“The Dairy Industry tried for 20 years to convince you that milk was good for you. It’s a lie but they tried anyway.” – Steve Jobs

Once was a time when we only knew of cow’s milk (dairy-based milk). But now if you visit a supermarket you will have plenty of options available for you to choose from. There are dairy milk and plant-based milk. But which type of milk is best? What should you buy? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of dairy and plant-based milk. And then we will decide which milk is best for you?

Plant-Based Milk VS Dairy

Cow Milk

cow milk

I’m pretty sure cow milk doesn’t need any introduction. This is the most common milk available in the market. We get cow’s milk from the cow. But the packaged cow’s milk undergoes procedures before making the way to our home.

Pros

  1. Cow milk is naturally high in calcium. Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth. 
  2. Most cow milk brands fortify their milk with vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium. 
  3. It is high in protein and contains all essential amino acids. 
  4. Most dairy milk brands fortify their milk with Vitamin A. Vitamin A strengthens the immune system and protects our eyes from age-related problems like blurred vision and night blindness. 
  5. It contains an appreciable amount of zinc, selenium, and phosphorus. Zinc strengthens the immune system, promotes wound healing, DNA synthesis, and protein synthesis. Selenium regulates the level of thyroid hormones and acts as an antioxidant. 

Cons

  1. Producing cow milk is resource-intensive as it requires a large amount of water and land. According to FAO, the production of one glass of milk requires as much as 200L of water. Cow milk also has a very high carbon footprint. 
  2. People with lactose intolerance are unable to digest milk properly, causing diarrhea, gas, and bloating. The condition is not life-threatening but can be uneasy. 
  3. It is low in iron and can interfere with iron absorption from other foods. High consumption of milk can cause milk induced iron deficiency in infants. 
  4. Milk production is unethical. Cows have to go through an insane amount of suffering at the factory farms. For this reason, many animal rights organizations advocate for ditching dairy and dairy products. 
  5. Several studies have shown that high consumption of milk is related to an increased risk of prostate and breast cancer. The people who drink milk regularly are more likely to develop prostate or breast cancer than the people who drink milk semi-regularly. 

Soy Milk

Soy milk is a beverage prepared from soybeans and water. It is made by soaking and grinding soybeans in water and boiling the mixture. Soy milk has become very popular in recent years. 

Pros

  1. Soy milk is high in fiber. Fiber aids digestion and prevents constipation. As fiber makes you feel full faster, it can help in weight loss. Other benefits of fiber are the reduction of cholesterol and blood sugar levels. 
  2. It is naturally low in saturated fats. Saturated fats have been linked with causing cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. Soy milk contains healthy fats that improve heart health and blood circulation.
  3. It naturally contains no cholesterol. Cholesterol increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. 
  4. Soy milk can ease the symptoms of menopause. 
  5. Fortified soy milk contains a considerable amount of B Vitamins such as B12 and B6. B Vitamins are essential for metabolism, a healthy nervous system, and the production of red blood cells. 

Cons

  1. People diagnosed with a soy allergy should avoid soy milk as it can cause gastrointestinal, skin, and respiratory problems. 
  2. It is not a good source of calcium. Though soy milk does contain a moderate amount of calcium, it should not be the only source of calcium in your diet. 
  3. It has a ‘weird’ taste. Many people who have tried it complain that unsweetened soy milk tastes beany. Soy milk-producing companies add artificial flavors to the milk to make it more delicious.  
  4. Flavored soy milk may contain high levels of sugar and additives. People with diabetes should avoid flavored milk.

Almond Milk

almond milk

Almond milk is the most popular plant-based milk. It is made by soaking and grinding almonds with water. It has a creamy texture and nutty flavor. 

Pros

  1. Almond milk is an excellent source of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals and inflammation. 
  2. It’s a good source of calcium. Almonds are naturally high in calcium. Though most almond milk brands sold at the market are fortified with calcium, almond milk prepared at home can provide an appreciable level of calcium as well. 
  3. Unsweetened almond milk is naturally low in sugar. Unsweetened almond milk can be an excellent dietary choice for those with diabetes or who are at risk of it.
  4. It is low in phosphorus and is, therefore, a great dairy substitute for people with kidney problems.

Cons

  1. It is not a good source of protein.
  2. The amount of water used for making almond milk is a serious issue. Almond production requires a considerable amount of water that makes almond milk unsustainable in terms of water use. 
  3. People with nut allergies can experience severe symptoms after consuming almond milk. The symptoms include choking, nausea, diarrhea, and swelling of the facial region.

Oat Milk

oat milk

Oat milk is one of the most popular plant-based milk. It is made by grinding oat grains with water. Unsweetened oat milk has an oatmeal-like flavor. 

Pros

  1. Oat milk is an excellent source of B Vitamins. 
  2. It can lower the body’s blood cholesterol level. Oats contain a water-soluble fiber called beta-glucan that helps excrete cholesterol out of the body.  
  3. Fortified oat milk contains high amounts of calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium from the food. 
  4. Oat milk is the most sustainable type of milk. It requires a low amount of water and land and also has a low carbon footprint. The sustainability of oat milk has made it very popular among environmentalists. 
  5. As oat milk is low in calories, it can help you lose weight. 

Cons

  1. Oat milk may contain traces of gluten. People with a gluten allergy or celiac disease should avoid it. Gluten-free oat milk is available in the market. Just read the ingredients carefully. 
  2. Oat milk sold at the market may contain high levels of added sugars and preservatives.
  3. Oat milk made at home is not as nutritious as the one sold at the market.

Coconut Milk

coconut milk

Coconut milk is extracted from the white pulp of mature coconuts. It is prepared by grinding the white pulp with water. It has a thick consistency and a milky texture. Though commonly used as an extra ingredient in cuisines, many people drink coconut milk for its health benefits and creamy taste. 

Pros

  1. Coconut milk contains antioxidants that protect the body from harmful free radicals. Free radicals cause cellular damage and are somehow related to speeding up the process of aging. 
  2. It contains medium-chain triglycerides(MCTs), a type of saturated fats that promote weight loss.
  3. It is rich in potassium, iron, and magnesium. 
  4. Most companies fortify their coconut milk brand with B vitamins and vitamin D.
  5. Moderate consumption of coconut milk may lower the levels of LDL(bad) cholesterol and increase the levels of HDL(good) cholesterol, and thus, prevent heart diseases. 

Cons

  1. People having tree nut allergy experience severe complications by consuming coconut milk. In the worst cases, the situation can even be life-threatening. 
  2. Sweetened coconut milk can raise your blood sugar levels and increase the risk of diabetes.
  3. It is low in calcium. People who regularly consume coconut milk as the primary source of calcium can be at risk of calcium deficiency. 
  4. Canned coconut milk often contains carrageenan, an additive derived from red seaweeds. Carrageenan can cause inflammation, bloating, diarrhea, and glucose intolerance. Prolonged inflammation can cause severe health problems. 
  5. Canned coconut milk may contain guar gum, an ingredient used for thickening the milk. Guar gum can cause gastrointestinal problems in some people. 

Which Milk Is Best For Environment?

greenhouse gas emissions of plant-based milk vs dairy
Here is the graph showing the greenhouse emission of plant-based milk VS dairy. Source:: Poore & Nemecek (2018) Science; additional calculations for plant milks, milk chocolate, and pasta
land use of of plant-based milk VS dairy
Here is the graph showing the land use of plant-based milk VS dairy. Source:: Poore & Nemecek (2018) Science; additional calculations for plant milks, milk chocolate, and pasta

Conclusion – Which Milk Is Best For You? 

The popularity of plant-based milk has skyrocketed in recent years due to their sustainability, health benefits, and awareness about the unethical production of dairy. 

All types of milk have pros and cons. No milk can be called the best as all types of milks have certain downsides. 

From an ethical point of view, plant-based milks win against dairy. 

From an environmental point of view, oat milk wins the game as it requires fewer resources compared to other milks. But remember, oat milk has its cons. 

From a health point of view, all milks have strengths and weaknesses. One type of milk may be healthy for an individual but can be unhealthy for another. You should consult a dietician before switching from one milk to another. 

Hi everyone! I'm a student. I wish for a vegan world where animals are not seen as commodities and are treated kindly.

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