Plant-based Beverages Masquerading as Milk
A special video edition for Halloween: Milk or plant-based beverage . . . which is which?
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How do you milk an almond? How about rice, soy or hemp?
You can’t, of course. My point is that so-called almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk and soy milk are not milk at all. These beverages come from plants, not cows.
The nutrient content of these plant-based beverages are different from cow’s milk—often vastly different.
How do plant-based beverages get away with calling themselves milk? I’m surprised that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows it, given that milk has a standard of identity defined by the FDA, which is a legal standard regarding the components, ingredients, and processing of a food.
Fact is, plant-based beverages don’t meet the standard of identity for milk.
Different brands of soy, rice, and almond beverages use different methods to manufacture and fortify their products. There is no federal standard of identity for the nutrients included in or omitted from these plant-based beverages.
It’s important to know what you’re getting from these products. That’s because plant-based beverages do not provide the same nine essential nutrients as cow’s milk.
• A study published in Nutrition Today found that cow’s milk is the most reliable source of calcium, superior to calcium-fortified soy and rice beverages and many orange juice brands.
• A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the calcium from fortified soy beverages was not absorbed into the body as well as the calcium in cow’s milk.
• Cow’s milk contains:
70% more potassium and almost twice as much protein as soy beverage.
Eight times the protein and significantly more potassium and riboflavin than rice beverage.
Eight times more protein and more than twice the potassium and phosphorus than almond beverage.
Four times more protein than hemp beverage. Hemp “milk” contains about the same amount of fat per serving as whole milk.
That said, there is a place for plant-based beverages.
• Milk protein allergy: If a person is allergic to the protein in milk, they cannot consume dairy products and so a plant-based beverage, such as calcium-fortified soy beverage, is an alternative. (Milk protein allergy is not to be confused with lactose intolerance. People who are lactose intolerant can consume dairy products such as lactose-free milk, aged cheese and yogurt).
• Vegan diets: Plant-based beverages are an alternative for vegans (people who don’t consume animal products).
Since plant-based beverages aren’t milk, you may wonder what they’re made of.
Almond “milk”: Roasted almonds are blended with water and fortified with nutrients such as calcium and vitamins D and E. Sweeteners and flavors may be added.
Rice “milk”: A mixture of partially milled rice (mainly brown rice) and water. Sweeteners and flavors may be added. Usually fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Hemp “milk”: Made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground/blended into water. Sweeteners, flavors, and vitamins and minerals may be added.
Soy “milk”: To make soy beverage, dry soybeans are soaked, ground with water, and sweeteners are added. May be flavored and fortified with vitamins and minerals.
Milk: Comes from cows. A good or excellent source of nine essential nutrients including calcium, potassium, phosphorus, protein, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin and niacin. Reduced-fat, low-fat and nonfat (skim) milk contain the same vitamins and minerals as whole milk with less or no fat. Strict quality controls ensure that pasteurized milk is wholesome, safe and nutritious.