Soy milk most nutritional plant-based milk
Plant-based products have been progressively gaining popularity, but for those opting for dairy alternatives under the assumption they are healthier, they may be misinformed. A study from McGill University has compared different types of plant-based milk — almond, soy, rice and coconut — and analysed their nutritional value against cow’s milk.
Based on a 240 mL serving of the unsweetened versions of the plant-based milks, researchers created pros and cons of each product and concluded that soy milk was the best alternative to cow’s milk.
Cow’s milk provides consumers with major nutrients like fat, carbohydrates and proteins, and contains antimicrobial properties which can protect against some illnesses. For example, the research cited a previous study which showed that infants who consumed cow’s milk were less likely to suffer from fevers and respiratory infections.
However, there are some obvious downfalls. Not only can it help the spread of pathogens such as Salmonella and E. coli, but many people are allergic or intolerant to it. It is one of the most common allergies among infants and children, affecting 2.2 to 3.5% of children, although up to 80% do grow out of this by the age of 16.
Lactose intolerance, on the other hand, can affect anywhere between 15 and 75% of all adults depending on race, food habits and gut health.
This is why people turn to milk substitutes such as soy milk, which, behind cow’s milk, was deemed by researchers to be the most nutritious.
Containing the most balanced nutritional profile out of the milk alternatives, soy milk is rich in proteins and has anti-carcinogenic properties.
But some have reported an unpleasant ‘beany flavour’ and have voiced concerns about the presence of anti-nutrients (which reduce nutrient intake and digestion). Also, it is unsuitable for those suffering from soy allergies.
Almond milk can similarly cause allergies, but it is one of the preferred alternatives to cow’s milk due to its taste.
Almonds boast a number of health benefits, such as a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA), which help weight control. MUFA also helps in reduction of low-density lipoprotein, known as bad cholesterol.
However, it is advised that other sources of food should be consumed alongside almond milk to provide essential nutrients.
To avoid lactose intolerances and soybean and almond allergies, rice milk is a suitable alternative.
Although it has a sweet taste, it also has a high carbohydrate count and it can lead to malnutrition due to its lack of nutrients.
Coconut milk can reduce the levels of low-density lipoproteins associated with cardiovascular disease.
But one downfall is the fact that its nutritional values are reduced if stored for over two months. It also contains no protein, and the few calories present in coconut milk are made from saturated fats.
Therefore, consumers should not purposefully avoid cow’s milk unless they have a reason to do so, such as allergies. According to researchers, the best alternative in terms of balanced nutrition is soy milk.
However, they have also highlighted the need for further research into the effects of processing methods on the nutritional profile, flavour and texture of alternative milks.
The study was published in Journal of Food Science Technology.
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