Almond, coconut, soy, oat, hemp and even camel milk… You only have to wait in line at your local coffee shop or look into the fridges at the supermarket to realise that the milk, or should I say the ‘mylk’ we are now drinking is starting to change.
Plant-based milks are a booming business as consumers seek to eliminate dairy from their cereal bowls and coffee cups, mostly for health, welfare or environmental reasons. While traditional cows milk still makes up the vast majority of the milk market, research shows that the alternative dairy-free milks are on the rise and traditional cows milk sales are slowly declining.
First things first, I think it is important to state that whatever your attitude towards milk, whether that be to enjoy it as apart of balanced diet or to completely remove it, it is a personal decision and either way there is nothing wrong with whichever glass you choose to drink from. We are all so unique and what works for one person is never going to suit everyone.
As a practitioner it is my job to work with an individuals own health concerns, lifestyle and personal preferences to best guide them towards more healthier, nutritionally balance choices. There is a lot of attention around traditional and alternative milks at the moment, so I decided the best way I could help you to navigate what you should be pouring into your cup was to share the key things you should be looking for when buying milk. Traditional or alternative!
I’m all for the availability of dairy milk substitutes. They’ve been a great option for many of my clients and members of my family. Whether you have allergies, are on dietary/healing protocols or have an ethical preference to avoiding animal products, the rise of alternative milk products has certainly made it much easier and given us all so many more options. While it is great that these options are now available, I think the majority are assuming there alternative milk is healthy because its dairy free and are ignoring what ingredients are actually in their plant-based option. While plant-based milks can be a better option for you, it is important to remember that ingredient exclusion doesn't always equate to being healthier.
As Dr Scott Gottlie, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration said this week, ‘an almond does not lactate’. So, how the hell do you ‘milk’ an nut or a bean? Well, plant-based milks are usually made by soaking, grinding/blending nuts or seeds and then adding water and other ingredients.
It is these ‘other ingredients’ that causes the problem with milk alternatives. While yes, it may just be filtered water and a bit of ground almonds, it my also commonly contains a whole host of other nasty things that you really need to be looking out for:
Arsenic (rice milk)
Our favourite Australian brands that we have given the tick of approval to are: Nutty Bruce, Inside Out, Rebel Milk and Pure Harvest (unsweetened).
A note on the nutritional value of plant based milks: It is important to remember while they are milk substitutes - they are not a substitute for the ingredients you find in milk. There are many rich plant-based sources of calcium available, but the majority of people probably aren't getting enough of these. If you are considering taking the switch from cows milk to plant-based milk, be mindful and make sure you increase calcium elsewhere in you diet, especially if thats where you have been relying on getting most of your intake from.
Calcium rich food sources include: tinned fish with bones, sesame seeds, green leafy and dried figs.
Like most things, not all dairy is created equal. If you are going to drink cows milk, I have two rules that have to be followed:
Always buy Australian certified organic cow’s milk.
Look for milk from 100% grass-fed cows.
Naturally rich in omega 3 fatty acids and fat soluble antioxidants including conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), vitamin E and vitamin A. The human brain is made up of 60% fats so the consumption of essential fatty acids greatly determines the brain’s structure and therefore ability to function. Hence why we want to be focusing on the fats rich in Omega 3, to make sure the brain has everything it needs to develop and work optimally. The human brain grows the most rapidly in the first 2 years of life and cease’s growth around the age of 5-6 years, so it is important for pregnant mothers and young children to ensure they are consuming optimal amounts and ratio’s of essential fatty acids.
Organic grass-fed cows milk also contains a whole host of other ingredients including: Calcium, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Iodine, vitamin B2, Phosphorus, Pantothenic Acid, Selenium, Biotin and Protein.
A note on the price: As Organic cows are milked on natural cycles without the use of synthetic hormones to stimulate additional milk production they don't produce as much milk compared to conventional cows. This is one of the main reasons why organic milk carries a slightly more expensive price tag. So enjoy in moderation, but know that it’s money well spent when you consider the added nutritional and health benefits!