Nutritional Mistakes to Avoid When Consuming Plant-Based Milk

Plant-based milk consumption has gained significant popularity as an alternative to dairy milk due to various health and preference reasons. While they offer a range of options for those seeking a plant-based lifestyle, it's essential to be aware of specific nutritional mistakes that can occur when incorporating them into a diet. By avoiding these mistakes, consumers can ensure that their consumption of plant-based milk contributes to a balanced and nourishing diet.

Key takeaways:
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    The most common mistake is neglecting to be aware that plant-based milk generally has lower protein content than dairy milk and not ensuring enough protein intake from other sources.
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    Consuming plant-based milk that doesn't align with dietary goals or contains unwanted additives doesn't help to meet one's goals.
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    Many people are failing to watch added sugar content while consuming plant-based milk. Choosing plant-based milk with no-added sugar can be a healthier option while controlling calorie intake.
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    Not reading labels for added ingredients in plant-based milk, such as sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives, is not helpful for making informed decisions. It is important to select options with fewer additives while consuming plant-based milk for a healthy diet.

Ever wonder when humans began drinking milk? The consumption of dairy milk dates back to around 7000 BCE. A genetic modification enabled adults to continue producing lactase, the enzyme necessary to digest lactose, even after infancy, which allowed them to consume dairy milk effectively throughout adulthood. This genetic adaptation provided an evolutionary advantage due to the hydrating properties and rich nutritional content of dairy milk.

However, with technological developments, many alternatives to ordinary dairy milk have arisen, especially in recent years. First, as humans, we removed lactose from some milk to help those with lactose intolerance. Then we produced milk alternatives from plant-based products to provide tolerable ones for those with milk protein allergies or following a plant-based diet.

However, there are several points to be aware of if consuming plant-based milk for a healthier diet.

Not checking for added ingredients

Plant-based milk may contain added ingredients such as sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives. For minimally processed options, it's important to read the labels of plant-based milk to choose those with fewer additives. Being aware of what goes into plant-based milk can help consumers make more conscious and informed decisions. When following a healthier diet by going plant-based, people should try avoiding plant-based products with harmful additives.

For example, many plant-based milk contain sweeteners, so consumers trying to cut calories and added sugars should avoid them. Plant-based milk, especially flavored ones, can contain high amounts of added sugars, which may negatively impact health. Opting for unsweetened varieties or those with minimal added sugars is generally a better choice. Plant-based milk can be made at home easily for those looking to avoid these additives.

Assuming it's a substitute for dairy

It's important to note that plant-based milk may not have the same nutrient profile as dairy milk. Plant-based milk can be an excellent alternative for individuals with lactose intolerance or those following a vegan lifestyle. However, nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 may need to be sourced from other dietary sources or fortified plant-based milk. Considering these additional sources of nutrients is essential to maintain optimal health.

Overlooking protein content

When comparing the protein content of cow's milk to plant-based drinks, cow's milk emerges as the clear winner compared to the general plant-based alternatives. But only soy drink has a higher amount of protein than cow's milk.

Cow's milk protein content is about 30 g/kg. Soy drink stands out with 40 g/kg protein on average. Cashew and almond drinks follow close behind with protein levels of about 10 g/kg. However, it's important to note that other plant-based options, such as coconut and rice milk, have considerably lower protein levels, measuring between 1–3 g/kg.

It is important to be mindful of this fact to obtain adequate protein from other sources. For example, incorporating legumes, tofu, tempeh, nuts, and seeds into meals helps maintain an optimal protein intake.

Not considering fortified options

Many plant-based milks, such as those made from nuts or grains, may not naturally provide all the essential nutrients in dairy milk. These include calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Therefore, it's crucial to look for fortified varieties enriched with these important nutrients. Fortified plant-based milk helps bridge the nutritional gap to meet the body's needs.

Not diversifying sources

While almond milk may be the most popular plant-based milk, a wide variety of alternatives are available. Soy, oat, and coconut milk are just a few examples. Each type offers a unique nutritional profile, so diversifying choices allows for integrating a broader range of nutrients into a diet. Experimenting with different plant-based milks adds variety and ensures a well-rounded nutrient intake.

Incorporating plant-based milk into a diet is a healthier choice, but it's crucial to avoid certain nutrition mistakes. By checking ingredient lists, opting for fortified varieties, considering protein intake, managing calorie consumption, diversifying sources, understanding the differences from dairy milk, and being mindful of added ingredients, consumers maximize the nutritional benefits of plant-based milk. Remember to consult a registered dietitian or healthcare professional for personalized advice based on specific dietary needs and goals.

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