There is such a variety of beverages on the market today that the answer is this: it depends. Soy drinks do not provide the same as almond or rice drinks. There are calcium -enriched soy drinks that can actually be very similar nutritionally to cow’s milk, while there are also, for example, rice drinks that are very different in composition from milk. Therefore, to choose well, it is advisable to read the labels and know how to interpret them clearly.
Why take them?
We must be clear about the role these drinks play in our diet: if we drink them on time because we like to vary, if they are our alternative to milk because we suffer from lactose intolerance or allergies to cow’s milk proteins, if it is because we are vegans or we have a vegetarian diet in which we do not include milk… Depending on our case we will take into account some or other considerations.
What to look at?
It depends on the case: for example, if we eat a vegetarian diet we are especially interested in products enriched in calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. If we drink these drinks occasionally within an omnivorous diet, it does not matter if they are supplemented with B12 or not. If we suffer from various allergies we have to pay special attention to the list of ingredients to check that they do not contain possible allergens that affect us. If, for example, we choose them as a healthy option to control weight and drink a vegetable drink with a lot of added sugars, which there are, we are totally wrong, unless we take it as a post-sport recovery, then a certain amount of sugar does not hurt us, depending on the case.
So are they better or worse?
Neither better nor worse, different . We have already seen that we will be interested in one or the other characteristics depending on each case. We can find advantages and disadvantages compared to cow’s milk if we want to put it that way.
- They are very useful in the treatment of allergies and food intolerances such as lactose intolerance or allergy to cow’s milk protein.
- They do not contain cholesterol and their lipid profile is more unsaturated than that of cow’s milk, so we can consider it more heart-healthy.
- They represent a good option if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
- They generally contain similar amounts of calcium as cow’s milk, due to their original composition or because they are supplemented, but the bioavailability of calcium in general may be lower than in milk. It is recommended that they be supplemented.
- Vegetable drinks with a significant amount of added sugars should be avoided, since the effect of simple sugars on health is increasingly showing evidence of being a key element in the development of health problems such as overweight and obesity, from childhood. .
They are not vegetable milk
These drinks are often mistakenly called “vegetable milks”. This nomenclature is not correct because, according to the Spanish food code, we can only call milk the secretion we obtain from milking female mammals, and not a vegetable product.
How to take them?
Vegetable drinks have the same culinary applications as cow’s milk, their flavor varies and logically the result is different, but we can use them as drinks themselves, to make creams, purées, sauces, pastries, ice creams, crepes, smoothies, etc. They are usually marketed in bricks and, once opened, we must keep them refrigerated for a maximum of 3-4 days before consuming them.
What options we have?
Increasingly, soy drinks have been added to oatmeal, rice, almond… and there is currently a wide range of vegetable drinks, and although we must check labels to check their composition, we can find nutritionally interesting options. In reality, there are notable differences between the composition of beverages of the same food depending on whether sugars have been added or not, whether it is enriched in vitamins and/or minerals or not, etc. Therefore, we should always check the labeling before choosing a product. In this case, we comment on the main types of vegetable drinks that we can find on the market and we give an example of each with its ingredients and nutrients (these may vary depending on the brand).
The ingredients can be water, soy (13.5%) and sea salt. This provides us with 36 Kcal per 100 g, 1.8 g of fat, 0.3 g of saturated fat, 1 g of carbohydrates, 0.6 g of sugars, 0.5 g of fiber and 3.6 g of protein.
The ingredients of a non-enriched oatmeal drink can be as simple as water and oatmeal (15%), in this case it will provide us with 46 Kcal per 100 g, 0.8 g of fat (0.3 g monounsaturated, 0.3 polyunsaturated and 0.2 g saturated), 8.1 g of carbohydrates, of which 5.4 g are sugars, 1.4 g of protein and 0.4 g of fiber, among others.
A rice drink can have the following list of ingredients: water, rice (18%), starch, emulsifier and salt. Providing 75 Kcal per 100 g, 0.5 g of fat (0.05 g of saturated fat), 18.8 g of carbohydrates, among which we find 5.6 g of sugars, 0.1 g of dietary fiber and 0 .5g protein. There are also simpler ones with lower nutritional caloric content.
It is usually more sugary, so its consumption is good after performing an intense and long-lasting sport after which it will be convenient for us to replenish sugars at the muscular level. This one that we have chosen to analyze contains water, almonds (2%), tricalcium orthophosphate, sea salt, stabilizers, emulsifiers and vitamins. Nutritional composition: 13 Kcal per 100 g; 0.4g protein; 1.1 g of fats; 0.1 g of sugars, and 0.4 g of fiber.
An example of the composition of a hazelnut drink is as follows: water, sugar, hazelnuts (2.5%), tricalcium phosphate, sea salt, stabilizers, emulsifier and vitamins (B2, B12, E and D). Contains 29Kcal per 100g, 1.6g fat (0.2g saturated), 3.2g sugars, 0.3g fiber, 0.4g protein, 120mg calcium, etc.
The ingredients of the coconut drink can be: water, “coconut milk” (5.3%) -coconut cream and water-, rice (3.3%), tricalcium phosphate, stabilizers, sea salt, vitamins and aromas . It provides 20 Kcal per 100 g, 0.9 g of saturated fat, 2.7 g of carbohydrates (1.9 g of sugar), 0.1 g of protein, 120 mg of calcium, etc.
What you should know…
- They cannot be called “vegetable milks” since it is a vegetable product and not obtained from the milking of female mammals.
- They are neither better nor worse than milk, if not different, by nutritional composition. That is why we must be clear about what role they play in our diet when choosing them.
- If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, they are a good option.