Plant milk has become a top-selling product in the plant-based food sector but it’s not just the rising prevalence of lactose intolerance that is driving the trend.
People choose plant milks over cow’s milk for various reasons, whether it is for their nutritional value, animal welfare, lower environmental impact, to avoid dairy allergens, or simply out of personal preference.
In this article, ProVeg South Africa outlines 5 reasons to try plant milk on World Plant Milk Day on 22 August.
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Plant milks defined
They are very similar to animal milk in terms of texture, appearance, and use. Depending on the raw materials and fortification, they differ in their nutritional composition and taste, but none of them contains any lactose or cholesterol.
ProVeg International has published a comprehensive Plant Milk Report that details everything you need to know about plant milk, including nutritional information, environmental benefits as well as market and consumer data. Much of the below information was sourced from the Plant Milk Report.
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#1. Plant milks taste great
Ahead of World Plant Milk Day 2020, ProVeg South Africa attempted to catalogue all of the plant milk options available in the country, and found 12 distinct types of plant milk (plus a few blends), and well over 70 options when taking all the available brands into account.
Almond, soy and oat milk were the most common varieties (with 21, 17 and 11 options respectively), but South Africans can also choose rice, cashew, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, macadamia, quinoa, and tiger nut milk.
If you have tried plant milk but haven’t found your favourite yet, there are so many options to try!
There is also a growing range of barista options available, making plant milk a tasty option for your coffee at home or to order from your local cafe. Barista blends add a small amount of oil to give the plant milk a smooth texture, which allows for frothing and avoids splitting in hot tea or coffee.
#2. Animals benefit
Due to enormous volumes of milk production, dairy cows often endure uncomfortable and stressful conditions.
Like other mammals, dairy cows only produce milk when they are pregnant to feed and nourish their young. Continuous milk production requires repeated artificial insemination. This will usually continue 4-5 times before the cows are considered “spent”.
#3. Many health benefits
At 1-3%, Cow’s Milk Allergy (CMA) is the most common form of food allergy in infants and children. CMA is the result of an immunological reaction to certain proteins found in cow’s milk which can cause immediate hypersensitivity reactions.
As an adult, the chances of being lactose intolerant are even greater. Research shows that up to 75% of the world’s adult population has an inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in cow’s milk.
Symptoms vary in severity and may include gas, bloating and abdominal cramping. Individuals are often not aware of the relationship between their symptoms and dairy consumption, and may only notice an improvement in symptoms after eliminating all dairy products from their diet.
Contaminants in milk and dairy products, such as antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides, also play a role in consumer choices. Dairy cows are given antibiotics to control mastitis, parasites, and other diseases, as well as to increase milk production.
#4. Helps the environment
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has stated that livestock farming is a significant contributor to climate change.
The sector is responsible for about 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, with cattle producing 62% of livestock sector emissions, and beef and dairy cattle generating roughly equal amounts of greenhouse gases.
Cattle farming is also resource-intensive. “Producing a single litre of soya milk requires 28L of water, in comparison to the 628L it takes to produce a single litre of cow’s milk”.
For a country with ongoing concerns around water security, this statistic alone should be enough to encourage us to give soya milk a try.
Plant milks have several other environmental benefits, including less greenhouse gas emissions, less land use and less water pollution. Animal agriculture means large areas of forests, grasslands, and wetlands are cleared to create grazing land or grow feed crops. However, these forests and other wild lands act as important carbon sinks by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere, thus counteracting global warming.
The protection of these areas is more urgent than ever and only feasible if the demand for animal-based products is reduced. Since animal-based products need significantly more land area than plant-based foods, a reduction in the consumption of animal-based food could not only save forests but also feed a greater number of people.
#5. Justice for all
Reducing the production of animal-based foods will help us achieve our climate action goals and relieve world hunger.
To do so, governments and regulatory bodies must enforce policies alongside large-scale changes to shift towards healthy diets which include increasing plant-based foods and decreasing the consumption of animal-based foods.
A study by Cassidy et al. calculated that if we reduce animal-based food (grain-fed) production by 50%, we could feed an additional 2 billion people on existing agricultural land.
Another study, conducted by Erb et al., had similar results and showed that a purely plant-based diet could theoretically feed the increased global population projected to live on earth by the year 2050 – without any need for additional deforestation to expand the agricultural area.
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For these 5 reasons, and more, World Plant Milk Day is celebrated on 22 August all over the world. ProVeg South Africa always has something special happening around this date to increase awareness, as well as the availability and accessibility of plant milk options.
If you are interested in including more plant-based foods into your current diet, sign up for the ProVeg Veggie Challenge. This 30-day online programme allows you to customize your needs and will deliver daily educational information, plant-based recipes, meal plans and more straight into your inbox! Sign up for free.
Created by ProVeg South Africa