnuts, and hazelnuts.
Nutritionally, the closest to dairy milk is soy milk, being rich in protein, calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. It has been a favorite of vegans and lactose-intolerant individuals for decades, and is known for being as dense in protein as cow’s milk but with far less calories. However, soy can have endocrine disrupting effects since soy is rich in phytoestrogens, which are very similar to human estrogens.
As an alternative to soy milk, many people are opting for almond milk instead. Almond milk is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin D, and is typically described as more delicious than soy milk because it has less of the “beany” flavor associated with soy. However, many almond milk products are not a good source of protein and fats because they are too watered down that they tend to lack the essential components found in whole nuts.
When shopping for almond milk —and indeed, other types of nut and grain milk products—it is important to look for trustworthy brands whose production processes preserve much of the nutritional content of the source nuts. A good company is the Elmhurst brand of almond milk, which processes its products using a technique known as cold milling. Because the almonds are not heated up as they are ground, the resulting product retains much of the protein, fat, and micronutrients from the whole ingredients. This process also gives the milk a naturally creamy texture, forgoing the need to use industrial emulsifiers and stabilizers.
As previously stated, you don’t really have to favor one type of milk over the other. Both dairy and plant-based milk products can have a place in your refrigerator, which is actually ideal if you want to have a well-balanced diet composed of various food items. Cow’s milk and the different types of plant-based milk products all have their pros and cons, so it’s best if you alternate consumption of each one of them to make the most of their nutritional benefits.