Plant-based Milk Nutritional importance and Substitute of Animal Milk

Milk and milk products are nutritional-dense commodities. These are an integral part of the diet for maintaining people’s health by providing high-quality protein and energy with various essential minerals.

Besides its high nutritional profile, milk and its products could be unhealthy for allergic people to its sugars or proteins. Persons who are allergic to milk sugars are the lactose intolerant group. While, if the immune system becomes invasive to healthy milk proteins, it is called milk protein allergy

Lactose intolerance commonly prevails in Asia, specifically in Pakistan and India. This group could consume yogurt, while lactose-free is also available in markets.

On the other hand, the group allergic to milk proteins could not digest animal milk and its products. Later situation is more dangerous due to the set of common symptoms like flu and fever to the life-threatening anaphylactic response. 

People who are allergic to animal milk and its products are concerned about their health and want to add healthy alternatives to their diet. To provide various dairy products to these allergic protein groups, food experts have developed nutritional-rich products with more or less similar to dairy taste. These products are designed from several types of plant-based commodities

Plant-based Milk Nutritional importance and Substitute of Animal Milk 2

Most importantly, plant-based milk like oat, coconut, almonds, barley, rice, and soy are used as a replacer for animal milk because of their nutritional contents and health benefits. Their products like kefir, yogurt, cheese, and cream are also available in international markets. 

In an 8-ounce pour of Soy milk, the original plant-based milk, there are 8 grams of carbs, 7 grams of protein, and 100 calories. It’s also a good choice for individuals on a low-fat diet because it has only 4 grams of fat and only 0.5 grams of saturated fat and is low in sugar. Soy milk is high in riboflavin, or vitamin B2, essential for good health. Riboflavin is necessary because it functions as an antioxidant, aids in energy production, and promotes the health of blood cells. 

Almond milk is delicious in taste and a good dairy substitute. Typically, almond milk is low in carbohydrates, calories, and fat and provides some protein. It also offers vitamin E and, when fortified, includes calcium. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects the body from free radical damage and is necessary for normal neurological, organ, and enzymatic functions. 

Oat milk is also an excellent alternative for people who are allergic to nuts. It has more fiber, vitamin A, iron, and calcium than dairy milk. Oat milk, on the other hand, is a low-protein choice. Its high calcium and iron contents may build stronger bones, while the fiber content improves the immune system and eases digestion. 

Rice milk also possesses a good amount of calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin A. It also contains carbohydrates, protein, and fat. 

Barley is a super-food and ancient grain high in protein, healthy fats, fiber, calcium, vitamins, magnesium, and potassium. It reduces the risk of gallstones, helps in weight reduction, has anticancer property improves heart health and digestion. Its milk is also a part of the diet of many vegetarians living in developed countries.

Coconut milk is naturally sweet and is devoid of gluten, dairy, soy and nut protein, and sugar. Coconut milk is naturally rich in a component called Lauric acid. It has been found to help balance cholesterol in the bloodstream by raising good cholesterol levels and lowering levels of bad cholesterol.

This component is an effective barrier against many viruses and infections, as it has anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. It includes zinc and selenium, which are suitable for the immune system. Magnesium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, and calcium are among the minerals present. Coconut milk is rich in many essential vitamin-like vitamins B, C, and E. 

Plant-based milk and its products are available in markets for allergic, vegetarian, and weight management groups in developed countries. However, scientific research on plant-based milk as an alternative to animal milk is still scarce in Pakistan. 

Recently, an M.Phil scholar named Ms. Aiman Gull at the Institute of Food Science and Nutrition (BZU Multan) has been working on developing dairy-free ice cream made from plant-based milk. She has successfully done three trials of dairy-free ice cream with high sensory evaluation scores. In these trials, she also uses some natural herbs like peppermint due to their medicinal and therapeutic properties. 

Author: Dn. Aiman Gull 
MSc (Hons.) Human Nutrition and Dietetics
Institute: Institute of Food Science and Nutrition, BZU Multan.

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