Remember the days when the only milk you had to choose from was skimmed, semi skimmed or full fat and a bloated, gurgling stomach and regular trips to the toilet were just part of the norm?  

Well, thankfully those days are long gone.

These days popping to the local coffee shop and requesting a skinny latte with Soya or Oat Milk no longer ends with a look of horror from the barista behind the counter. Nor are you faced with hushed whispers from onlookers donning pitch forks and using the V word ( okay, okay maybe I exaggerate a little – but you get the gist) 

As well as containing high amounts of saturated fats, cholesterol and way too much protein – cow’s milk is also packed full of hormones (just try to imagine the level of hormones that are needed in order for cows to continually lactate long after their calves have been slaughtered and/ or for them to be forcefully impregnated year after year.

Or maybe try not to imagine it hey.

In 2006, a researcher from the Harvard School of Public Health found a strong link between dairy consumption and hormone-dependent cancers; testes, breast, and prostate. Scientist/physician Ganmaa Davaasambuu believes that the naturally occurring hormones in a pregnant cow’s milk increase the risks for these types of cancer. Milk from cows contains “considerable amounts of female sex hormones,” accounting for 60% to 80% of estrogens consumed by humans.

Weirdly enough

Humans are the only known species that drinks the breast milk of another species. 

Last week I was on a nostalgia binge watching old episodes of Friends and one episode that just happened to pop up was “The One With The Breast Milk” 

While Carol and Susan are away, Ross and the friends babysit his newborn son Ben, but Ross is disgusted when Phoebe tests the temperature of some bottled breast milk on her wrist and this is what inspired me to pen this post.

How is it that the thought of human breast milk disgusts us and yet milk artificially forced from a cow is okay to drink?

Which plant based milks have the best nutritional value?

How do we really know which milk is the best option?  

Whilst many dairy free milks are beneficial and contain numerous vitamins and minerals, they also often contain high levels of sugars – so try to opt for the unsweetened versions if you can. 

Oat Milk

Oat milk is, you guessed – made from soaking oats with water.  It’s packed full of fibre, and is often fortified with added vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin D and Vitamin B2 and can be excellent for keeping your skin and eyes healthy, which is why we’ve been creating oat baths for centuries. 

Compared to other plant based milks, oat milk does have a slightly more protein in it and it also has a lower impact on the environment than other milks with up to 80% less land use needed. Despite oats being naturally free from gluten, they unfortunately are often processed using the same equipment that is used for gluten containing grains so there is a chance of cross contamination. For this reason many oat milks do state that they’re not gluten free. So if you’re gluten intolerant you may wish to look into making your own oat milk using gluten free oats.

Oats naturally contain many vitamins and minerals that you need and these include thiamine, folate, magnesium, zinc and copper. Oat milk does tend to have slightly higher levels of carbohydrates than other plant based milks but during pregnancy; those long lasting energy boosts are going to be a godsend.

Nutritional Facts

A one cup serving of oat milk provides 130 calories, 15 grams of carbohydrates, 2.5 grams of fat, 0 grams of saturated fats, 2 grams of fibre, 4 grams of protein, 35 percent of your daily recommended allowance for calcium and 25 percent of your recommended daily allowance for vitamin D.

Oat milk contains less protein than cow’s milk and soy milk, but more protein than plant-based milk alternatives such as almond, cashew, coconut and rice milk. 

Soya Milk

Soya milk is made by soaking soya beans that are then ground into a liquid paste and then boiled to make milk. Soya protein provides all the essential amino acids that our body needs and has even been linked to lowering blood pressure and the bad cholesterols.  

A soya allergy can be quite common, so many will have to choose another plant-milk product if soya causes problems.

Nutritional Facts

One cup of unsweetened soy milk has:

  • about 80 to 100 calories
  • 4 grams of carbohydrates (sweetened varieties have more)
  • 4 grams of fat
  • 7 grams of protein

Because it comes from plants, soy milk is naturally free of cholesterol and is also low in saturated fat. Try to opt for the unsweetened versions if you can.

Coconut Milk

There are some amazing options for coconut milk out there at the moment, and no I’m not talking about the tinned stuff you’ve had in your cupboard since 2015 but the stuff thats made by blending up coconut in hot water and then separating the liquid to form milk.

As I sit here at my desk I’m working my way through a bowl of granola topped off with ice cold coconut milk. Many of the coconut milks that claim to be 100% are also fortified with calcium which is added by using seaweed

(I promise you can’t taste it )

Nutritional Facts

Coconut milk is a high-calorie food.

About 93% of its calories come from fat, including saturated fats known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs).

The milk is also a good source of several vitamins and minerals. One cup (240 grams) contains

  • Calories: 552
  • Fat: 57 grams
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Carbs: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams
  • Vitamin C: 11% of the RDI
  • Folate: 10% of the RDI
  • Iron: 22% of the RDI
  • Magnesium: 22% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 18% of the RDI
  • Copper: 32% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 110% of the RDI
  • Selenium: 21% of the RDI

Source: Coconut Milk Benefits

Which plant based milks have the best nutritional value?

Almond Milk

One of the most popular nut milks on the market is almond milk and it’s made by soaking almonds and blending them with water to create a creamy milk alternative. As with oat milk, you can make almond milk at home but weight for weight; it may be more economical to buy your own.

Almonds are one of my favourite super foods but a lot of the nutritional value that you find in almonds is lost during the process of creating milk; which is why so many are fortified with added minerals and vitamins. Also try to make sure you choose the unsweetened versions.

Despite almonds being a good source of protein; almond milk lacks the protein that you find in the nut itself and it also falls short on the calcium scale. However, what you tend to find is that many of the shop brought milks will be fortified with added calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D.

Nutritional Facts

Per cup, unsweetened almond milk has:

  • about 30 to 60 calories
  • 1 gram of carbohydrates (sweetened varieties have more)
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 1 gram of protein

Hemp Milk

Made from the seeds of the hemp plant which are blended with water to create a milk which looks like cow’s milk and even has a similar texture to cows milk, hemp seeds are a good source of calcium for building strong bones and helping our bodies absorb vitamin D.

It’s a little on the expensive side and is only just gaining serious traction in the plant based milk race but its got its sights set for the top. As well as calcium, it also contains small levels of phosphorus, and is often fortified with vitamins A, B12 and Vitamin D. Try to look for an unsweetened version if you can as it can contain added sugars and additives.

One cup (240 ml) of unsweetened hemp milk contains around:

  • Calories: 83
  • Carbs: 1.3 grams
  • Protein: 4.7 grams
  • Fat: 7.3 grams
  • Calcium: 2% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Iron: 7% of the DV

Source: Benefits of Hemp Milk

Rice Milk

Rice milk is at the bottom of my list as it has one of the lowest nutritional values of all plant based milks and one of the highest environmental impacts ( which is why you’ll not find a snippet on Cashew Nut Milk – but lets leave that for another day)

Rice milk is good for those suffering from nut allergies but its not nutritionally sound to support a healthy plant based pregnancy and I believe still needs a little work doing before it’s close to meeting the nutritional value of its other plant based milk friends.

Nutritional Facts

The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a one-cup serving (244g) of rice milk.

  • Calories: 115
  • Fat: 2.4g
  • Sodium: 95.2mg
  • Carbohydrates: 22.4g
  • Fiber: 0.7g
  • Sugars: 12.9g
  • Protein: 0.7g

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