Contrary to popular belief, plant based milk is not a new invention. Humans have been drinking non-dairy milk alternatives for hundreds of years for a variety of reasons.
Nut-based milks were one of civilisations earliest discoveries. Coconut milk, which is typically used as a cooking ingredient today rather than a dairy beverage, was easily accessible to those living in the Australian and African regions. Meanwhile, some of the world’s earliest cookbooks, dating back to the 13th century, make frequent mention of almond milk.
Many early civilisations were unable to consume dairy due to religious and cultural reasons. Almond milk was an easily sourced alternative for Christians and Muslims of the day, and its popularity quickly spread across secular groups.
It is not just almond milk that has ancient origins. The soybean is believed to have been harvested for milk production as early as the 14th century, with the drink being particularly popular in China.
Fast-forward a few hundred years and a Chinese biologist Li Yu-Ying was setting up the first soy milk production facility in Paris. From here, the drink spread quickly throughout the Western world, bringing a wide range of other non-dairy alternatives with it.
Today plant milk is loved for many reasons. For vegetarians and vegans, plant based alternatives provide a valuable source of protein and calcium. Those who are lactose intolerant also benefit from non-dairy milk options. Given our ever increasing concerns about the impact that our choices are making on the environment, plant based milk certainty looks like the drink of the future.
Your plant based options
Those who drink plant based milks are quite lucky these days. Not only is there a wide variety of options available, but they are relatively cheap and easy to source. Every supermarket these days has at least one non-dairy milk option, usually multiple, and they tend not to cost too much more than regular cow’s milk.
With that in mind, keep reading to get a quick overview of your plant based milk options.
Soymilk is made from, perhaps unsurprisingly, the soybean. Soybeans are picked, soaked, and ground. The thick paste is then boiled and the remaining particles are filtered out to create a smooth, creamy beverage.
This mixture tends to be fortified with additional vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D and calcium. In terms of nutritional content, soy milk is one of the closest matches to dairy milk. It contains all nine essential amino acids and is an excellent source of healthy fats.
Almond milk is another great option for vegans, those who are lactose intolerant, and everyone in between. To make almond milk, the nuts are blended with water and the entire mixture is strained to remove any excess solids.
Almond milk is very low in calories, particularly when compared to cow’s milk. It is a great source of vitamin E and commonly has additional quantities of calcium and vitamin D added to the final product.
Up until quite recently, soy milk was arguably the world’s most popular plant based alternative. However, oat milk is quickly making up lost ground, after only having been invented in the 1990s. This is largely due to its subtle taste and the fact that it complements coffee quite well.
Oat milk is made by cracking open the oat grains, combining them with water to form a thick paste, and straining the mixture to arrive at the final product. As is the case with other milk alternatives, additional vitamins and minerals tend to be added, which include vitamin D, vitamin A, calcium, and iron.
What to consider when switching to plant based milk
If you are thinking of making the switch to plant based milk — congratulations! It’s a great decision for both your health and the environment.
However, there are a few things that you should keep in mind when deciding on which plant milk is right for you.
To start with, you should be aware that most non-dairy milks do not contain the same level of protein and calcium as regular cow’s milk. You may want to speak to a nutritionist or health professional if you have concerns about your dietary intake.
You should also do some research into the specific brands of plant based milk that are available at your local supermarket or online health food store. Not all brands are created equally, and some will load up their products with artificial colours, flavourings, and preservatives to extend shelf life. Ideally, these compounds should stay as far away from your body as possible, which is why many people opt to go with organic products, like.
Above all, be open to trying out a few types of plant based milks out before making your final decision. They all have different flavours and textures and it can take some time to land on the right product for you.