Have you ever asked yourself this question? I would bet so. With all the information we receive, you are sure that you have read or heard all kinds of opinions. Not everything they explain is valid , so I’m going to get a little scientific so that you can decide that you consume with truthful information and not from mere speculation. So we are going to analyze it in this video with my partner Adriana and in the following article.
I’ll start with the traditional, cow’s milk . Let’s see what it gives us to find out if vegetable drinks can be a good substitute . In order not to overwhelm you with too much information, between whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed milk, I have chosen semi-skimmed milk as a middle point to provide information on its nutritional composition. When you provide amounts, they will be those that a 200ml glass of milk would provide.
With that said, let’s get started:
You all know that milk is rich in calcium and vitamin D , two nutrients that must be consumed daily to maintain bone health . Here we do not leave it, milk is also rich in proteins of high biological value , that is, with a high amount of essential amino acids. It is important to highlight the high protein content because the quantity and quality of these a liquid food is an important value when measuring the nutritional quality of the product.
You may not have read anything new so far, so let’s dig a little deeper. Let’s talk about micronutrients! A glass of semi-skimmed milk provides 26% of the RDI (recommended daily intake) of phosphorus , this is the second most abundant mineral in our body and its main function is focused on the formation of bones and teeth, in addition to being necessary for the body makes proteins for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues.
In smaller but not negligible amounts we will find potassium, important for the development, growth and muscle contraction and the breakdown and use of carbohydrates in addition to the acid-base balance. Two powerful antioxidants also stand out: zinc and selenium.
You see, milk is more than calcium and vitamin D !
If for some reason you cannot or do not want to consume it, there is a wide variety of vegetable drinks on the market with the aim of replacing it. I say drinks because the legislation defines milk as the normal mammary secretion of dairy animals obtained through one or more milkings.
Having made this clear, are these drinks a substitute for milk? Is its nutritional quality equivalent? Of all of them we will analyze the most consumed: the oatmeal, soy, rice and almond drink.
Vegetable drinks, are they all the same?
To analyze them I have walked through different supermarkets investigating as Sherlock Holmes and I have analyzed the different brands of drinks that we have available such as Alpro, Calcimel, Diet, Erosky, Gerble, Santiveri, Vive Soy and YoSoy to be able to have an average of the nutritional composition of each product. If you want to do the same, you should look at the nutritional composition table: amount of calories, carbohydrates and sugars, proteins, fats, calcium and vitamin D. Also, it is important that you look at the ingredients. In my search I have observed that the product usually contains between 12 and 14% almonds, oats, rice … the rest is water, sugar, emulsifiers, stabilizers and in several cases sunflower oilamong other ingredients. You should also look at the order, since these are ordered from highest to lowest quantity, this will give you many clues about their quality. You can quickly discard those that have sugar before the base of the product (rice, soy …).
Something fundamental that you must ensure is whether or not they are enriched in calcium . Keep in mind that none of them contain it naturally , so if you are looking for a substitute for milk you have to make sure that it is enriched with a minimum of 120mg of calcium per 100ml and that it is calcium citrate. And if they are also enriched in vitamin D it will be phenomenal. Luckily, there are more and more brands that enrich both calcium and vitamin D, for example, alpro, Vive Soy or Santivery.
That said, we are going to assess each type in a little more detail. Remember that I indicate in portions of a 200ml glass.
Nutritional composition per glass 200 ml
If we analyze the different oatmeal drinks, we see that the energy they provide is practically the same as that of semi-skimmed milk, but in terms of macronutrients, the distribution is different. Regarding fats and carbohydrates, it is not particularly remarkable, it contains little fat and around 10-12g of sugars, similar to milk, but in terms of proteins it is poorer, it only provides us with about 2-3g per glass so we can say that the nutritional quality of this product is not particularly remarkable.
As for micronutrients , as the percentage of oats is low, we cannot attribute the properties of this cereal to the drink, so it will be a product that will not stand out in terms of micronutrients. I have noticed that in the packaging, its fiber content stands out as an advertisement. It cannot be considered a food rich in fiber, in this case it should contain at least 3g per 100g of product and this is not the case since the amount is between 0.4 and 0.8g the most.
Let’s talk about the rice drink . This is the one with the lowest fat and protein content, less than 1g of protein per glass. On the other hand, the vast majority provide a large amount of sugar, reaching 20g of sugar per glass, practically the same as a glass of Cocacola , what do you think? I have compared between alpro’s rice drink, Vive Soy, Yosoy and Diet and the only one that contains less than 5% sugar is the Yosoy brand.
Logically, having this amount of sugar will not be recommended as daily consumption, but you can take advantage of them to make post-workout recovery shakes. With 400ml you would have about 40g of sugar, to which if you add protein you will have the necessary amount to recover after a long exercise.
It is worth adding that not everything is negative, the rice drink is useful for people with multiple food intolerances or allergies , since it is easily digested and there are far fewer people allergic to rice than to milk, almonds, soy or oats.
The almond drink has a similar composition, the protein content is very low, between 1 and a maximum of 2g per glass, similar amounts of fat to semi-skimmed milk and generally high amounts of sugar, around 16g per glass. Although I want to emphasize that certain brands like Alpro have improved this amount and contain less sugar. In addition, in this case it is enriched in calcium and vitamin D, which would be similar to milk with the differences highlighted above: very low amount of protein and micronutrients.
I wanted to leave the soy drink for last , because in my opinion, it is the most interesting of the ones we have analyzed . This can be comparable to the protein level with milk, with a practically equal amount. As they are different products, the type of protein is not the same, but both are of good quality . The amount of fat is similar, although in the case of soy with a higher amount of unsaturated fats, something positive to highlight. The sugar values do not differ from those of milk (although this will vary by brand, so keep an eye on it).
After analyzing the macronutrients, we go to the small, you already know that these also add value to a food.
As with the rest of vegetable drinks, for the content of calcium and vitamin D to be relevant, they must be enriched , which not all are, we have the example of YoSoy 100% vegetal.
I want to highlight something special and characteristic of soy drinks: isoflavones . Surely this word sounds familiar to you, perhaps you do not know exactly what they are or what they are for, but you will have heard something.
Isoflavones are secondary plant substances, which can act as estrogens in the body and in certain situations offer benefits, although with less power than estrogens. In recent studies it has been shown that with the consumption of 50mg of these for 12 weeks some of the symptoms of perimenopause such as hot flashes, ability to concentrate, mood … can improve. To reach this dose you should consume approximately one liter of soy drink daily … In some cases, such as YoSoy soy drink, the amount of isoflavones it contains is indicated, but it is not usual. If you want to achieve this dose, you can consume this amount of drink or you can consider making a supplement with isoflavones, consult a professional so that they can give you the best indications.
Conclusions about milk and vegetable drinks
Here I end the analysis of the different products, with this information you already know what to look at and what to base your opinion on when choosing. But in order not to leave anything in the air, I want to make a small list of what you should keep in mind:
- Calcium and vitamin D : adults need a minimum of 800mg of calcium a day and 5mcg of vitamin D. If we add that you are a runner, you must pay special attention to these nutrients and ensure that you take a correct intake since, in addition to being essential for your bones are also involved in muscle contraction.
- Proteins: you need them every day because the body regenerates itself daily; If we add exercise to it, proteins are essential for the best recovery of damaged muscle tissue. Soy milk and soy drink can help meet these needs.
- Micronutrients and special substances: we have seen that milk has certain micronutrients interesting for our bones and muscles, such as phosphorus and potassium, as well as antioxidants such as selenium and zinc. The isoflavones contained in soy are also interesting as an aid in certain stages of life.
- Digestion: if you are lactose intolerant, vegetable drinks will be of great help since they do not contain it. In addition, as they are low in fat and protein, they tend to facilitate digestion. I want to add that if you do not have lactose intolerance, it is not necessary to substitute milk, since the body is prepared to digest the lactose you consume.
- Sugar: read the labeling, check the composition table and make sure it does not contain more than 5g of simple sugars per 100ml, if the content is higher, discard it as a drink for daily consumption.
- Fats: vegetable drinks contain little amount of fat, and of these, the unsaturated fat that is beneficial for health usually stands out, this is a positive point, but not exaggeratedly remarkable due to the low content.
That said, you now have information to be able to decide what you want to consume. Think about what you are looking for, what needs do you have, what interests you and what doesn’t.