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All You Need To Know About: Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes

22 July 2019 by Food & Hotel Asia

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New milk substitutes are making a splash as this year’s hottest food trends. From gluten-free versions of farm bred milk to the wildly popular plant-based oat milk, there are so many options available whatever your dietary preferences are. It can be tough to decide what’s best for you when you are spoiled for choice, so let us break it down for you. 

Everyone is nuts about milk this year – literally. The past few years have brought about the rise of all kinds of plant-based milks from almond, hemp, coconut and rice to the currently trendy oat milk. Almond milk has seen the most growth over the years with dollar and unit sales rising 10 per cent year on year as of the 52 weeks ending in June 30, 2018. While oat milk may still be in the back seat, mega coffee chains like Starbucks and even bubble tea shops have introduced the latter to their menu. The concept of traditional milk is now no longer limited to just farm bred cow’s or goat’s milk, but to a wide array of milk alternatives ranging from non-fat to plant-based ones. With such a huge selection of alternatives, it is easy to be spoilt for choice, so how do we know which is better for us and what the differences are between the options? Well, let’s get cracking.

Almond Milk

As of June 2019, almond milk is one of the most widely consumed plant-based milks in North America, the EU and Australia. It is made by soaking almond nuts overnight, skinning them, and then blending them together with water. This would mean that almond milk would have less saturated fat and more unsaturated fats. These fats are healthy and may even help people lose weight. Besides having an addictively nutty taste profile, it scales higher in magnesium, and is lower in calories compared to its counterparts. It is important to note that most brands for almond milk do add some form of flavouring or sugar to extend the shelf life and improve the flavour of the drink. Also, another interesting fact is that almond milk separates when blended with hot beverages. (Though a quick stir would do the trick.)

Oat Milk

In the past year, oat milk has been the hottest newcomer in the beverage scene. Gaining popularity for its creamy flavour, oat milk is also high in fibre and contains beta-glucans (sugars found in oats that can boost a person’s immune system). Oat milk is also known to provide more riboflavin and vitamin B-2 than even cow’s milk, making it a great alternative if you are lactose intolerant or if you are allergic to nuts or soy. It also blends well in coffee and does not separate like the almond variant. It is however important to note that due to the natural sugars found in oats, oat milk is naturally higher in calories and also not suitable for those with gluten intolerance, or if you’re suffering from celiac disease. 

Soy Milk 

Soy milk was the first few forms of non-dairy milk that entered the market. Besides having similar texture to cow’s milk, soy milk is known for its high nutritional value especially in terms of protein and fibre. In fact, it is known as the milk alternative with the highest amount of protein per serving. A study done in 2018 also compared the nutritional profiles of soy, almond, rice and coconut milk and found out that soy came out on top. Another alternative that is similar to soy milk is rice milk which has similar nutritional values but loses out when it comes to texture.

Today, many people are making the switch to plant-based milk substitutes. Non-dairy milk sales have grown 61 per cent over the past five years in the US, and with people becoming more health conscious, this demand is definitely going to grow. It is important to note that non-dairy milk substitutes do not contain high amounts of calcium due to its plant-based source of nutrients. Brands do try to make up for it by adding calcium carbonate, additional vitamins and minerals to increase the nutritional value of the drink. However, people need to be aware these added benefits may not be absorbed by our body as well as if they were from a natural source.

In conclusion, there is no “best” milk in the world. It ultimately boils down to our individual dietary preferences and our individual needs, and that would help us determine what is “best” for us.