Have you ever asked yourself this question? I would bet yes. With all the information we receive, you have read or heard all kinds of opinions. Not everything that they explain to us is valid, so I’m going to get a bit scientific so you can decide what you consume with truthful information and not from mere speculations. So let’s analyze it in this video with my partner Adriana and in the next article.
I’ll start with the traditional, cow’s milk. Let’s see what it gives us to be able to find out if vegetable drinks can be a good substitute. So as not to overwhelm you with too much information, between the whole milk, the semi-skimmed and the skimmed milk, I have chosen the semi-skimmed milk as a medium point to give information about its nutritional composition. When you provide amounts, it will be what a 200ml glass of milk would provide.
With that said, let’s start:
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 this liquid food is an important value when measuring the nutritional quality of the product.
Maybe until now you have not read anything new, 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, besides being necessary for The body produces proteins for the growth, preservation and repair of cells and tissues.
In smaller amounts, but not negligible, we will find potassium, important for the development, growth and muscle contraction and the decomposition and use of carbohydrates in addition to the acid-base balance. Two potent antioxidants also stand out: zinc and selenium.
You see that milk is more than calcium and vitamin D!
If for some reason you can not or do not want to consume it, in the market there is a great variety of vegetable drinks to replace it. I say drinks because the legislation defines milk as the normal mammary secretion of dairy animals obtained by one or more milkings.
Once this is clear, do these drinks replace milk? Is your 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 researching like Sherlock Holmes and I have analyzed the different brands of beverages available to us 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 table of nutritional composition: several calories, carbohydrates and sugars, protein, fat, 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% of almonds, oats, rice … the rest is water, sugar, emulsifiers, stabilizers and in several cases sunflower oil among 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 its quality. You can quickly discard those that have sugar before the base of the product (rice, soy …).
Something fundamental you must ensure is whether or not they are enriched in calcium. Keep in mind that none of them contains it naturally, so if you are looking for a substitute for milk you have to make sure it is enriched with a minimum of 120 mg 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.
In addition to personal taste, the main reasons for the growth of the vegetable beverage sector are the increased presence of lactose intolerant and the rise of vegetarian diets.
Having said that, we will evaluate each type a little more in detail. Remember that I indicate in rations of a 200ml glass.
Nutritional composition per glass 200 ml
If we analyze the different oat drinks we see that the energy they provide is practically the same as that of semi-skimmed milk, but as regards macronutrients, the distribution is different. As for fats and carbohydrates is not particularly remarkable, contains little fat and about 10-12g of sugars, similar to milk, but in terms of protein is poorer, only gives us about 2-3g per glass so that We can say that the nutritional quality of this product is not especially remarkable.
Regarding micronutrients, as the percentage of oats is low, we can not 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 noticed that in the packaged, advertising is highlighted in its fiber content. It can not 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 more.
Let’s talk about the rice drink. This is all that has a lower content of fat and protein, less than 1g of protein per glass. On the other hand, the vast majority contribute 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 the rice drink of Alpro, Vive Soy, Yosoy and Diet and the only one that contains less than 5% of sugars 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, which if you add protein you will have the amount needed to recover after a long-term exercise.
It is worth adding that not everything is negative, the rice drink is useful for people with multiple intolerances or food allergies since it is easily digested and there are many 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 maximum 2g per glass, similar amounts of fat to semi-skimmed milk and in general high amounts of sugar, around 16g per glass. Although I want to emphasize that certain brands such as Alpro have improved this amount and contain less sugar. Also, in this case, it is enriched in calcium and vitamin D, which would be similar to milk with the differences noted above: very low amount of protein and micronutrients.
I wanted to leave the soy drink for the end because, in my opinion, it is the most interesting one we have analyzed. This can be comparable at the protein level with milk, with an almost equal amount. Being different products the type of protein is not the same, but the two are of good quality. The amount of fats is similar, although in the case of soy with a higher amount of unsaturated fats, something positive to highlight. The values of sugars do not differ from those of milk (although this will vary according to the brand, so be sure).
Analyzed the macronutrients we go to the small, that you already know that these also give value to food.
As with the rest of vegetable drinks so that the content of calcium and vitamin D are relevant, they must be enriched, and not all of them are, we have the example of Yo Soy 100% vegetal.
I want to highlight something special and characteristic of soy drinks: isoflavones. Surely this word sounds 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 certain situations offer benefits, although with lower power than estrogen. In recent studies have 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 get to this dose, you should consume approximately one liter of soy drink per day … In some cases, such as the YoSoy soy drink, the amount of isoflavones it contains is indicated, but it is not usual. If you want to get this dose you can consume this amount of drink or you can consider supplementing with isoflavones, check with a professional to give you the best indications.
Conclusions on milk and vegetable drinks
Here I finish the analysis of the different products, with this information you already know what you have to look at and what you have to base your opinion on when choosing. But to leave nothing 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 800 mg of calcium per day and 5mcg of vitamin D. If we add that you are a runner you should pay special attention to these nutrients and ensure that you make a correct intake as well as being essential for your bones also intervene in muscle contraction.
- The proteins: you need them every day because the body regenerates itself daily; If we add the exercise, proteins are essential for the best recovery of damaged muscle tissue. Soymilk and milk can help meet these needs.
- Micronutrients and special substances: we have seen that milk has certain interesting micronutrients for our bones and muscles, such as phosphorus and potassium, as well as antioxidants such as selenium and zinc. Also interesting are the isoflavones that soy contains as an aid in certain stages of life.
- Digestion: if you are intolerant to lactose, vegetable drinks will be very helpful since they do not contain it. Also, because they are low in fat and protein they usually 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 that you consume.
- Sugar: read the labeling, check the composition table and try not to contain more than 5g of simple sugars per 100ml, if the content is greater, discard it as a daily drink.
- Fats: vegetable drinks contain little amount of fat, and of these usually highlights the unsaturated fat beneficial for health, this is a positive point, but not exaggeratedly remarkable for the low content.
That said, now you have information to be able to decide what you want to consume. Think about what you are looking for, what needs you have, what interests you and what does not.