The New Milk

HOLY COW! // Alternative sources of milk have boomed


You know you’ve left the 20th century when you enter the natural foods aisle of a full-service grocery. The milk section in particular seems like an ad for the future of food, say on the Sci Fi Channel: almond milk, oat milk, rice milk, hemp milk.

These milks come from seeds and nuts, not udders.

The star of plant milks is soy, made with ground soybeans, water and sweeteners. Like other plant milks, soy milk has very little natural calcium, so it’s usually fortified with calcium and vitamin D. The protein is similar to cow milk, about 8 grams per ounce, and soy milk is good for those who have difficulty drinking cow milk.

And for those who have difficulty digesting soy milk, Giant Food Stores nutritionist Sylvia Hopkins said hemp milk often is recommended. Among plant milks, hemp is second only to soybeans in protein content.

But hemp? Is that legal?

Yes and no.

“Cultivation is banned in the United States,” she said, so the hemp is grown in Canada, and the seeds are ground with water to make the milk.

Hemp milk contains the recommended omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, but no buzz factor. When the liquid is squeezed from the plant, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana stays behind.

If all that leaves you questioning what “milk” is, here’s how Weis Markets’ corporate dietitian deals with it.

“The term ‘milk’ has become synonymous with cow’s milk and refers to the nutritious liquid that comes from the mammary glands of these mammals,” said Karen Buch. “Milk can also refer to similarly opaque liquids derived from plant sources such as soybeans, rice and coconut. The nutritional profiles of these ‘milks’ can vary greatly from cows’ milk.”

Plant milks usually are shelf-stable, meaning they do not have to be in the refrigerated section, but they taste best when cold. Cool them for several hours before opening, and shake well.

One other alternative to cow milk might sound more familiar, because it’s the milk most of the world drinks: goat milk. Sweet and sometimes slightly salty, it’s found in the refrigerated section.

“The protein in goat’s milk is easier to digest than the protein in cow’s milk,” Hopkins said. The explanation is that goat milk has smaller fat globules than cow milk.

Goat milk is similar in nutrient content to cow milk.


How it’s made:

Coconut milk: equal parts water and shredded coconut meat are mixed and simmered until foamy, then pressed through a sieve. High in fat. Usually used for cooking, not drinking.

Hemp milk: Hemp seed is blended with water; then filtered to remove the husks. Offers a good mix of amino acids and heart-healthy alpha-linolenic acid.

Oat milk: Sprouting oats are crushed, water added, boiled and strained. Has a sweet taste and a relatively high amount of sugar.

Rice milk: Rice (often brown) is cooked and pressed. Water and sweeteners are added. Compared with cow milk or soy milk, rice milk is lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates.

Soy milk: Whole soybeans are grounded to remove the insoluble Fiber. Water and sweeteners are added. Soy’s protein and phytoestrogens have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease.


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