Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Soy, oats and co. – plant drinks are not milk substitutes

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According to a study by Agroscope, cow’s milk remains the front runner when it comes to protein content, vitamins and calcium. Unless the vegan milk alternatives are fortified with vitamins and nutrients. Only the soy milk performed reasonably well.

Do you sometimes stand in front of the overwhelming selection of plant-based drinks in the supermarket and can hardly decide which one is the best? Agroscope, the federal competence center for agricultural research, has now examined 27 plant drinks and two whole milk samples. With a clear result: only soy milk can compete with cow’s milk in terms of protein content.

Less energy in plant drinks

According to the study authors, most plant drinks have a lower energy density. In other words: They have fewer calories than cow’s milk. And they contain fewer macronutrients, including protein. “This means that these products do not have the same nutritional value as milk and are therefore not an equivalent substitute for milk.”

The advantage is that they reduce energy intake. However, this only makes sense “if the milk alternatives contain similar amounts of essential nutrients as milk,” the study authors continued.

The soy milk swings out at the top

The result of Agroscope’s study does not surprise Stéphanie Bieler, nutrition expert at the Swiss Society for Nutrition. For her it is clear that if you choose a plant-based drink, you should choose soy milk. «Soy milk performs best in terms of protein content. If it is enriched with calcium, it can be an equivalent to cow’s milk.”

Only fortified oat milk will do the trick

Oat milk is very popular when it comes to milk substitutes. However, there can be no question of milk here. Oat milk consists of water, oat flour, maybe a little salt and a little sunflower oil, according to the nutrition expert. “There is nothing there that could contribute to a high protein content.”

Therefore, oat milk should be enriched with protein and vitamins such as vitamin B2, B12, D and E. This also applies to other plant-based drinks. “The content of vitamins and minerals important for milk could only be achieved in most plant-based drinks through fortification,” the study authors also confirm.

Three portions of milk

When it comes to protein and vitamins, the Swiss Society for Nutrition recommends three portions of milk or milk variants daily in our latitudes.

A portion of milk is: two deciliters of milk, 30 grams of cheese or one yogurt. “The recommendation is based on the fact that the milk has high-quality protein and calcium,” says Bieler.

The good news

Plant drinks can now do all sorts of things in the kitchen. Even the foam on the cappuccino can be achieved with practically all cow’s milk alternatives. The range of plant-based drinks, which is now almost impossible to keep track of, also includes barista versions. And anyone who wants to get their protein, vitamins and other important nutrients can breathe a sigh of relief: many plant drinks are now fortified.

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