Here we consider the best milk alternatives for vegans and those trying to reduce their dairy consumption.
Being vegan or vegetarian has never been easier. With so many vegan alternatives to milk and other dairy products, it is now simpler than ever to find an alternative that suits you.
Why is it important?
Many people can accept why vegans don’t want to eat animal meat itself, but eschewing all animal products is a little harder to understand.
The dairy industry faces heavy criticism for its treatment of animals. The image of a traditional, small farm with a few dairy cows and a farming family is a nice one, but it doesn’t usually match up with the commercial reality.
Many cows in factory dairy farms live in confined conditions with limited space to roam. Cows are regularly impregnated to ensure the best milk yields, but their calves are taken away, sometimes being sold to the veal industry. The cows’ young are usually taken away very quickly before stronger bonds develop. However, many organisations suggest that this early separation still causes distress for both mother and calf. Some calves will be fed with milk, while others will be fed milk replacer instead to save even more money.
Despite the ability of cows to live 20 years or more, most are not considered economically viable after a few years, and can be slaughtered anywhere from the age of four to eight. Mastitis, a painful infection in the udder, is common among dairy cows and – if severe enough – will lead to the animal being slaughtered.
Other issues include the impact on farmers from intense competition from the very economical factory farms, with many farmers going out of business. The environmental impact from animal waste is another key problem. If we stop to think about it, we can also seriously question the bizarre (to put it politely) habit of drinking the milk produced by another animal for its young.
What are the alternatives?
Of course, this is not to say that all dairy farms are the same. If you dislike the idea of your milk coming from cows living in unpleasant conditions but are not sure about dairy-free milk, why not do some research and see if you can find local, organic dairy farms which adopt a more ethical framework.
Luckily, we also have a host of vegan alternatives readily available at supermarkets and wholefood retailers.
(1) Soy milk
Soy is commonly used in dairy-free alternatives and is high in protein. Its creaminess and its ability to foam make it a popular choice for baristas as a good milk alternative in lattes and other milky coffees. Soy milk is pretty well established, so it’s quite easy to find unsweetened, sweetened, vanilla or even chocolate soy milk.
(2) Almond milk
Arguably one of the best all-round milk alternatives, and particularly good in baking, almond milk boasts vitamin E along with various other nutrients. Apart from being delicious (assuming that you like the taste of almonds, of course) it is also a very healthy option so long as you opt for the unsweetened option.
(3) Coconut milk
Coconuts get a lot of positive press these days, and for good reason. Full of minerals, they are also lower in sugar than your average fruit. If you’re a fan of granola in the mornings, try swapping your regular milk for coconut milk; the combination is perfect.
(4) Rice milk
This is a great milk to start with as it has a fairly neutral taste. Health-wise, it is a great option, with lower fat then many nut milks. It’s a popular one and is therefore easy to find, and tends to be cheaper than milks derived from slightly more exotic foods.
(5) Hazelnut milk
Another delicious nutty milk alternative, hazelnut milk contains vitamin E and several other vitamins. Tasty in cereal, smoothies and baking, it is a great one to try out.
As is evident, there are a whole host of options available to vegans and people who are growing more conscious of the ethical and environmental issues with the dairy industry. Plenty of other alternatives exist beyond this list and can be experimented with as well. As usual, the best advice is to do some research, try out some different alternatives, and see which one works best for you.