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Posts Tagged ‘plant-based milks’

What is milk? The answer seems a no-brainer until we consider all the products on the market today labeled milk. In the past decade or so, the definition seems to have blurred. With plant beverages emulating traditional dairy products, identity has become confusing.

Black and white cow eating green meadow grass | Premium Photo

The standard government identity of milk from animal sources has become embroiled in controversy. Younger generations express concern over cow milk’s carbon footprints on the environment, and thus the push for more plant-based foods in the diet. Heavy advertising and support from organizations like the Plant Based Food Organization (PBFO) have changed the landscape for consumption of cow’s milk. However, the PBFO identifies the Certified Plant Based seal this way. “The most important thing to understand is that for PBFA, “plant-based” means 100% free from animal ingredients. We make no exceptions to this rule.” Evidently, they don’t feel the same toward animal milk.

The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Standard of Identity protects most products on the market. The FDA defines “milk” as “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more healthy cows.” According to this standard, “milk” must come from animal origin. Why have standards for cow’s milk become compromised by using the term “milk” to describe plant-based alternatives? “Plant-based products that resemble dairy foods, such as milk, cultured milk, yogurt, and cheese do not have standards of identity.” These products, therefore, are non-standardized foods.

Animal milk sales have plummeted because of mistaken assumptions that plants are healthier. By 2018, sales of cow’s milk dropped six percent while plant-based sales increased nine percent. Many professionals in the field of nutrition are alarmed as households choose more expensive plant milks without understanding all the nuances behind its popularity and its missing health properties. How different are animal milks and plant-based alternatives?

Market research in 2018 showed that consumers believed animal and plant milks were comparable in nutrients. Seventy-seven percent of respondents thought plant sources had the same or more protein. Cow’s milk typically has about nine grams of protein per cup compared to one gram in eight ounces of almond milk. All forms of cow’s milk contain comparable major nutrients but vary in fat content.

Milk is a significant source of vitamins and minerals including riboflavin, niacin, vitamins A and D, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and others. All cow’s milk must be fortified with 400 I. U. per quart for vitamin D and 2,000 I. U. per quart for vitamin A. Even whole milk with some natural vitamins A and D must be fortified to these standards.

As consumers see more and more non-dairy milk alternatives on the market such as almond, coconut, oat, pea, hemp, and other plant “milks,” how can they become more informed about nutritional content? Here is how the top three plant-based milks fare.

Soy Milk, Spilt Milk? FDA's Next Free Speech Conundrum - Food and ...
  • Soy milk is closer in nutritional content than most plant-based sources. It originated thousands of years ago in Asia. On the US market since the early 1900s, it is a viable alternative to those with allergies or sensitivities to cow’s milk. Made with ground soybeans and water, it is often fortified with B-vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D. Soy milk is a good source of protein, but not the quality protein found in cow’s milk.
  • Almond milk contains few almonds, sometimes no more than the equivalent of three to four whole almonds. The nuts are ground and added to water. Drinks may contain some vitamin E and are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Whereas cow’s milk never has sugar added, this drink often does plus possibly other additives. In 2014, before the recent alternative milk craze, Tom Philpott in “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters” wrote “The almond-milk industry is selling you a jug of filtered water clouded by a handful of ground almonds.” He continued by comparing the typical one-ounce serving of almonds with an eight-ounce serving of one brand of almond milk. Whereas the almond serving contained six grams of protein, three grams of fiber, and 12 grams of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, an eight-ounce serving of almond milk had one gram each of protein and fiber and five grams of fat. Maybe we would be better off to eat a handful of almonds and drink a glass of water. It’s much less expensive.
Got Milk Decision Fatigue? The Pain and Politics of Soy, Almond ...
  • Coconut milk on the dairy aisle is not the same as coconut milk found in cans. The drink is watered down to match the consistency of dairy milk. Protein content is negligible, but added nutrients may include calcium and vitamin D, and some may have B12.

While legislation is pending on Capitol Hill and the FDA investigates the issue, the Federal Register lists several questions regarding the identity of cow’s milk and plant-based products. Below are samplings of questions.

  • What do consumers understand about the basic nature and characteristics of plant-based products? Do they perceive them as comparable in meeting Dietary Guidelines for Americans? 1
  • Are consumers more prone to purchase plant-based products that use the term “milk” than if they are referred to as beverages or drinks? Do consumers assume that products placed in the dairy section alongside dairy products are comparable?
  • Why do consumers without cow’s milk sensitivity buy plant-based milks? Do they perceive plant-based products as healthier? Do consumers believe they are more nutritious, or equal to dairy counterparts?
  • Do consumers believe properties of plant-based “milks” perform in the same manner as dairy when used in food preparation?
  • Do consumers understand or know the many added ingredients in plant-based “milks” such as added emulsifiers, nutrients, sweeteners, and thickeners? Are they aware that contents vary according to the different plant source? Non-dairy milks have no federal standards and may contain as much as ten different added ingredients including salt and sugar plus stabilizers and emulsifiers like locust bean gum, lecithin, and other gums.

So, how do you define “milk?” Should plant-based alternatives use the term milk in their products? What is your response to other questions posed in the Federal Register?

Today’s, consumers don’t always know what they are eating. Food labels help, but remember as you make food selections, they don’t always tell us everything. Choose reliable sources for your nutrition information. For starters, try those listed on my website http://www.cindryn.com. Keep dairy products in your diet for healthier eating.

         

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All Milk Is Antibiotic Free! - The Farmer's Daughter USA

June is National Dairy Month. After a campaign by grocers in 1937 to promote use of milk during summer months, June became the official “dairy month.” The Dairy Alliance, a nonprofit organization in the Southeast, works with dairy farmers and community and public groups to promote their industry, especially during the month of June. The dairy alliance points out that:

  • The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans reinforces the importance of dairy products in the diet.
  • Dairy foods contain nine essential nutrients, including three of the four nutrients typically lacking in the American diet: calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.
  • Nutrients in dairy products provide combinations of nutrients, key in reducing risks of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
  • Cow’s milk has more potassium and almost twice as much protein as found in alternative milks. Whether skim, reduced fat, whole, organic, or inorganic, dairy contains the same amount of protein, about 1 gram per ounce (or 8 grams in 8-ounce servings). Coconut and rice milks have the lowest amount of protein among plant beverages with 0 grams, while almond has 1 gram and soy 7 grams.
  •  Most beverages made from alternative plant sources cost more and have about half the nutrients of cow’s milk.
  • Lactose is a sugar found only in milk. Lactose-reduced and lactose-free milks are available for the lactose intolerant.

The amount of fat in cow’s milk depends on whether it is skim (with minimal fat), whole (full-fat content), or somewhere in between. Coconut milk, with 4.5 grams per serving of mostly saturated fat, has the highest fat content, and soy milk contains about 4 grams per serving. Cow’s milk with one percent fat, or 2.5 grams per 8-ounce serving, has about the same amount of fat as almond and rice beverages. Research confirms that saturated fat is less healthy than unsaturated fats whether from animal or plant sources.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) belabors the issue of how to label and what to call plant-based alternative milks, the International Food Information Council (IFIC) believes consumers know what they are drinking. In a 2018 survey, at least 75 percent of consumers recognized whole milk, chocolate milk, non-fat, and skim milk (90%, 85%, 78%, 74% respectively) contain cow’s milk. But less than one-half understood that lactose-free milk is also from cow’s milk.

Nearly three-quarters of participants understood that plant-based “milks” do not contain any cow’s milk. Of those who bought milk, sixty-two percent purchased only diary milk while thirty-eight percent chose to purchase non-dairy milk. Consumers more likely to purchase plant alternatives lived in the western US (45%), were under forty-five years of age (43%), were people of color (48%), and were college educated (44%).

Controversy continues over naming these non-dairy products and whether they are as wholesome in the diet as cow’s milk. The FDA extended the time for consumer’s responses to these issues. Check part 2 of this topic for greater insight into what choices are best for you and your family.

Recipes to Celebrate National Dairy Month | Atkins

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