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Plant-Based Milk Under the Microscope

This is a new trend: #plant #based #milk in your coffee. Where 'regular' cow's milk was the standard about 10 years ago, nowadays you can choose from all kinds of plant-based milk substitutes. For example, you've undoubtedly heard of soy milk and almond milk. But oat milk and coconut milk are also on the rise.

Wondering what plant-based milk really is and what makes it so popular? Do you want to know exactly what is the difference between almond milk, soy milk, oat milk and coconut milk?

What exactly is plant-based milk?

Plant-based milk is actually a plant-based beverage. More specifically, it is a beverage made from soaked, crushed and drained beans or grains. For example, soy milk is made from soybeans, almond milk is made from almonds, oat milk is made from oats, and coconut milk is made from coconuts. Unlike 'regular' milk, plant milk is not an animal product. Plant-based milk is therefore #vegan. The name vegetable 'milk' is actually controversial, as milk is by definition an animal product. This is why plant-based milk substitutes are often called 'beverage'. However, we will mainly use the term 'vegetable milk' as it is the most talked about term on this blog.

Why are more people opting for plant-based milk?

There could be all sorts of (personal) reasons why people are increasingly opting for plant-based milk these days. The best known causes are:

As part of a sustainable lifestyle: Many people who consider sustainability important replace animal milk with plant milk, and for very good reasons. Studies have shown, for example, that during the production of a glass of cow's milk almost three times the equivalent of CO2 is released than during the production of a vegetable variety. When producing soy, almond, rice and oat milk, water consumption is much lower than for cow milk production. However, there is a caveat to be made here. In most cases, producing vegan milk is not as natural as you might initially think. If you want to know more about this soon, please continue reading.

Because they are lactose intolerant: People who are lactose intolerant often prefer plant-based milk substitutes over cow's or goat's milk. Plant-based milk is 100% lactose free.

For the likes: Many people may find that they are increasingly liking the taste of a plant-based milk beverage. Plant-based drinks can be ideal for coffee, oatmeal in particular.

Plant-based milks

Soy Milk

Soy milk is made from soybeans. It is a drink rich in protein and unsaturated fat. Soy milk is a good alternative to cow's milk as it is nutritionally similar. For this reason, many people with lactose intolerance or cow's milk allergy choose this plant-based milk beverage.

Whether or not soy milk is healthy depends somewhat on the type you choose. For example, it's best to choose a variant with added calcium and vitamin B12. In a standard variant, these nutrients are often deficient, but important for reaching your daily recommended amount. Do you also read on the package that soy milk contains more than 6 grams of sugar per 100 grams? Then you'd better leave it alone. In that case, try looking for a sugar-free variety.

Soy milk is known for its creamy texture. It is therefore perfect for adding to your coffee, but you can cook well with it.

If you look at soy and sustainability, there is no definitive answer. Compared to 'regular' milk, soy beverage has a lower environmental impact when it comes to water and land use and greenhouse gas emissions, but higher energy consumption. Soybeans, for example, are grown more sustainably in Europe or Canada than in South America. If sustainability is important to you, it's good to consider these factors when choosing a soy beverage.

Almond Milk

Maybe it's an open door, but almond milk is made from almonds. This plant-based milk is also a good alternative to cow's milk, making it very suitable for people with lactose intolerance or cow's milk allergy. However, people with soy allergies also prefer almond milk as an alternative. Do you have a peanut allergy? Then it is best to leave this drink alone.

What about the nutritional values ​​of almond milk? They're usually pretty good, especially when compared to cow's milk. For example, if you compare 100 milliliters of unsweetened almond milk with 100 milliliters of cow's milk, you will find that almond milk contains fewer calories, less sugar and less saturated fat. There is also more dietary fiber in 100 milliliters of almond milk. But if you look at the protein count, for example, cow's milk still wins. In addition, cow's milk naturally contains much more important vitamins than almond milk. These often need to be artificially added to almond milk.

Almond milk is often used as a base ingredient for oatmeal or porridge. Opinions are divided on adding this plant-based milk to coffee. Some like it, others find the taste very pronounced. You can also cook with it or make smoothies to drink.

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The production of this vegetable drink is not as sustainable as you might think. The water consumption in almond milk production is much lower than in 'normal' milk production, which is of course positive, but on the other hand the almonds have to fly every time. They can be found mainly in California, and that's a pretty long way to fly. Also, farmers in this region have found a less environmentally friendly solution to grow almonds in their dried-up areas. They dig deep wells to get water. All these aspects make the production of this vegan milk very unsustainable.

Oat Milk

Oat milk is a beverage made from grain, especially oats. Just like soy, almond, rice and coconut milk, this milk is completely vegan. This drink is also very suitable for those looking for an alternative to lactose-free animal milk. Unlike almond milk, oat milk is suitable for people with nut allergies. People with celiac disease or gluten allergy should avoid this drink. Oats may contain gluten.

Oat milk contains very few nutrients. Oats dissolve easily and absorb a lot of water, so many nutrients from oats remain in the milk during sieving the beverage. Oat milk also has a lot of fiber, vitamins and minerals. Vitamin B12, D, and calcium are still added to most oat drinks. But keep in mind that these added amounts are nowhere near the amounts in 'regular' milk. This also applies to the amount of protein.

What many people love about oat milk is its slightly neutral flavor. You can also whip up oat milk very easily. Therefore, it makes an excellent addition to your coffee. It's not without reason that you'll hear the occasional order of 'oat milk cappuccino' in coffee bars and restaurants.

The most famous brand of oat milk is undoubtedly Oatly!. If you're looking for a particularly sustainable oat drink, Oatly! one of the better choices you can make. Compare oat milk from Oatly! with 'regular' cow's milk, for example, you find that CO2 emissions from cow's milk production are almost four times higher than the oat drink production from Oatly! (0.42 kg CO2/kg vs. 1.58 kg CO2/kg). Do you think it's important for your vegan milk to be organic too? Then choose Oatly! Oat drink Organic. This is a drink made from 100% organic Swedish oats, grown in clean soil, powered by sun and rain.

coconut milk

By coconut milk, for example, we don't mean the fatty, creamy coconut milk that you put in your curry (of course). Incompatible with your coffee. Now we are talking about coconut drinks especially for coffees like Alpro Barista Coconut. It's also called 'a tropical twist on your cappuccino or latte,' as Alpro says on its website. We can agree with that.

The coffee comes with coconut milk. Among the plant-based drinks discussed in this article, this is the variant that has not yet gained the most popularity, but is gaining momentum. It is usually a beverage with a small amount of coconut milk or coconut cream (3.5% to 5%), whereas the rest of the base consists mainly of water and soybeans. In some variants, extra sugar has been added which makes the drink less healthy. However, there are also healthier aspects of coconut milk. For example, the beverage is a source of calcium and high-quality protein and is naturally low in fat. The vitamins found in very high concentrations in coconut milk are B2, B12 and D.

As you've already read (and probably know), coconut milk for coffees contains a (small) proportion of coconut milk or cream of coconut. This milk or cream comes from coconut. Coconuts have medium to high climatic load. This is often related to deforestation and pesticide use involved in coconut processing. There is also quite a lot of water consumption in coconut palm cultivation. So it's not very sustainable.

Coconut milk for coffees also contains soybean in the base. We've already written about the sustainability of soy in the 'soy milk' section. How sustainably soybeans are used in your coconut milk mainly depends on the environment in which they were grown. Soybeans are grown much less sustainably in South America than beans in Europe or Canada. Alpro states on its website that the soy they use in their drinks is grown 'almost next door'. This means that Alpro Barista Coconu is probably a slightly more sustainable choice anyway.

Which plant-based vegan milk should you choose?

It just depends on what your taste is and what's important to you. If you think sustainability is very important, you should choose soy or oat milk instead of almond or coconut milk. If you want to add a special taste to your coffee, you can choose coconut milk. And if you want a herbal drink with as few calories as possible, you can choose almond milk.


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