Probably the first thing you will substitute in your diet when you start to wean off of the meat and dairy is milk. So you can now throw your hands up in the air and rejoice that you live in the 21st century! We have a plethora (that’s my favorite word EVER, FYI) of veggie-derived milks available to us, and most regular supermarkets now carry a good selection of them.
If you have access to a natural food store you can find even more options. Here are just a few that I have seen on my shopping excursions:
Soy, almond, flax, hemp, oat, coconut, sunflower, rice, as well as sweetened, unsweetened, vanilla and chocolate versions of many of those and even combinations of two or more sources such as almond coconut milk. I even saw one that had pecan milk in the mix of three sources. There’s no longer the “I don’t like the taste of soy” excuse. You have a lot to try before deciding you can’t part with dairy.
I actually have six different milks in my fridge today, including dairy milk for my nephews who were staying with us. Because of this unique opportunity I decided to share all of the nutritional labels for those of you who are curious.
Here’s what I noticed after comparing the labels:
First of all, each one uses 8 ounces for a serving size, so direct comparisons are simple. If you want calcium, Silk coconut milk is your best choice with 45% of your daily allowance. Interestingly, Rice Dream rice milk has only 2%. Dairy milk checks in at 30% of your daily allowance, as does Almond Breeze almond milk and Pacific oat milk has 35%. Dairy milk contains no iron whatsoever, but oat milk carries the most at 10% of your daily allowance. But if you’re trying to watch your sugars, be aware that the aforementioned oat milk carries 19 grams per serving. Dairy has 12 grams, similar to the rice milk which has 10 grams. Coconut has 6 grams, and both the Blue Diamond almond coconut and the Blue Diamond almond milk have zero grams of sugar. Let’s talk fat. The dairy milk I have on hand is 1% and has 2.5 grams of total fat in a serving size. This is exactly the same as the oat and rice milks. Both the almond and almond coconut blend have 3.5 grams of total fat, and the coconut milk has 5 grams. There can be other nutrient-related bonuses to drinking some varieties of milks over others. For example, flaxseed milk contains about 1200mg of Omega 3 fatty acids per serving, and that’s a highly desired nutritional element that our bodies need to stay healthy. However, I’m not sure we need 1200 mg per day, and personally I didn’t like the flavor of flaxseed milk (at ALL) so I resigned myself to using it in recipes on occassion.
Hm! It almost seems like there is no “best milk.” No one milk source is going to have the least fat and sugar while at the same time having the most calcium and iron. If you have one specific thing that is ultra-important to include in your diet (or exclude from it) then reading the labels carefully will help you choose which milk to keep on hand. Otherwise, just choose what you love the taste of.
I will include the labels for your perusal:
Blue Diamond almond milk
Silk coconut milk
Blue Diamond almond coconut milk
1% dairy milk
Pacific oat milk
Rice Dream rice milk
I typed up a little chart for you to compare the nutritional elements more easily. See what an awesome BlogMaster I am? Always here for my readers.
COOKING and BAKING:
Once you have found a milk that you like to drink, you can start to think about whether or not that milk will work in the recipes you use most often. For example, in baking, oat milk works very well. So does almond milk and coconut milk… in fact, in baking I can’t think of a milk that wouldn’t work well as a dairy substitute. Though if the recipe is specific in flavor, for example coconut cupcakes, then I would use the milk most closely suited to that flavor (i.e. coconut milk).
In cooking, it can be different. When I make cream of broccoli soup, but can’t add heavy dairy cream to thicken it, I have to choose a milk substitute carefully. It has to be creamy but not have an overpowering flavor that will detract from the soup. I added oat milk once and.. *blech!* “Seconds, anyone?” (unanimously: “NO!”) Oat milk is not thick by any means, and it’s really too sweet for most cooking applications. So I learned to thicken my broccoli soup with a little flour early in the recipe and at the end I will sometimes add coconut milk coffee creamer; a much thicker, less coconut-y tasting milk that’s higher in fat and adds a bit of creaminess. Though most of the time I just make “broccoli soup,” instead of “cream of broccoli soup.” I also learned that in the smoothies I made for the kids, rice milk was the best base because it had the least flavor of it’s own and let the fruit flavors shine through. So as you come across recipes, be aware that you may want to try the same recipe a second time if the milk you use the first time renders the outcome to be not-so-great.
Substitution of the dairy milk in all baking recipes will be 1:1 with your newfound veggie milk. In cooking it will be the same, but isn’t always necessary. (Like when I said I just make broccoli soup without the milk)
The other great thing about many of these milk flavors is that (insert blowing trumpets and brightly-costumed dancers) …they are shelf-stable! WOOT! The oat milk we buy comes in a carton that is sold at room temperature. It will not begin to deteriorate until opened, and then has a shelf life of (give or take) ten days in the fridge. Because each container is only a quart (4 cups) we can almost always drink it all before it goes bad. I haven’t wasted nearly as much milk as I used to with dairy. And when I do, it’s usually the rice milk that we used for two batches of smoothies and then forgot about when it got shoved behind something else in the fridge. Shopping for oat milk is a once a month endeavor for me. Our local Vitamin Cottage (natural foods store) will order me a case at a time, and a case has 12 cartons in it. This is essentially what we go through in a month if I’m not doing a lot of extra pancake-making with it. I put the case of oat milk in the garage and we pull cartons into the fridge as needed. It’s really been nice. My coconut milk comes from the refrigerated section, and many others do too. But I like being able to have my rice and oat milks just waiting patiently in the garage for me to use them.
Because the shelf-stable milks don’t have a reliable printed expiration date for when you actually crack them open, you may want to write the expiration date on the lid with magic marker the day you open it. I always pick the date that is ten days out. This way, when that pesky rice milk container gets shoved to the back of the fridge, and I later retrieve it, I know how long it was there for and if we will get sick from drinking it or not. (Example: If I open a rice milk container on July 1, I will write the expiration date “July 11” on the lid where I can’t miss it.)
The last and maybe coolest thing about any of these milks is that you can, if you ever catch up with the laundry and dirty dishes, make them yourself at home. If you want to make oat milk, you literally puree some (non-instant variety) rolled oats in a blender with some clean water and then strain the mixture through a cheesecloth. I have not tried this myself, but have seen it recommended for almond milk as well. As the milks can be a little more pricey than dairy milk, this is an option worth mentioning.
I pay about $3.19 for a half-gallon container of coconut milk. Sometimes it goes on sale at my local grocery store and I can get it for $2.79. If you double $2.79 it equals $5.58, which would be the price per gallon. This is not too far off from the price of dairy milk these days. The shelf-stable oat milk runs $2.59 per quart when I buy it by the case, due to a 10% discount for doing so. That’s more like $10.36 per gallon. To compensate for this dramatic price rise in our milk consumption, we made a rule that the kids may have oat milk one time per day. If they have it in cereal, they get water with dinner. This has enabled our milk budget to stay the same per month as it was when we drank dairy milk. And I find that my kids are drinking more water than before- something that their little bodies also need copious amounts of.
MILK and your HEALTH: (Some actual research done by actual scientists)
Everyone gets very nervous when I tell them my kids don’t drink dairy milk. Their concern is that my kids will have a lack of calcium intake and their bones will begin to crumble apart and disintegrate. First of all, calcium is plentiful in dark, leafy greens like kale. It’s in broccoli and lots of other produce that we eat ALL. THE. TIME. We get lots of calcium! If you look above at the nutritional index, you will see that calcium is either naturally present or present by means of addition in most veggie-based milks as well. Meaning we have no calcium shortage as vegans, assuming we are eating a wide variety of fruits, veggies, grains and beans and avoiding excess carbs and non-nutritional fillers. I found the supporting information that I was looking for in the book Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes:
“For many people, calcium and milk are almost synonymous. They think that milk will build strong bones and protect against fractures later in life. Research has shown, however, that milk’s benefits are, for the most part, a myth. The Nurses’ Health Study, conducted by Harvard University, followed 72,337 women over an 18-year period to determine, among other things, whether milk drinkers had fewer hip fractures later in life. It turned out that those who drank the most milk had no protection whatsoever. That’s right. Women who drank three glasses of milk a day were just as likely to break a hip as women who never drank it.
“How can that be? Well, only about one-third of milk’s calcium is absorbed by the body. The other two-thirds simply passes out with the wastes. In addition, milk contains animal protein and sodium, both of which tend to increase calcium loss through the kidneys.
“Do not misunderstand me here- you need some calcium in your diet, but it should come from healthful sources, namely green leafy vegetables and beans. While there is somewhat less calcium in broccoli than in milk, the absorption fraction- the percentage that your body can actually use- is higher for broccoli and nearly all other greens than for milk. There is one exception: Spinach is high in calcium, but the absorption fraction is very low.
“Greens and beans will give you the calcium your body needs. If you are looking for extra calcium for whatever reason, you can find plenty more in fortified juices and soy milks.
“To maintain calcium balance, however, it is important not only to take in an adequate amount but also to minimize losses. Animal protein causes your body to lose calcium through the kidneys, and it can be measured in the urine. Studies of high-protein diets, such as the Atkins Diet, dramatically demonstrate the losses: Such diets increased calcium loss by more than 50 percent.”
CONTINUED reading from my favorite Vegan-support book, The China Study:
“Americans consume more cow’s milk and its products per person than most populations in the world. So Americans should have wonderfully strong bones, right? Unfortunately not. A recent study showed that American women aged fifty and older have one of the highest rates of hip fractures in the world. The only countries with higher rates are in Europe and in the south Pacific (Australia and New Zealand) where they consume even more milk than the United States. What’s going on? An excess rate of hip fractures is often used as a reliable indicator of osteoporosis, a bone disease that especially affects women after menopause. It is often claimed to be due to an inadequate intake of calcium. Therefore, health policy people often recommend higher calcium consumption. Dairy products are particularly rich in calcium, so the dairy industry eagerly supports efforts to boost calcium consumption.”
“One possible explanation is found in a report showing an impressively strong association between animal protein intake and bone fracture rate for women in different countries. Authored in 1992 by researchers at Yale University School of Medicine, the report summarized data on protein intake and fracture rates taken from thirty-four separate surveys in sixteen countries that were published in twenty-nine peer-reviewed research publications. All the subjects in these surveys were women fifty years and older. It found that a very impressive 70% of the fracture rate was attributable to the consumption of animal protein. These researchers explained that animal protein, unlike plant protein, increases the acid load in the body. An increased acid load means that our blood and tissues become more acidic. The body does not like this acidic environment and begins to fight it. In order to neutralize the acid, the body uses calcium, which acts as a very effective base. This calcium, however, must come from somewhere. It ends up being pulled from the bones, and the calcium loss weakens them, putting them at greater risk for fracture.”
“When animal protein increases metabolic acid and draws calcium from the bones, the amount of calcium in the urine is increased. This effect has been established for over eighty years and has been studied in some detail since the 1970s. Summaries of these studies were published in 1974, 1981 and 1990. Each of these summaries clearly shows that the amount of animal protein consumed by many of us on a daily basis is capable of causing substantial increases in urinary calcium. Doubling protein intake (mostly animal-based) from 35–78 g/day causes an alarming 50% increase in urinary calcium. This effect occurs well within the range of protein intake that most of us consume; average American intake is around 70–100 g/day. Incidentally as mentioned in chapter four, a six-month study funded by the Atkins Center found that those people who adopted the Atkins Diet excreted 50% more calcium in their urine after six months on the diet.”
“A more recent study, published in 2000, comes from the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. Using eighty-seven surveys in thirty-three countries, it compared the ratio of vegetable to animal protein consumption to the rate of bone fractures. A high ratio of vegetable to animal protein consumption was found to be impressively associated with a virtual disappearance of bone fractures.”
“The Study of Osteoporotic Fractures Research Group at the University of California at San Francisco published yet another study of over 1,000 women aged sixty-five and up. Like the multi-country study, researchers characterized women’s diets by the proportions of animal and plant protein. After seven years of observations, the women with the highest ratio of animal protein to plant protein had 3.7 times more bone fractures than the women with the lowest ratio. Also during this time the women with the high ratio lost bone almost four times as fast as the women with the lowest ratio.”
Source: Campbell, T. Colin; Thomas M. Campbell II (2006-06-01). The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss and Long-Term Health (p. 208). BenBella Books, Inc.. Kindle Edition.