A Nutritionist’s Guide To Choosing Plant-Based Milk

A Nutritionist’s Guide To Choosing Plant-Based Milk

Navigating the plant milk aisle can be daunting. From almond milk to oat milk, soya milk to coconut milk, the choices seem to be multiplying by the week with new and interesting sounding varieties coming out and it can be really confusing to know where to start!

Are you confused about dairy, plant milks and other nutrition topics? If you’re interested in improving your diet and your health, head to Consultations to see how I can help you start your journey to the healthiest version of yourself today!

Oils and Fortification 

It’s important to understand that not all plant milks are created equal – many contain gums, seed oils, emulsifiers, added sugars and sweeteners. Whilst many people take to social media publicly to shun the use of oils, particularly in one main brand of oat milk, what’s actually important to realise is the role of oils where plant milks have added vitamins and minerals, known as fortification.  

Cow’s milk is a great source of calcium, iodine and vitamin B12, and swapping this out for plant milks can leave some people deficient. Some plant milk brands add these, along with other nutrients, back in to increase nutrient levels in plant-based milks. However, in order to emulsify these nutrients with the milk (so they are fully mixed in), oils need to be added. This is an important point to consider if you are not consuming sufficient nutrients elsewhere in your diet, meaning it could be incredibly helpful to opt for a fortified milk.

If you are consuming sufficient nutrients elsewhere though, it is probably a good idea to avoid any ingredients in plant milks that you wouldn’t typically have in your own kitchen. 

Let’s talk about froth – oils are often what help these milks to froth, which is not a nutritional benefit but more of a consumer preference to attempt to replicate cow’s milk in its creamy and frothy consistency.

 

Macronutrients

Plant milks can vary considerably in their macronutrient content. For example, coconut milk is naturally higher in healthy fats, whilst oat milk is naturally higher in carbs. This is relatively straightforward when you consider the plant that these milks are actually made from, but it is not to say that plant milks truly resemble the nutritional profile of the foods they came from.

For example, whole oats are nutritional powerhouses, containing fibre, B vitamins, iron and magnesium. However, oat milk is not necessarily a liquid equivalent when it comes to the health benefits! Oat milk tends to be high in sugar, partly as it often contains added sugar – and partly because oats are a carbohydrate which get converted into glucose (sugar) in the body.

Cow’s milk is a good source of protein, so ideally, it would be replaced with something nutritionally similar and high in protein. This could be soya milk or nut milks such as almond or cashew milk.

It’s also worth looking at the percentage of the key ingredients (such as almonds). You may be surprised to learn that some brands contain as little as 2% almonds in their “almond milk”.

 

How to Choose

When buying plant milks, I advise checking the ingredient labels carefully. Most of the time – as a general rule of thumb – I recommend steering clear of ingredients you can’t pronounce – these tend to be emulsifiers which emerging research suggests may have a negative impact on the gut microbiome and general health. 

Personally I choose an almond milk where the ingredients are just water, almonds and sea salt. Although it is not fortified with vitamins (as it’s organic), if you are getting plenty of nutrients from a varied diet then choose something similar with no added stabilisers, oils, gums or thickeners.

If you know that your diet has room for improvement and think you may not be getting enough nutrients in, then look for milks that are fortified with calcium, iodine, vitamin D and vitamin B12.

 

Unless you have an allergy, intolerance or sensitivity to dairy, cow’s milk is usually a healthier option than plant milks as it naturally contains significantly higher amounts of protein and nutrients, and is less processed.

 

Everyone’s nutritional requirements will be different, which is why I take a personalised approach with all of my 1:1 clients and tailor each nutrition plan to their unique needs and goals.

This is just a small insight into the types of things I discuss with my 1:1 clients. If you’re looking to optimise your nutrition, transform your health and elevate your quality of life, please get in contact via Consultations or book a FREE 15-minute call and let’s chat about how I can help.  

 

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