Today there are many people who do not consume cow’s milk, either because they are lactose intolerant or because they have adopted a vegan diet, or, more simply, they simply want to experiment with new tastes. There can be many alternatives to cow’s milk, let’s see what they are.
Vegetable milk can be used for breakfast, to accompany cereals or coffee, or to replace cow’s milk in the preparation of cakes, creams, bechamel etc. Many people cannot drink more cow’s milk due to the lactose intolerance it contains.
Lactose is the main sugar in milk, in particular it is a disaccharide made up of the union of galactose and glucose. Its digestion takes place thanks to the presence of an enzyme, called lactase, which breaks it down into its monosaccharides.
Lactose intolerant people have a total or partial deficiency of this enzyme, so they cannot digest it. This means that the lactose ends up undigested in the intestine, where it is fermented by intestinal bacteria, producing gas and therefore bloating, diarrhea and abdominal pain.
Plant-based milk is more digestible than cow’s milk, and by choosing a plant-based alternative, the exploitation of lactating animals in intensive farms is not favored. As for the calcium present in cow’s milk, it is usually added to vegetable milk, but even if this is not the case, remember that there are other foods rich in calcium such as almonds and sesame seeds.
All types of vegetable milk are free of cholesterol, lactose and casein, therefore perfect for those who have high cholesterol or suffer from cardiovascular problems, for lactose intolerant and for those allergic to cow’s milk.
10 plant-based substitutes for cow’s milk
1. Rice milk
Rice milk is obtained from white rice and is characterized by its high digestibility. It has a higher carbohydrate content than cow’s milk, especially simple sugars. The taste of rice milk is particularly sweet. Like other milks of vegetable origin, it does not contain lactose or cholesterol. It has a low fiber content, about 0.3 grams per 100 grams, therefore useful for those suffering from irritable bowel with diarrhea. It contains 70 kcal per 100 grams and we often find it added with vitamins such as B12 and minerals such as calcium. It can be consumed by those with a soy or dried fruit allergy.
2. Soya milk
Soy milk provides few kilocalories, about 55 kcal per 100 grams, and is prepared by processing soybeans. It has a low glycemic index and does not contain cholesterol, so it can be consumed by diabetics and those with high cholesterol. Contains proteins and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Furthermore, soy is rich in phytoetrogens, called soy isoflavones, which have an estrogen-like action. They are able to relieve the symptoms of menopause like hot flashes, they stimulate hair growth and reduce bad cholesterol levels. However, phytoestrogens, when taken in large quantities, can have adverse effects as they can interfere with some thyroid functions. It is advisable to buy soy milk from organic and non-GMO soy.
3. Almond milk
A famous drink especially from southern, almond milk is prepared from almonds left to infuse and can be commercially sweetened or not. The unsweetened one has a very low calorie intake, and is suitable for diabetics and those who want to keep fit. It has a naturally sweet taste, because it is rich in simple sugars. The proteins present do not exceed 1%, and there are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Almond milk has a good content of vitamin E, with an antioxidant action. There is also a protein called amandin, which would help in the reduction of bad cholesterol. The most present mineral salts are zinc, phosphorus and magnesium.
4. Coconut milk
Coconut milk is a liquid made from ground coconut pulp mixed with water and has unique properties. It has a denser consistency than cow’s milk and has a very high calorie content, of about 200 kcal per 100 grams. It is high in fat, particularly saturated. In coconut milk there is lauric acid, with antiviral and reductive properties against LDL cholesterol. It can have a positive effect on intestinal transit as it has a good fiber content. The mineral most present is magnesium, but also selenium, which acts as an antioxidant. It is easily found on the market, in supermarkets or specialized bio-shops.
5. Spelled milk
This type of milk is obtained from the infusion of spelled grains in water. It is very digestible and is rich in B vitamins, useful in energy metabolism, and in fiber, excellent for counteracting constipation. In spelled milk there are also magnesium, which regulates the functions of the nervous system, and calcium, which is important for the health of bones and teeth. Spelled, however, contains gluten, so this type of vegetable milk cannot be consumed by those suffering from celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
6. Hemp milk
Hemp milk is made by grinding hemp seeds with water. This vegetable milk has unique nutritional qualities, deriving from the constituents of hemp seeds. In fact, they are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, useful for cardiovascular health, and omega 6 fatty acids, essential for brain health and tissue functionality. Hemp milk contains a good amount of protein, about 3 grams per 100 grams, and calcium, but also magnesium, iron and potassium. It has a slightly stronger taste than other types of vegetable milks.
7. Hazelnut milk
Hazelnut milk is a very aromatic milk with a more or less intense flavor of hazelnuts, depending on the percentage of hazelnuts used for its preparation. Hazelnut milk has, albeit to a lesser extent, the properties of hazelnuts. They are rich in fiber, therefore useful for accelerating intestinal transit, in mineral salts including above all calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium and vitamin E, with antioxidant properties, thus counteracting the action of free radicals. The consumption of hazelnuts is also capable of lowering bad cholesterol.
8. Millet milk
Millet milk is a vegetable milk with a neutral and delicate flavor, but at the same time sweet. It has a high digestibility, and can be used in the preparation of sweets but also in savory dishes as it does not alter the flavor. It has a low glycemic index and has alkalizing properties. The good fiber content is able to promote intestinal health, while the presence of silicic acid is useful for strengthening nails and hair. Millet does not contain gluten, so neither does the milk obtained from it.
9. Avena’s milk
Oat milk is the most used in Anglo-Saxon countries. It is low in calories, providing about 46 kcal per 100 grams and has an excellent fiber content, thanks to which oat milk is recommended for those suffering from constipation. It is low in fat while folic acid and vitamin E are present. It is obtained from oats, whose usual consumption is able to lower bad cholesterol levels, thanks to the presence of beta-glucans. As for gluten, oats do not naturally contain it. However, it is very often grown next to gluten-free grains so there could be contamination. For this reason,oat milk can be consumed by celiacs only if the package bears the wording gluten free, which indicates the absence of gluten in the product.
10. Kamut milk
Kamut is a type of cereal, specifically khorasan kamut wheat, which is a registered trademark. The milk that derives from it has a minimal part of the characteristics of this ancient cereal. Kamut milk is rich in protein and low in fat, and contains high amounts of selenium, a mineral that strengthens the immune system and regulates the proper functioning of the thyroid, but also of magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. It is not suitable for celiacs, as it contains gluten.