What kind of milk to drink? Plant based milk options are exploding. First, it was all the rage about almond milk. Then cashew and macadamia became popular. Now, oat milk is center stage. I am amazed how many new brands and types of milk, or rather so called “beverages” are rolling out every few months.
It is really confusing to decide on which plant based milk to buy, even more so on what brand to choose. Not to mention comparing the refrigerated kinds versus the non-refrigerated and of course the cost! I am actually fascinated by the different options and usually scan through the ingredient and nutrition value list. My intention is to buy the best milk, but it is hard to figure out what is truly best.
Cow’s milk on the other hand is pretty straightforward and standardized. The big things to look for are content of fat, ingredients, organic, grass-fed, and pasteurization.
For the most part, plant base milks are all treated the same in the argument that cow’s milk is the worst thing out there. Sure, some may prefer one brand over another but is almond, macadamia, rice, soy and oat milk better than cow’s milk?
Ayurveda originates from 5,000 years ago, way long before the dairy farming culture developed. By default, cows roamed freely in the villages, eating grass, grazing, most likely happy with their fellow cow friends and family. Ayurveda originates in India, where cows are still are revered and respected. Cows were in some regard treated as extended family, protected in the village ecosystem.
In the ancient Ayurvedic texts, milk promotes ojas and kapha in the body. Ojas is the subtle essence the body creates to build vigor, strength, immunity, and otherwise known to be the “glow” one carries physically and mentally. Milk has a unique nutritional value for the body and mind when it is prepared properly, drank warm and usually spiced then its often medicinal and healing. Milk is used as a medium for a lot of herbal powders depending on the health issue. This was written 5,000 years ago.
Dairy farming is not the same as it used to be in ancient times. Even the most organic, grass-fed, non-gmo milk in no way compares to the old dairy farming methods. They were in essence as natural as can be, really organic. Even with all of the labels existing today, how can we be so sure that our milk is actually pure? Recently, a lot of information has come to light that most dairy farming is actually brutal for the cows. Animal rights and welfare is one way of looking at why the current dairy farming practices is a good enough reason to not support them. Perhaps, the argument is for sustainability and health concerns.
The present dairy farming practices only make the argument stronger that we should eliminate dairy. The green and natural movement is going pretty strong. Personally, I wonder as demand for dairy continues to decrease, how will dairy farmers stay afloat in the competition with milk alternatives? Not to sound pessimistic, but will grass-fed and organic have another backstory?
The argument is dairy is not good for our bodies. Vegans will argue that animal products are not necessary and in fact disruptive to our digestive system.
Looking at things from an Ayurvedic lens, this does hold true since animal products are much harder to digest than say fruits or vegetables. Eliminating animal products is the best way to go, if an person’s digestive fire (agni) is weak due to improper diet and lifestyle habits. One of the reasons vegans feel much better mentally and physically on a vegan diet is because they are eliminating very hard to digest foods. This helps their bodies and minds function more optimally, with more clarity. The truth is with our modern day diet and lifestyle, most of us are suffering from a weak digestive fire or some kind of impairment. In this logic, we will all feel much lighter with better functioning digestive systems eating vegan.
Not All Plant Based Milk Is The Same
As much as I love cow’s milk in my coffee and tea, I am trying to open my palate up. I did a lot of research looking for an almond milk that is as close to homemade, thick and creamy without fillers. There was a time when I used to make homemade almond milk with fresh vanilla bean and dates. This was long before my second son was born, when I had more time on my hands. Nothing compares to fresh almond milk, but unfortunately in my house I am the only one to enjoy it. To make small batches every few days is just not an efficient use of my time. I think a lot of people can relate to me on this.
The two brands I could find closest to homemade is Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage and Malk Vanilla Almond Beverage. I have come across so many almond milks that have so many ingredients as fillers. Almond milk should only be almonds, water and maybe real vanilla bean. The amount of actual almonds is just a small fraction and two of the main things I look for in plant based milks:
The first is the fat content. Almonds are high in fat, and an indicator of pure almond milk is high fat, around 9 to 10 grams. Most almond milks have an under 5 grams fat content. This means watered down or contains fillers.
The second is the protein content. Almonds have a decent amount of protein. Again, not worthwhile to consume watered down almond milk. With the amount of store bought plant based milks available, not all are so “healthy” and in fact most are not.
Recently, I learned that even raw almonds are steam pasteurized. They are sprayed down with chemicals and heated to kill off any bacteria. This raises so many other questions, but sounds like we are replacing one evil with another one? If not cow’s milk , then what is chemically sprayed almond milk meant to do for our bodies and minds?
My Personal Experience
Pure, homemade almond milk is ojas promoting and has many benefits. It is nutritionally very dense. I have not tasted that many other plant based milks, but no doubt that most of them taste pretty good.
Personally, I do not really consume milk unless its in golden milk or coffee/tea. I choose to use drink organic, grass-fed, non-gmo whole milk. Part of the reason is also because I have a toddler that consumes a lot of milk in the house. Now, I know there is the part of dairy farming practices that bothers me, a lot. When I can get a hold of Trader Joe’s Almond Beverage and Malk Vanilla Almond Beverage, I do. I am hoping to buy one of those electric nut milk makers soon. Is there any bottom line as to whether cow’s milk or plant based milk is superior healthwise? Likely not.