Is Plant-Based Milk Good For You? Here are Seven Nutrition-Packed Varieties to Consider

While plant-based milk can’t directly replace dairy, it still has a lot of benefits—both—for your health and—for the environment.

By Adarsh Soni
24 Sep 2021

There was a time when full-fat, low-fat and non-fat were the only options milk drinkers could choose from. And at the end of the day, it was still the same thing. Fast forward to the present day, and there are a gazillion varieties of plant-based milk available in the market. It’s not like the concept of vegan milk is new, but now we’re spoiled for choice with even more alternatives. While some people argue that plant-based milk can never completely replace cow milk in our diets, there’s research that shows we were never meant to drink animal milk in the first place.
According to a study by Dr Vasanti Malik, Nutrition Research Scientist, Harvard T H Chan School of Public Health, “Dairy isn’t necessary in the diet for optimal health, but for many people, it is the easiest way to get the nutrients they need to keep their heart, muscles, and bones healthy and functioning properly.” But what if you could get these nutrients from a better source?


That’s not the only reason why you should consider incorporating plant-based milk into your diet. According to data collected by The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, around 27 percent of all human-related methane emissions come from the animal and dairy industry. Methane is a powerful climate-altering gas, which over a 20 year period is 84 times as warming as carbon dioxide. To put things in perspective, a study by Oxford University researcher Dr Joseph Poore states that the least sustainable soya milk is still better for the planet than the most sustainable form of dairy.


Still not convinced? Here are seven plant-based milk alternatives that are delicious, nutritious, and incredibly easy to consume.


Soya milk

Kicking off the list with the dairy substitute that started it all—soya milk has been around for a long time. It’s also the most commonly available option. In terms of nutrition, soya milk is the closest substitute for cow’s milk as it contains a similar amount of protein, but around half the number of calories, fats and carbohydrates. One 250 ml serving of unsweetened soya milk contains around 80 calories, 4 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein and 4 grams of carbohydrates. It’s also a good source of calcium, Vitamin-D and B2. But make sure that you are not allergic to soya before consuming this nutritious plant-milk.


Oat milk

Oat milk is naturally sweet in flavour and can be easily used as a substitute in recipes that call for cow’s milk. It contains half the protein but around double the carbohydrates as cow’s milk. One 250 ml serving contains around 150 calories, 5 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and around 20 grams of carbohydrates. Oat milk is also rich in fibre and a compound called beta-glucan. According to research by Dr Anne Whitehead, Medical & Pharmaceutical Statistics Research Unit, Lancaster University, UK, beta-glucan helps reduce low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, the type associated with an increased risk of heart disease.


Almond milk

Almonds are a staple in Indian cooking and have been revered for their nutritional value since a long time. Which is why this option makes for the ideal dairy substitute for Indian households. One 250 ml serving of unsweetened almond milk contains 30 calories, 2.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 1–2 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains powerful antioxidants like Vitamin-E.
Store-bought almond milk is significantly low in protein because it is mostly made up of water. Make sure that you pick options that are high in almond content, and if not, consider making your own almond milk at home.


Cashew milk

Cashew milk is not as commonly available as almond milk but it is significantly more creamier, sort of like full-fat milk, making it an ideal dairy substitute in sweets and desserts. One 250 ml serving contains 25–50 calories, 4 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 2 grams of carbohydrates. It is also packed with magnesium—a mineral that is vital for nerve function, heart health, and blood pressure regulation. Cashew milk might not be a good dairy alternative for the ones that demand drinks with a high protein content, but it is low in calories and sugar, which makes it perfect for people that are suffering from diabetes.


Coconut milk

Most commonly used in South Indian and Thai cuisine, coconut milk is considered a staple in the coastal regions. It is thick, creamy and of course, tastes like coconut. One 250 ml serving of raw coconut milk contains 552 calories, 57 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein and 13 grams of carbohydrates. It is also rich in several vitamins, iron, magnesium, copper, manganese and selenium. Almost 90 percent of its calories are made up of a type of saturated fat known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). According to a study by Dr Diuli A Cardoso, Postgraduate Program in Cardiology, School of Medicine, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, MCTs can reduce appetite, assist with weight loss and improve blood cholesterol levels more than other fats.

Rice milk

Rice milk is commonly used as a thickening agent in several recipes and is the least allergenic out of all milk varieties, making it a safe option for people that might be allergic to soya, lactose and gluten. One 250 ml serving of rice milk contains 140 calories, 3 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and around 35 grams of carbohydrates. Even though it doesn’t contain a lot of nutrients on its own, most store-bought varieties are fortified with Vitamin-A, Vitamin-D and calcium.


Hemp milk

Now coming to a plant-based milk that has recently started to gain popularity, hemp milk is made from whole hemp seeds. It is often confused for marijuana, but it is, in fact, a completely different species of cannabis. One 250 ml serving of unsweetened hemp milk contains 83 calories, 7 grams of fat, 5 grams of protein, calcium and iron. Hemp milk is also rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6, which are vital for building body tissue. According to research by Dr J C Callaway, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Kuopio, Finland, hemp milk is one of the few plant-based complete proteins, as it contains all of the essential amino acids that the human body requires.




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