• Samantha Schofield

Got milk? Well, which one??

Whether it’s skim or soy, everyone has a preference for their morning cup o’ Joe. Your milk choice affects your nutrition, the environment and your tastebuds. So which one is the cream of the crop?

Dear Dairy,

Okay, so dairy milk has calcium. We get it! While dairy milk does contain a good amount of calcium, it’s actually not the only or best place to get it. Many other vegetables and fortified milk are just as good or even better sources. Dairy milk can also be high in saturated fats and Vitamin A, which if you have too much of, can actually weaken bones (my life is a LIE). But, dairy is still a great way of getting calcium and other good vitamins.

Researcher Joseph Poore, at The University of Oxford, conducted a study of over 10,000 milk farms to investigate the impact of dairy on the environment. I think it’s safe to say, Mother Earth is president of the Dairy Milk Hate Club. Out of all milks and milk alternatives, dairy milk comes dead last in every environmental category. To make dairy milk, you need a lot of land, a lot of water and a lot of methane-farting cows. Smells like success, but also an environmental disaster trifecta!

Taste-wise, it’s a bit too vanilla for me. I need some more pizazz for my morning tastebud party.

Almond milk the health nut?

Unfortunately, the process of making almond milk strips off a lot of the stuff that makes almonds super nutritious. But in the case of most plant-based milks, the milks are fortified before being put up on the Coles and Woolies shelves. The fortification process adds vitamins and minerals to the milk, so they have all the nutrient goodness dairy milk has.

The big problem with almond milk is water use. Almonds use a lot of water for irrigation, which is not amazing. But, when compared to dairy milk’s water needs, almond milk only uses half that of dairy milk. Almond milk also needs the least amount of land and the least amount of greenhouse gases of the plant milks.

I’m not NUTS about the taste (pause for laughter). Personally, I love some almond milk with a hot choccy. I think it’s a bit of a strong flavour with a coff.

Sooooooooy good

Soy has all the vitamins and minerals mashed into it, just like the other fortified milks. Not only that, soy protein is considered a complete protein, meaning it contains all the amino acids the body has to receive from diet. It also has the same amount of protein as dairy milk. Soy has a bit of a bad rep due to this lil guy called isoflavones, which is a type of plant estrogen. This led to concerns of whether the isoflavones were mimicking human estrogen and causing harm. Despite this fear, there has been no evidence to suggest this is happening as isoflavones would need to be in a much higher concentration to have an effect. So unless you are guzzling soy milk for every drink and smashing down tofu at every opportunity, you’ll be fine.

Soy uses less water, produces less greenhouse gases and needs less land than dairy milk (just like the other plant milks). But, it does use more land than almond milk. Soy farms have caused some deforestation in the Amazon rainforests, which is horrible to hear. Buuuuut, this is mostly due to soy being in high demand as a food source for cows. Sorry dairy really can’t win at anything here.

Soy, I think you taste great. I love you. I will admit, not amazing when you start drinking it and for some people, it’s a bit too much like liquid tofu. Grow up and accept soy for who she is!

Oat: am I missing oat?

Oat milk has the most calories of the plant milks and it also isn’t suitable for coeliacs or people with gluten intolerances. It doesn’t have the same nutrition as plain old oats but it still contains a decent amount of fibre which is a plus. Just like the other plant milks, oat milk is generally fortified to ensure it is packed full of vitamins and minerals.

Oat milk production doesn’t require much water or produce much greenhouse gases. Like soy milk, it does need a bit of land. But again, this is minuscule in proportion to the land required for dairy milk production.

My mum has tried oat milk when she accidentally went to a vegan café and told me (on the record) it “tasted fine, I guess kind of like cows milk”. Thanks for your input mum!

One milk to rule them all?

Overall, drinking any plant milk is better for the environment than dairy milk, the stats don’t lie. A lot of the population suffers from various allergies in which inhibit them from enjoying a frothy oat capp or an iced soy latte. So, firstly, choose the one which won’t make you drop dead. If it comes down to nutrition, check the label of your chosen plant milk and check for fortified calcium and other vitamins and minerals. The science doesn’t lie but it does charge you 50c extra for plant milk. But, that’s another battle.






Sources and further reading:

https://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6392/987

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/calcium-and-milk/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/soy/#:~:text=Soy%20is%20unique%20in%20that,estrogenic%20or%20anti%2Destrogenic%20activity

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-46654042

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325425#hemp-milk

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/milk/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/oats/