How good are vegetable milk alternatives?

Milk is a real all-round talent. Whether in coffee, muesli, rice pudding or when baking – milk is an indispensable ingredient in the kitchen. Unfortunately, classic cow’s milk is a real no-go for lactose-intolerant people because of its milk sugar. And also for ethical reasons more and more people are giving up cow’s milk.

This is because 95 percent of the milk produced comes from conventional factory farming and not, as the advertising would like to make us understand, from cows on green meadows in the mountains. In addition, the growth hormone IGF1, which is present in cow’s milk, is discredited for accelerating the cell growth of existing tumours.

How (un)healthy is cow’s milk

But the good news is that you don’t have to ban milk altogether, as there are now numerous plant-based milk alternatives. Almond, soy, oat or rice milk may not taste exactly like cow’s milk, but they can still replace it without any problems. But how healthy is a vegetable milk substitute? Which milk alternative is the best? We clarify all the important facts about the vegetable milk alternatives and present the most popular vegan milk varieties.

Vegan milk, which is not milk at all

The term “milk” is somewhat misleading, because although the vegetable alternatives are colloquially called so, they have nothing to do with animal milk and may therefore officially only be called “drink”. Depending on the variety, almonds, rice, oats or soybeans are ground, soaked, boiled, filtered and pasteurised. This produces a liquid that is similar to cow’s milk in consistency and appearance.

How healthy are almond milk, oat milk and co.?

The water content is much higher in plant drinks, which means that most vegan drinks contain significantly fewer calories – at least when no sugar is added. However, due to heating and cooking, vegan milk alternatives contain only a few micronutrients.

Since the plant drinks contain hardly any calcium, some manufacturers enrich the drinks with calcium. The protein content is also quite low for most of them, but they are lower in fat. The only exception is soy milk. It even provides more protein than cow’s milk.

Rice and oat milk, on the other hand, are particularly rich in carbohydrates and therefore also richer in calories than the other milk alternatives. Additional calories are also provided by sugar, which is used to spice up some plant drinks. So when buying a milk substitute, make sure that it does not contain added sugar.

Pflanzliche Drinks kommen vom Aussehen und Textur an die Kuhmilch ran Herbal drinks can replace the classic cow’s milk. © Maksym Povozniu / Shutterstock.com

Vegetable milk is a good alternative for allergy sufferers, as it does not contain lactose. People who react to gluten should avoid milk substitutes made from cereals and use almond or rice milk instead.

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Whether the fake milk is now better or worse than the animal original is hard to say. An important point is always the origin. There are also considerable differences between vegan drinks and cow’s milk. Additives or sugar should not be added to the plant drinks under any circumstances.

What is vegetable milk substitute suitable for?

Vegetable milk alternatives can replace classic cow’s milk in all situations. Pure in muesli, when baking or cooking, there is always a tasty drink that can replace cow’s milk.

The only catch is that some plant drinks have a fairly intense taste of their own. Soy, oat or spelt milk taste cereal, almond and coconut milk rather nutty and rice milk slightly sweet. All of them can usually be combined well with muesli and for baking or making desserts. Soy milk is particularly suitable for sauces or salad dressings.

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Can I also use milk substitute for coffee?

When it comes to coffee, things are different. Dimitrios Sarakinis, coffee expert at Nespresso, reveals which plant-based drinks go best with coffee and how you can create the perfect coffee experience: “In terms of taste, oat drinks come very close to cow’s milk; they are just a little sweeter and are my personal favourite. The same goes for the soy variant: its nutty aromas can be combined well with various coffees.

Milk substitute made from rice also has a similar taste to cow’s milk, but it does not foam well.

With the right plant drink, the perfect coffee experience is also possible. © Rawpixel.com / Pexels.com

If you don’t want to do without a creamy foam, it’s not that easy, because many herbal drinks cannot be frothed. The good news is that some manufacturers now produce barista plant drinks that contain significantly more protein. This makes them easier to froth. Almond Breeze Barista, for example, was developed especially for latte-style coffee specialities. The vegetable milk alternatives are available from Real, Edeka and Rewe, among others.

What are the milk alternatives?

There are many milk alternatives. When it comes to taste, you usually just have to try a little bit to find your personal favourite. But to give you a small overview, we present the most popular milk alternatives:

Almond milk

The sweetish, slightly nutty taste is very popular and is often used for coffee as a barista version. Almond milk is also very suitable in muesli or for baking. The vegan milk also scores points for its many unsaturated fatty acids. Almond milk is very low in calories and particularly popular with allergy sufferers, as it contains neither gluten nor lactose or other allergenic substances.

Our favorite almond milk: Natumi Almond, 6 x 1 l

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Nutritional values per 100 millilitres: 47 calories, 0.9 grams protein, 3.8 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fat

Soy milk

Soy milk naturally contains a lot of protein and little fat. This makes it even better than cow’s milk. It has a creamy taste and a slight vanilla aroma. The drink made from soybeans is wonderful to froth and also refines light sauces. Allergy sufferers should be careful, however, as an intolerance to milk protein can develop as well as one to soy protein. You should also take a look at the packaging, as additional sugar is often added.

Our favorite soy milk: Provamel Soy Drink Natural, 16 x 500 ml

Nutritional values per 100 millilitres: 39 calories, 3 grams protein, 2.5 grams carbohydrates, 1.8 grams fat

Sojamilch eignet sich für fast alles Soy milk is a real all-rounder in the kitchen. © Rawpixel.com / Pexels.com What’s in vegan products

Rice milk

Rice milk is low in fat, but rich in carbohydrates. That makes the vegetable drink a little calorie bomb that you shouldn’t underestimate. Rice milk is ideal for sweetening coffee, for baking or as a quick source of energy. The vegan milk is made from whole grain rice and water. No wonder that its taste reminds a bit of rice pudding. Unfortunately, it does not have much to offer in terms of nutrition.

For allergy sufferers it is nevertheless a hot candidate, as it contains neither lactose, gluten nor milk protein.

Our favorite rice milk: Alnatura organic rice drink, 1 l

Nutritional values per 100 millilitres: 46 calories, 0.1 gram protein, 9.2 gram carbohydrates, 1 gram fat

Coconut milk

Here we have to distinguish between the creamy coconut milk and the coconut drink. Both are obtained from the coconut, which is rich in fibre. The classic coconut milk, which is used to cook Asian dishes, is produced when the pulp is ground and squeezed out. This makes it very rich in content. Coconut drinks contain much more water and less fat. This saves a lot of calories, but also makes them quite watery. It’s more like juice than milk.

For drinking after exercise, the isotonic coconut drink is great, as it replenishes the mineral and salt stores.

Our favorite coconut milk: One Nature coconut milk pure, 12 x 250 ml

Nutritional values per 100 millilitres: 33 calories, 0.7 grams protein, 3.2 grams carbohydrates, 1.5 grams fat

Oat milk

The vegetable milk substitute convinces with its many unsaturated fatty acids. It also contains special sugar molecules which are supposed to regulate the digestion. For allergy sufferers who suffer from gluten intolerance, however, the vegetable drink, which is made from oat flakes and water, is not suitable. Also those who want to lose weight should rather hold back or choose a lower calorie milk alternative.

Our favorite oat milk: Joya oat drink, 10 x 1 l

Nutritional values per 100 millilitres: 46 calories, 0.6 grams protein, 8.2 grams carbohydrates, 1.2 grams fat

Hafermilch schmeckt relativ süßlich Oat milk is made from whole oat flakes and therefore contains many carbohydrates. © Irina Rostokina / Shutterstock.com 7 reasons to eat a portion of oatmeal every day

Hemp milk

Made from pure hemp seeds, this milk substitute is a real fountain of youth and still an undiscovered star, which is currently on the rise. Hemp milk can shine because of its high omega-3 content, which protects the cells from free radicals. In addition, compared to other plant drinks, it contains a large amount of valuable nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and essential amino acids. The only catch is the high price.

For one litre you have to dig a little deeper into your pocket with 3 to 6 Euros. In addition, hemp milk is so far almost only available in health food stores.

Nutritional values per 100 millilitres: 40 calories, 1 gram protein, 2.2 grams carbohydrates, 2.9 grams fat.

Lupine milk

Lupines contain more protein than soya, many micronutrients such as potassium, magnesium or calcium and can even be grown regionally. High time for this trend to spread. There are still only a few manufacturers offering lupine milk – which will hopefully change soon.

Nutritional values per 100 millilitres: 78 calories, 2.3 grams protein, 7.3 grams carbohydrates, 4.2 grams fat

Oat, soy, rice or almond milk can easily replace cow’s milk in coffee, muesli, as well as when cooking and baking. As far as taste is concerned, you have to try a little bit. But with the large selection of vegetable drinks, you should be able to find your favourite drink quickly.