Among the primary reasons why people switch to plant-based milk products are medical conditions. These include lactose intolerance and dairy allergies, as well as dietary restrictions due to other illnesses like chronic kidney disease. However, opting for or switching to plant-based milks can do you a lot of good even if you don’t suffer from any health problems.
Plant-based milks have been around for a while, so you won’t have any problems regarding availability. You also won’t be limited to the usual suspects of soy or almond. More and more plant-based milks have become available through the years; just take a look at Elmhurst’s wide variety of milked nuts and grains and you’ll be amazed at the vast selection. In fact, this variety is one of the advantages of non-dairy alternatives over cow’s milk. You aren’t limited to the usual taste and texture of milk, but rather an array of flavors that range from mildly sweet to distinctly nutty.
Apart from the numerous choices, here are more reasons why you should make the switch from dairy to plant-based milk products.
They Are Friendlier to Your Gut
Plant-based milks are friendlier to your stomach and intestines, and not just because they contain complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber. More than half of the world’s population don’t retain the ability to properly digest lactose (milk sugar) because their bodies stop producing lactase (the enzyme that digests lactose) at around two to five years of age. Meanwhile, those people whose bodies do continue producing lactase beyond five years old may find that their ability to digest lactose is significantly reduced as they grow older.
With plant-based milks, you don’t have to worry about stomach cramps, gassiness, diarrhea, and other issues associated with the build-up of lactose in your stomach. To be even more safe, opt for products that contain the fewest ingredients as possible. For unsweetened variants, there should only be the nuts or grains themselves and water. For sweetened or flavored ones, make sure to get those with natural sweeteners and flavorings.
They Have Fewer Calories and More Nutrients
If you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, you’d do well to ditch the dairy and go for nut or grain milk products. That’s because they contain fewer calories, even when compared to fat-free or skim milk. To illustrate, one cup (about 240 ml) of skim milk has around 90 calories, one cup of unsweetened almond milk has around 30 calories, and one cup of unsweetened cashew milk has only 25 calories. In addition, unsweetened variants of nut and grain milk products have no natural sugars so diabetics and weight watchers will have no problems drinking or using these products for cooking.
When it comes to nutrient content, the only advantage that dairy has over plant-based milk is that it has more protein. The only plant-based milk that comes close to cow’s milk when it comes to protein content is soy milk, and the latter has the benefit of having a lower calorie count. Otherwise, you can get a broader spectrum of nutrients grain or nut milk, from vitamins and minerals to dietary fiber and antioxidants. In fact, the only nutrient that you can’t get from any plant-based milk product is vitamin C.
They Are Low-Fat and Have No Cholesterol
Another thing that you can’t find in grain or nut milk is cholesterol because plants don’t produce any cholesterol at all. This makes plant milk a healthier, safer beverage for those with a high risk or are already suffering from heart diseases. Indeed, some plant milks like oat milk can actually lower your cholesterol levels.
Another benefit of plant-based milk products is that they have low fat content. For comparison, 8 fluid ounces of unsweetened almond milk contains just 3 grams of fat. The same amount of rice, soy, and coconut milk contain 2, 4, and 5 grams of fat, respectively, which are still lower than the 8 grams of fat contained by whole milk.
They Are More Environmentally Friendly
Plant-based milk products are perfect for vegetarians, but especially for vegans who still want to enjoy the creaminess of milk. That’s because plant-based milk products are cruelty-free and are also more environmentally friendly. In fact, no matter what kind of plant-based milk you choose, it will always have a lower carbon footprint than dairy. Even almond milk — which has been criticized before because of the high water requirement to grow the trees — is friendlier to the environment because the impact of growing them can be offset by carbon storage in the soil and the trees themselves. This process helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Many other plants from which milk can be derived also “fix” the soil’s nitrogen content to fertilize it properly and make the “fixed nitrogen” available to other plants.
Admittedly, it will take a bit of time to get used to plant-based milk products if you’ve been used to dairy milk for a long time. However, the benefits to your health and to the environment are clearly undeniable and would definitely make the change worth the short adjustment period. If you’re lactose intolerant, allergic to milk proteins, or are simply looking for a healthier, more environmentally friendly alternative to dairy, then nut and grain milk products are certainly the way to go.
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