In recent years, cow’s milk, which lobbyists have promoted for its calcium content in a multitude of advertisements, has seen its popularity gradually decline. Criticized by scientists for the various health problems it causes, denounced by vegans and animal protectors, cow’s milk is increasingly shunned by consumers who now turn to non-dairy, plant-based beverages.
This article is not intended to deal with the nutritional interest of milk, its relevance or not in our food and our lives, but simply to discuss the vegan alternatives in the case of an intolerance, or if you would simply like to vary the pleasures and nutritional intake.
Why consume plant milk?
The main advantage of vegan milks is the benefit they provide to those who are lactose intolerant. Indeed, there are many people whose bodies are unable to produce a sufficient level of lactase, an enzyme that converts lactose into glucose and galactose, or in short, sugars. This intolerance may be either inherited and genetic or transient when it is linked to intestinal disorders, infections or irritations that can reduce or eliminate lactase production.
Vegan milks do not contain lactose and can therefore be an interesting alternative for these individuals.
But beyond the health aspect or even the choice of not consuming animal products, they offer a tasty and nutritious alternative in your diet. The good fats, plant fibres, proteins and minerals they contain are fundamental for the proper functioning of our body. Plant-based milks also provide vitamins, especially those in the B group, which are important for your metabolism, the nervous system and liver function. Here are some examples of the most common non-dairy milks.
The different plant-based milks
Rich in vitamins E and B and minerals, especially magnesium and iron, almond milk is obtained by cold infusing chopped almonds and sugar. Traditionally, the chopped almonds are kneaded and soaked in water inside a cloth which is then wrung out to recover the liquid. This recipe dates back to the Middle Ages and is now widely industrialized and widespread. Unlike soy milk, it contains neither isoflavones nor hormones and is a great ally for those who want a calcium-rich milk.
This milk is one of the most popular choices since it contains the highest levels of calcium and protein and is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are considered useful for good cardiovascular health. Many parents also use it to feed their children, but it is not recommended to consume too much due to the phytoestrogens it contains. Soy milk consumption is therefore not suggested during pregnancy and while breastfeeding, as well as for thyroid problems, kidney stones and candida.
Perfect for those seeking a sweeter option. Light and easy to digest, and helpful when you have an accelerated transit. Naturally rich in vitamins A, B and D, as well as minerals, rice milk is obtained by an industrial process which involves macerating rice grains in a water broth, then filtered and sometimes enriched with nutrients such as calcium, vitamins B12 and D, since it does not naturally contain any, unlike cow’s milk. It is also gluten-free, making it an ideal drink for people with allergies or intolerances.
Coconut milk does not have much calcium and is quite fatty, but it offers an excellent supply of minerals (iron, potassium and phosphorus). It also contains selenium, an antioxidant trace element that could help prevent age-related diseases and cancers, and also plays a role in stimulating the immune system and the thyroid.
Oat milk is low in sugar and provides a good supply of fibre, vitamins E and B as well as potassium. It is therefore a good ally to fill the cravings while staying in shape. Oat milk can be easily prepared at home and is a delicious alternative to cow’s milk. It is not recommended for people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Low in fat, gluten-free and a source of fibre, proteins and minerals (iron, phosphorus, magnesium), millet milk is also on the list of vegan drinks that are easy to make at home and ideal for people with gluten intolerance.
It is a natural source of omega 3 and 6, vitamins, minerals, which is why it can help maintain good heart health, stimulate brain memory and prevent neurodegenerative diseases. It has antioxidant properties and, just like rice milk, it is an ideal source of energy for those who do are physically active, or even when you have to face a busy day.
Hazelnut milk is rich in carbohydrates and low in calcium. It is therefore not to be consumed too often throughout the day, but it is a gourmet drink that offers vitamins A and B, omega 3 and 6, and is also a good source of protein.
With its mild taste, spelt milk is also a drink of choice. It provides vitamins E, D, B, and minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. It is one of the easiest milks to digest and helps to manage your weight due in particular to a reduced level of bad fats and cholesterol.
How to use plant-based milks in the kitchen
You now know that there are a multitude of vegan milks that can be obtained from cereals (rice, barley, oats, wheat) or from legumes (soybeans, peanuts, lupins, peas). Vegan drink preparations based on nuts and hazelnuts, almonds, coconuts and cashews and those made from plant seeds such as hemp or quinoa are also becoming increasingly common. But how to use these products in the kitchen?
In addition to replacing milk in your morning coffee, vegan milk is excellent in cookie and cake preparations, it makes sauces creamier and adds texture to soups. It can be used to make your béchamel sauce, pancakes, mayonnaise… And of course, it is perfect with your granola or oatmeal 😉
Beware however, many are very rich in carbohydrates and fats, which, although good for your health in small doses, could make you gain weight or aggravate diabetes depending on your case and the quantities consumed. As always, it’s all about balance and moderation!
How to make vegan milk at home?
Not everyone knows it: homemade plant-based milk is simple, cheap and fairly quick to make! The advantage? You can choose quality raw materials and dose the levels according to your personal taste, adjusting the quantities at your discretion.
Here’s how to make oat milk: pour a handful of oat flakes into a container and add warm water. After the first experiments, you will learn how to adjust the amount of water according to the result you wish to obtain, more or less dense. Leave to rest overnight and mix in the morning, then filter through a strainer. You can pour the oat milk obtained into a glass bottle and keep it in the fridge for a few days, ready to use.
For drinks such as walnut or hazelnut milk, leave the nuts to soak in water overnight, about twelve hours. The next day, mix and filter and pour into a bottle. It is possible to sweeten with agave syrup, brown sugar, honey or maple syrup, but with practice, you will surely learn to appreciate the natural taste of homemade vegetable milk with no added sugar.