I choose to drink plant based milks as I was never really a fan of cow’s milk. Not particularly enjoying the taste, switching to dairy free alternatives seemed like the logical thing to do. And it seems the rest of the UK and the world agrees. You may have already noticed when doing your weekly shop but plant based milks are on the rise. In the UK, 1 in 3 people are now regularly choosing to buy plant based drink (1). Dairy milk sales fell by £240 million between 2014-16 while plant milk sales hit £367 million in 2017 with that figure projected to keep rising. You can go into your local coffee shop and find more than one plant milk to add to your latte and research shows consumers are expecting this to be the case.
So why are people switching to dairy free alternatives? Well there is a number of reasons:
1. Environmental: One of the main reasons I choose to go dairy free is for environmental reasons. Dairy has a huge impact on the state of our climate and small changes such as switching your choice of milk can be a step forward in reducing your carbon footprint. The chart below shows the difference between the various types of milk and their environmental impacts. (2)
2. Allergies: You may be lactose intolerant and decide that avoiding cow’s milk is the best and safest option for you *
3. IBS: Dairy milk is a high FODMAP food, containing the sugar disaccharide, which for some may cause there IBS symptoms to flare up. This is thought to be due to those with IBS not being able to absorb lactose to allow it to pass through your colon leading to bloating, nausea and diarrhoea (3). If you notice that your IBS symptoms worsen when you are drinking dairy milk, try switching to one of the below alternatives. Or if you aren’t ready to make the switch to plant based milks try a lactose free option and see how you feel*.
4. Taste: The taste of cow’s milk never appealed to me and now with so many plant based options there are a wide range of flavours to try. My personal favourite is soy milk on my breakfast and oat milk in my coffees for an extra creamy taste. Trying a few alternatives can be a great way to add new flavours to your cooking.
* If you are experience digestive problems after eating any dairy foods such as milk it would be a good idea to book an appointment with your GP to get tested for lactose intolerance before cutting out any food groups from your diet.
Which alternative milk should you choose?
This really depends on a few things such as personal taste, nutrient content, allergies and price. I have outlined below a few of the most popular alternatives milks you can find in the shops and how they compare. Don’t limit to yourself to just one type of milk, search around and see what your favourite is.
However remember many of these milks are made with added sugar for flavour. Try and buy the non sweetened versions to reduce sugar content. Also opt for fortified versions as they will have added supplements such as calcium and other vitamins that are necessary for optimal health. Aim to buy a milk with at least 120mg of calcium and 3g of protein per 100ml serving.
Soya Milk: One of the most popular alternatives out there. A delicious and versatile milk with lots of large supermarkets making own brand making it one of the cheapest alternative milks.
FODMAP friendly – yes if is is made from soy bean protein however if it is made from whole soy bean or hulled soy beans than it is a high FODMAP food. Suggested serving size is 250ml (about 1 cup) (4).
Coconut Milk: A delicious sweet milk. I find it works well in vegan banana pancakes!
FODMAP friendly – it depends on which milk you choose and how much you are consuming. Generally even a 1/2 cup serving can be high FODMAP, so if you do decide to consume coconut milk, monitor your symptoms and adjust your consumption based on how you feel afterwards. UHT coconut milk is low FODMAP at 125ml, however after 125ml it becomes a moderate to high FODMAP food. Make sure also to avoid coconut milks that contain inulin (4).
Rice: A sweet tasting milk which is comparable to cows milk in the calorie department.
FODMAP friendly – yes it is FODMAP friendly and you can have up to 200ml per serving (4).
Almond: The lowest calorie option and one of the most popular options sold in America. I find it can be quite a watery milk and not the best to bake with or put in your coffee, but due to the almond flavour can be delicious on your cereal.
FODMAP friendly – yes, even though almonds can be high FODMAP, because so few almonds actually make it into the milk it is safe to consume up to 250ml (4).
Oat : My favourite option to have in a flat white, it makes an extra creamy coffee and isn’t too sweet.
FODMAP friendly – it is low FODMAP if you drink a small serving of 30ml, any larger servings and it becomes a high FODMAP food. Figure out your limits and don’t consume everyday (4).
- Alpro report: http://costsectorcatering.co.uk/sites/default/files/attachment/pages_plant-based_profits_alpro_and_bb_foodservice_insight.final_pages.pdf Accessed: 12/6/19
- Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.
- Hayes, P. A., Fraher, M. H., & Quigley, E. M. (2014). Irritable bowel syndrome: the role of food in pathogenesis and management. Gastroenterology & hepatology, 10(3), 164.
- Monash University App. Food Guide. The Monash University Low FODMAP Diet App. 2017: Version 2.0.3 (326).
- Vanga, S. K., & Raghavan, V. (2018). How well do plant based alternatives fare nutritionally compared to cow’s milk?. Journal of food science and technology, 55(1), 10-20
- Sethi, S., Tyagi, S. K., & Anurag, R. K. (2016). Plant-based milk alternatives an emerging segment of functional beverages: a review. Journal of food science and technology, 53(9), 3408-3423.