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Vegetable milk


Types of plant milks and role in the diet

Vegetable milks are competitive foods with cow's milk; these are totally different products compared to the emuntory fruit of the breast, however, vegetable milks are quite widely consumed among those who, for physical reasons (intolerances or allergies) or philosophical reasons (for example veganism), do not consume animal milk.
The most common and consumed vegetable milks are:

As anticipated, plant milks can represent a “slightly forced” alternative to cow's milk; it is also true that the latter, despite being a food rich in nutrients, does not represent an ESSENTIAL dietary component (even if the same could be said for most of the foods that make up the human diet). It can be deduced that the use of vegetable milks as a replacement for cow's milk mostly constitutes a satisfaction of the consumer's HABITS and not a real nutritional need; nevertheless, thinking in these terms, NO food could be defined as ESSENTIAL and all could be easily replaced with other products belonging to the same category; It would be different if “food discrimination” included an entire category of foods (as in veganism), in which case food supplementation or the use of alternative products such as nutritionally STRENGTHENED vegetable milks would prove INDISPENSABLE.


Remembering again that (in a balanced diet) cow's milk DOES NOT NEED to be replaced with vegetable milks, which are instead chosen for their (subjective) pleasantness or for ideological reasons; having said this, it is also appropriate to remember that the choice of an alternative product could also be partially justified by one or more pathological or paraphysiological conditions; the most frequent are:

  1. Lactose intolerance
  2. Allergy to cow's milk proteins
  3. Hypercholesterolemia

In fact, plant milks DO NOT contain lactose, DO NOT contain cow's milk proteins and DO NOT contain cholesterol; however, that doesn't mean they are hypoallergenic foods! In fact, soy protein allergies are one of the most widespread allergies, and in any case there is no shortage of complaints towards almonds or oats (those towards rice are less frequent).

Nutritional peculiarities

Let's start by clarifying that, in the absence of pathologies, IT DOES NOT MATTER whether vegetable milks provide unsaturated fats and are free of cholesterol and lactose; furthermore, even in a cholesterol-lowering therapy or in the treatment of lactose intolerants it is possible to include cow's milk by managing (if necessary) the level of skimming or preferring highly digestible milk (lactose-free milk). The same cannot be said for those allergic to milk proteins who should choose TOTALLY hydrolyzed animal milks (in which ONLY amino acids and NOT peptide chains are present); but this, in my opinion, would be a useless stretch.
However, let us mention the “exclusive” composition of vegetable milks; for example, soy milk contains very useful hypocholesterolemic nutritional molecules, lecithins. It is therefore deduced that by consuming soy milk as a replacement for cow's milk one could benefit from its hypocholesterolemic “optimization” (but the same cannot be said of rice or almond milk); however, soy is not the only legume to contain lecithin, so consuming other similar products could confer the same nutritional benefit without necessarily having to choose a plant-based milk.
Another nutritional component strongly present in soy milk, and less so in cow's milk, is made up of omega-3 essential fatty acids. Finally, in my opinion decidedly superfluous, the fibrous component dissolved in vegetable milks; in fact, there are modest quantities of dietary fiber which (obviously) are not found in cow's milk. In any case, it is certainly not the fiber contained in plant milks that significantly contributes to reaching the “famous” 30g/day.
NB. ALL plant milks, to vaguely resemble cow's milk, must be supplemented with some nutrients. The nutritional principles (micronutrients) lacking by definition are Calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12, while from a macronutritional point of view there is an addition of sucrose or glucose in almond milk, but also sunflower oil in oat milk and of rice.

Having said that, wanting to make a nutritional comparison of the products listed above, I would omit mentioning mineral salts and vitamins as, through the fortification (integration of vegetable milks with vitamins and minerals), can reach (more or less) the same concentrations as cow's milk; on the contrary, the macromolecules can be significantly different from each other, and the nutritional comparison between vegetable milks and cow's milk could reveal the appropriateness or otherwise of one drink compared to the others.

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