Do you drink milk? Cow’s milk? 1% , 2%, fat-free or whole milk? Do you drink only organic?
Or have you ventured into the realm of plant-based milks, such as soy, hemp, coconut, almond, cashew and oat?
Why did you switch milks? Was it to reduce fat intake? Was it to avoid additives? Or was it just taste?
I don’t know about you, but when I was a child, I drank whole milk. And then sometime in the 1970’s we were all warned to avoid the saturated fat in whole milk and switch to fat-free milks and cheeses. Everything started being labeled fat-free (skim), or 1% or 2% in an effort to reduce our intake of fat, and hence reduce the risk of heart disease.
Now we know that when we took the fat out of everything, we caused other issues. Fat is good for satiety and the absorption of some nutrients, such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. When you remove the fat, it tastes bland and so the food manufacturers replaced it with sugar. And we all know sugar is the real culprit when it comes to fat storage. You may want to reconsider whole fat milk. Recent research suggests that whole milk may help with weight management.
However, many folks are getting away from dairy milk because of concerns about climate change, the increase in methane, and ethical treatment of the cows.
And this has caused the trend in plant-based milks to increase exponentially. In 2010, less than 20% of people in the U.S. had purchased or consumed plant-based milks, but by 2016 it had increased to 33%.
Now 4 out of 10 households regularly purchase plant-based milks. And the growth in 2020 was 20%, as sales of dairy milk declined. It could be health concerns, or sustainability or animal rights issues. Whatever the reasons, plant-based milk consumption is not slowing down.
And interestingly, there is a new player – at least in Canada. That is (drum roll) potato milk. Apparently, you make this sustainable milk with potatoes, rapeseed oil, chicory fiber, and pea protein to create a milk that has good protein, high vitamin C and high starch. It was invented in Sweden and is also available in the UK and China too. It has a creamy texture and neutral taste. If you have ever made potato soup or added potatoes to a soup or stew, you already know this.
Let’s explore how these all measure up nutritionally. This is just a baseline, because depending on the manufacturer, these numbers could change, depending on if they add other ingredients, such as flavorings, sugar, or salt. Some manufacturers may add vitamin D, B12 or other nutrients. I took the nutritional value of the potato milk (original) directly from the manufacturer’s website (DUG) because I couldn’t find any data otherwise.
Always read your labels.
And remember the amount of calcium you absorb depends on what you eat. The body can absorb up to 32% of the calcium it gets from dairy, and only 20-30% of the plant-sourced calcium.
And for kicks, let’s see which is the most environmentally friendly, shall we?
Hemp and potato are neck and neck for sustainability, with oat a close third. That is because they are easy to cultivate, just about anywhere. Soy farmers use a variety of pesticides when growing the soybean, so you may want to choose organic brands. Everyone is crazy for coconut products – milk, water, or shredded but when it comes to sustainability it is hard to say this is good. Coconuts are grown tropically and have to travel far to get to you. Also, the soil gets depleted by the farmers increasing the output to keep up with demand. When it comes to almond milk, although it tastes great, it is a water “hog” and since 80% of almonds are grown in California (originally from the Mediterranean), and there is a severe drought there, reconsider this choice.
Dairy as we know is in last place, despite the outsized nutritional benefits, when it comes to the environment, due to the increase in methane gas, the ethical treatment of the animals, water consumption and again, transportation considerations. Buy local.