Plant based milk craze is in a full swing. Supermarket shelves are loaded with pretty much any flavor and ingredient you can imagine. Soya, coconut, oat and rice are so last year with hazelnut, walnut, buckwheat & co. being the latest trend. Eye appealing packages are all promising the healthies and the most natural stuff…
However, there is always that other side of the medal. My mission today is to unveil both, that is, to provide you with some useful tips and “food for thought”, all with the goal to help you make the best and the healthiest choice.
What is plant based milk in the first place?
The answer is very simple really – your main ingredient (rice, soya, oat…) + water. In case you would like to spice things up a bit, vanilla beans or raw cocoa powder would count as the third one. Yes, this is all there is to it, very straight forward; no rocket science involved in creation of a truly delightful cup of goodness. Keep this simple formula in mind, especially during the next part when we scratch beneath the surface a bit.
OK, we clarified definition of a basic plant based milk. Now let’s have a closer look at ingredients label of majority packages on the supermarket shelves. I am referring to your average eye catching package on a regular non organic shelf – cool design, affordable price, promising natural and ultra-healthy product. In a way, design itself makes you think you will suddenly start rejuvenating and flying after the first sip, especially if you opt for the one enriched with calcium, vitamin B12, or vitamin D.
Truth of your “average Joe” is following:
- Main ingredient (rice, soya, oat, almond, etc.): 2-8% max (bear in mind that 8% is a Jackpot)
- Water: luckily, still present
- Gellan Gum: otherwise known as E418, widely used as a synthetic thickener
- Sunflower lecithin (or some other emulsifiers): otherwise known as E322, widely used as synthetic emulsifiers
- Calcium Phosphate (monopotassium phosphate): another food additive/synthetic emulsifier
- Aroma: OK, can you elaborate on that dear manufacturers?
- Sugar: yeah baby, bring it on!
Sounds great, doesn’t it? First thing that crossed my mind after I started paying attention to the ingredients list was – “Man, am I drinking plant based milk or a liquid car tire?” (I guess it was mentioning of word gum that just brought this association in my mind).
On the brighter side, none of them contains lactose, and most of them are gluten free. What a healthy life changing choice! 🙂 In a way, pasteurized cow milk with the shelf life of 1 year seems like elixir of youth comparing to this ingredients cocktail.
While on the irony roll, allow me to point out another very important fact about all the goodness of an average plant based milk package – nutritional value.
Let’s go with our “average Joe” again based on 100 ml:
- Fat: cca 1 g. (sounds great, no?)
- Carbs: 10 g. on average, out of which nearly 10g. of sugars. This can vary, but it is a bit shocking that you mainly get simple sugars. Basically, a 200 ml cup of milk equals to about 4 refined sugar sachets you get served with your coffee.
- Proteins: 0,3 g. on average, nearly none. This is quite important information for anybody following strict plant based diet. Only soya milk contains cca. 3 g., the rest is protein depleted.
- Calories: 40 kcal on average. It does vary greatly, but bear in mind that oat, rice, and many flavored milk choices could contain up to 60 kcal/100 ml without true nutritional value…
My point is – if something is called milk, and is plant based, you ought to get some beneficial nutritional value out of it. Other than that, it goes down to sipping empty calories away, under impression that you are doing something great for your body. In reality, you are just piling up on unnecessary sugar rich calories (hello love handles).
It is not all that black!
He, he, I probably got you quite depressed now with the last two paragraphs. No need to start cutting your veins though 🙂 Plant based milk can be cool, healthy & nutritious! There are many good quality organic options available.
With organic choice you exclude unnecessary and ridiculous ingredients which I listed earlier. Main ingredients of organic versions are your superstar grain/nut + water + sunflower oil and red algae. Although it is a bit pricier, organic choice is a guarantee that you are feeding your body with the natural ingredients only, as it should be.
Option 2 is to go a bit more adventurous and to make your own homemade version occasionally. With so many good quality recipes available online, there is no excuse for laziness. By the way, do not want to hear that lame “I’m too busy” phrase! We can all afford 10 minutes of time in the evening to create a bottle of ultimate goodness which will keep you and your loved ones going for the next 2 days (homemade plant based milk has a short shelf life due to lack of additives). If you have time to watch all that TV/Netflix cr… , you certainly have enough time to do something great for your body!
To sum it up – variety is a spice of life. Plant based milk is a great and healthy option to pimp up your smoothie, porridge, pudding, pancakes, coffee, cake, golden milk…
Read your labels, shop wisely, and have tons of fun experimenting!
p.s. feel free to comment and share any useful tips you might have