Almond milk, soy milk, rice milk but also milk obtained from peas. By now on the shelves of supermarkets we can find all kinds of alternative drinks to cow's milk. But when we drink one of these vegetable drinks which mineral salts are we getting? A very recent scientific research, presented a few weeks ago at the usual meeting of the American Chemical Society by a group of scholars from the US Food and Drug Administration, which is the US government body that deals with the regulation of food and pharmaceutical products, sheds light on this point (Redan et al, ACS Fall 2022).
Properties and contraindications of cow's milk
Cow's milk is a highly appreciated and consumed food all over the world. This milk provides important nutrients, such as phosphorus, selenium, magnesium and zinc. Phosphorus is a structural component of bones and teeth, but also of DNA and RNA. Selenium supports the immune system while magnesium counteracts stress and tension, regulates blood sugars and blood pressure. Zinc is necessary for the proper functioning of various hormones, including those of the thyroid but also insulin. Not only that, zinc is involved in the immune response and wound healing processes. However, not everyone can or wants to drink cow's milk. Due to intolerances, allergies or lifestyle choices, more and more people nowadays prefer to avoid cow's milk. Instead of this milk, there are various vegetable alternatives on the market, obtained, for example, from soy, oats, peas, rice, almonds, hazelnuts, just to name a few. The problem is that when we buy these vegetable drinks, the nutrient intake is not always indicated on the label and therefore it can become difficult to understand what we are taking. The research we are talking about today helps us to shed light on the mineral salts actually contained in plant based milk alternatives.
The best plant-based alternatives to cow's milk
Scientists have analyzed the content of several plant-based beverages commonly found on the market. These drinks were based on almonds, cashews, coconut, hemp, oats, peas, rice and soy. Well, what has emerged is that the content of mineral salts is very variable according to the type of milk, as could be expected. Soy and pea milks are the only plant-based drinks that contain more magnesium, selenium, zinc and phosphorus than cow's milk. Suffice it to say that the milk obtained from peas contains 50% more phosphorus, zinc and selenium than cow's milk. Instead, soy milk showed the highest magnesium content. Almond milk is low in calories but also low in phosphorus, it contains about one ninth of it compared to cow's milk, while oat milk contains the same amount of phosphorus as cow's milk.
It is therefore important to know the properties of the milk we drink. Now we know that, as far as nutrients are concerned, pea milk has nothing to envy to cow's milk even if it can, in large quantities, cause intestinal problems. Soy milk is also an interesting alternative from a nutritional point of view, but beware of allergies. Almond and oat milks contain less nutrients but are very pleasant to taste. In addition, when it comes to choosing milk, the advice of the same authors of the study is to prefer drinks with no added sugar, but also free of vegetable oils such as palm oil. In this way, vegetable milks, if integrated into a balanced and varied diet, can really be a healthy choice. A good idea may be to vary the type of milk often.