What to look for in milk alternatives
Plant-based drinks are an alternative to conventional cow’s milk, which do not contain any animal components and are made from oats, almonds , but also peas and soybeans , for example. It is suitable for people who cannot tolerate normal dairy products , who want to eat a plant-based or vegan diet for health or ethical reasons, for whom sustainability is an important aspect in their diet or for whom cow’s milk simply does not taste that good.
Plant-based milk substitutes must not be called “milk”, which is why the alternatives usually have additions such as “drink” or “beverage” in their names. In the Council Regulation (EEC) No. 1898/87 of July 2, 1987 on the protection of the names of milk and milk products when they are marketed, it says: “The name ‘milk’ is exclusive to that obtained by milking one or more times Product of normal udder secretion, without any addition or withdrawal, reserved. ”
How do the different alternatives differ?
The individual alternatives differ considerably from one another – not only in their taste, but also in terms of sustainability, nutrient content , the amount of sugar, calories and consistency.
In addition, not every milk alternative is suitable for all the purposes for which cow milk can be used. For example, almond milk is great for baking, but in coffee it tends to flake ugly and separate itself from the rest of the drink. In addition, not every type of milk can be frothed up as nicely as “real milk”. So if you don’t want to do without your nice milk foam in your coffee , you should look for the words “foamable” or “barista” when buying alternatives.
Are they more environmentally friendly than milk?
The answer is: It all depends! While some drinks have a good ecological footprint, others are rather poor compared to cow’s milk due to the way they are grown or the long journey they have to cover before they can be found in our supermarket.
Depending on the study and context, the environmental factor of individual milk alternatives must be assessed very differently, which is why sustainability should not be the convincing argument for you to switch to these products.
What are the alternatives?
Oat drinks contain no milk protein, no lactose and no components from soy and are generally well tolerated . Only if you cannot tolerate gluten should you avoid oat drinks as a milk alternative. Unfortunately, oat drinks are not particularly rich in protein and nutrients . For this reason, calcium is often added to them.
Since oats can be grown regionally and do not require herbicides, oat drinks usually have a good ecological balance . If the product comes directly from Germany, this is of course particularly good from an environmental point of view.
In terms of taste, the milk made from oats is slightly sweet even without added sugar . That’s why it goes particularly well with muesli, but you can also bake and cook very well with oat drinks. It doesn’t flake in coffee, but it tastes very slightly like grain. Oat drinks are priced between 1 and 3 euros per liter of milk, depending on the manufacturer .
Soy drinks are the classics among the milk alternatives and due to their great popularity they are now available in almost every supermarket. They not only contain vegetable protein, but also folic acid, proteins and are cholesterol-free. Since soy drinks naturally contain little calcium , calcium is added to most soy products.
However, soy drinks also contain so-called isaflavones . These are plant-based hormones that are very similar to the female sex hormone estrogen. The effect of this is disputed in this country, which is why the Federal Institute for Risk Research advises against feeding small children and infants with soy drinks.
From an environmental point of view, soy milk ranks at the bottom of the ranking of milk alternatives . Large areas of rainforest are cleared for soy production, especially in Argentina and Brazil . When buying, you should therefore make sure that your soy drink comes from Europe.
In terms of taste, soy drinks are not for everyone . While for some they taste nutty and delicious like grain, others are bothered by the pungent bean taste. Those who like to drink their coffee with milk foam will be particularly happy about soy drinks. This is because these can be foamed.
At around 1 euro per liter, soy drinks are among the cheapest milk alternatives.
Almond drinks score with their low fat content and their high content of vitamins and trace elements. Compared to cow’s milk, however, they contain little calcium and protein.
Due to their nutty taste, they are not only suitable for muesli, but are also very good for baking. However, it is better to avoid it in coffee, because almond drinks tend to flake in the hot beverage .
In terms of sustainability, however, almond drinks are among the losers, as a lot of water is required for the cultivation of almonds and the cultivation areas are in very dry regions. The long transport routes that the almonds have to cover are also bad for the environment .
Almond drinks are available for around 2.50 euros per liter in many supermarkets and health food stores.
Coconut drinks should not be confused with coconut milk or coconut water . While coconut milk contains a high proportion of coconut extract and is therefore a great substitute for cream, coconut water is just the liquid that can be found inside a young coconut. The latter is therefore completely unsuitable as a milk substitute and should rather be seen as a soft drink.
Coconut drinks contain a maximum of 10% coconut milk or coconut pulp and can be used instead of milk in cakes or desserts . The coconut flavor always comes through, which is not for everyone.
Particularly sustainable are coconut drinks because of the long transport routes of coconuts not however .
A liter of the product is available for 2 to 3 euros .
As a real alternative to cow’s milk, plant-based drinks are only of limited use. Not only are they full of calories due to the added sugar, they also contain hardly any nutrients . However, since they do not contain lactose, gluten or milk protein, they are well suited for allergy sufferers .
In terms of taste, the milk is sweet and is therefore perfectly suitable for baking or the preparation of various desserts, but rice drinks are not recommended for coffee because they have a very thin, almost watery consistency and have little taste of their own. Infants and young children should not consume rice drinks .
Because of the way it is transported , rice milk is only sustainable to a limited extent .
With an average of 2 euros per liter , rice drinks are in the middle price segment of the dairy alternatives.
Hemp drinks do not contain THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the intoxicating active ingredient of hemp) and therefore do not have a psychoactive effect . This has to do with the fact that they are not made from the flowers and leaves of the hemp plant, but from its seeds. You can not induce an intoxication with the consumption of hemp drinks .
Hemp seed drinks are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vegetable protein. This makes them very suitable for a conscious diet. Hemp milk tastes slightly nutty when drunk straight, but when consumed in coffee it behaves almost like low-fat cow’s milk . So if you don’t want to do without the milk taste in morning or afternoon coffee, hemp drinks are a real alternative to conventional milk.
Hemp drinks are not yet widespread in Germany. However, you should find what you are looking for in well-stocked health food stores. Pay attention to a regional origin here as well.
At 3 to 6 euros per liter , hemp drinks are among the most expensive milk alternatives.
The same applies to nut drinks as to milk alternatives made from almonds. Hazelnut milk, however, has a fairly high fat content , which is why it is only suitable to a limited extent as part of a low-calorie diet. In terms of fat content, it is on a par with normal cow’s milk. On the other hand, it tastes very pleasant on its own and thus offers a delicious alternative to cocoa .
Pea drinks have only recently been available in Germany, but are already an integral part of the supermarket range in the USA. It is free from lactose, nuts, soy, milk protein and gluten, which is why it is ideal for allergy sufferers .
The end product, which is made from yellow peas, tastes pretty neutral, but not like milk either. So if you are looking for a delicious milk substitute for your coffee, you might be disappointed by the pea drinks .
Since peas can be grown regionally, the ecological footprint of pea drinks is relatively small compared to other milk alternatives.
The price of a liter of pea drink is around 3 euros .
Lupins are often referred to as a soy alternative. They belong to the same genus as peas and chickpeas, for example, and are becoming increasingly known and popular in Europe due to their versatility . Lupine drinks contain no gluten, no soy proteins, no lactose and also no milk protein and are therefore ideally suited for allergy sufferers. In addition, they score with their abundance of minerals such as iron, potassium, calcium and magnesium .
Lupine drinks are tasteless, but hardly available in Germany. If sustainability is important to you, you should pay attention to regional cultivation when buying lupine products.
The prices are between 2.50 and 3 euros per liter of lupine drink.
The best milk alternatives: pros and cons of oats, soy and Co.
Every milk alternative has its advantages and disadvantages. If you just want to do without milk of animal origin, you are practically free to choose . If you have allergies or food intolerances, however, you should be more careful and check whether the alternative you choose may contain gluten.
Even if you are aiming for a low-calorie diet, it is worth taking a look at the label, because not all milk alternatives contain less fat than cow’s milk . In addition, sugar is added to some products so that they taste more pleasant and sweeter.
If you would like to switch to alternatives to cow’s milk, in the end exactly two things should be decisive for you: the individual tolerance and of course the taste .