Whether it is for dietary restrictions, lactose intolerance or for the environmental benefits; more people are cutting dairy out of their diets every day. The rise in non-dairy alternatives has caused milk sales to drop by $1 billion, according to the Dairy Farmers of America (DFA). It seems every time you visit the grocery store, they’ve found something new to turn into milk.
According to Science Magazine, all non-dairy milk alternatives are better for the environment than traditional cow’s milk. “This is because cows require a hell of a lot of land space and water. Then, there is the fact that cows are the major producers of methane, which is more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide,” says data blogger Daniela Haake.
Soy milk was the first non-dairy milk to hit the US market back in 1950. And for the next 50 years, that was all US consumers really had to choose from. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that almond milk hit the shelves and it wasn’t until the early 2010s that it began outselling the “original” alternative soy milk. Nowadays, you can encounter over a dozen milk alternatives on your trip to the grocery store. Current milk alternatives include soy, almond, coconut, oat, cashew, pea, macadamia, pea, flax, quinoa, potato, hemp and hazelnut. But with so many options, what’s the right choice for you?
VALLEY is here to breakdown three of the best-selling milk alternatives: almond, soy and oat milk.
While the exact amount of calories varies by brand, almond milk is one of the lowest-calorie varieties of milk, at roughly 40-90 calories per serving. Almond milk dominates the plant-based milk market. In fact, almond milk sales amounted to about $1.3 billion in 2019. However, almond milk requires the most amount of water to produce and offers very little in terms of nutrients. According to the Watershed Agricultural Council, it requires 1.1 gallons of water to produce one single almond.
The “original” dairy alternative remains popular amongst consumers raking in $230 million in sales each year – which is practically nothing compared to almond milk- but some health concerns continue to arise surrounding the effects of soy on estrogen levels. Soy milk contains phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogens, that can negatively impact the natural estrogen levels already present in the body, says Harvard’s School of Public Health. Many people fear that increased levels of estrogen can lead to breast cancer, but there is no concrete evidence of that thus far. One health benefit of soy milk is its high protein levels which are very comparable to the nutrients found in cow’s milk.
Coming in at number three, we have one of the trendiest kinds of milk: oat milk. From boujee boutique coffee shops to Dunkin’ Donuts, you can now substitute oat milk into your morning coffee. Oat milk is the most eco-friendly of the milk alternatives, but the highest in carbs. In fact, most oat milk brands have six times the amount of carbs as their almond milk counterparts. For those concerned with their carbohydrate intake, this could be a big turn-off. However, with these higher levels of carbs comes higher levels of fiber as well, a nutrient many people struggle to fit into their diet.
When choosing your favorite milk alternative, remember to look beyond the number of calories. Each and every milk alternative has unique pros and cons in terms of nutrients and environmental impact, but one thing’s for sure: any choice you make will be better for the environment than dairy milk.