Sunday, March 15, 2020

Real Milk vs Fake Milk?

Odd that so many people are choosing plant-based beverages labeled as “milk” over real cow’s milk.  Most people do this thinking these plant-based “milks” are nutritionally superior to real cow’s milk.  Is it?  If one replaces real milk with plant-based milks, are they missing out on important nutrients?  Yes.  Yet the popularity of these plant-based milks continues.  A recent article in the paper, Stop Milking it, farmers tell plant-based competitors” describes how dairy farmers are concerned as to why  plant-based beverages can be labeled “milk” when they contain no milk at all.  

What has happened to real cow’s milk?  Dairy farmers across the country are pushing to have “milk” mean from a “cow” and not the plant-based milk – oat, almond, soy and other plant-based beverages labeled “milk”.  North Carolina has led the states in legislating what can be called “milk”. The farmers aren’t trying to restrict production of plant-based beverages but many dairy farmers want “milk” taken off the label of these plant-based products. Some people are opposed to removing the word “milk” from plant-based beverages as they say consumers know it isn’t really “milk” and know it doesn’t come from a cow but a plant.

But, do consumers know that plant-based milks do not provide the nutritional value of real cow’s milk?  USDA recommends adults and children consume 3 servings of “dairy” products a day.  When you look at MyPlate you see the glass of milk.  But USDA notes “dairy” means from a cow.  The 3 “dairy” servings can include real cow’s milk, real cow’s milk yogurt, real cheese.  The only alternative to real dairy recognized by USDA is soy milk.  USDA does not count Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Rice Milk as dairy.  I have students in my class write down everything they eat for 24 hours and then put each food item into its appropriate food group.  One student drank Almond Milk and put it under the dairy group.  I corrected it and noted USDA does not consider Almond Milk a serving of dairy.  The plant-based milks like Almond Milk really don’t seem to fit into any food group. USDA says they aren’t dairy, there isn’t enough protein in these plant-based beverages to count as a protein serving.  They certainly aren’t fruits and veggies or grains.  The plant-based beverages really don’t fit into any food group.  

Ipsos research has shown that “consumers mistakenly believed dairy milk and plant-based milk alternatives have the same nutritional content”.  

Plant-based Beverages Myths

      1.  77% of consumers believed plant-based beverages had the same protein as real cow’s milk.  And 62% of consumers thought the protein in plant-based milk was of the same quality or even better than the protein in real cow’s milk. 

                Not true – cow’s milk is an excellent source of a high-quality protein.    1 cup of cow’s milk provides 8 grams of protein.  And not just any protein but a protein composed of casein (82%) and whey (18%).  Both of these are complete proteins meaning the protein provides all 9 essential amino acids our bodies need.  In fact, cow’s milk protein is a higher quality protein than meat. 

                Plant-based beverages – such as Almond Milk, Oat Milk, Rice Milk are very low in protein. So low that Almond Milk only provides 1 gram or 4 calories of protein in a cup.  And the protein is a poorer quality than cow’s milk as these plant-based proteins are considered “incomplete” proteins as they do not provide needed amounts of the 9 essential amino acids.  In fact, an NIH study on almonds “suggested almond proteins to be of poor nutritional quality”.  
Low in protein, high in added sugar, no potassium, no vitamin B-2.
                In a previous blog, I noted that researchers found that children given plant-based “milks” were shorter than kids who drank cow’s milk.  “Compared with children who consumed cow’s milk, those who drank non-cow’s milk were shorter than average for their age…”  Why?  The study author noted: “two cups of cow’s milk contain around 16 grams of protein, which is 100 percent of the daily protein recommendation for a 3-year old child.  In comparison, two cups of almond milk contain just 4 grams of protein.”  Four grams of protein is only 25% of what a growing 3-year-old child needs. A Medical News Today headline reads “Children shorter if they drink non-cow’s milk, study suggests”.  Just as concerning the article states, “Furthermore, the study revealed that the greater children’s intake of non-cow’s milk, the shorter they are likely to be.”

2.  27% of consumers believe real dairy milk contains “added sugars”. 
Not true.  Real cow’s milk has NO ADDED SUGAR.  Milk contains lactose, a natural sugar found in milk but not “added” to milk.  In contrast, many plant-based milks not only contain added sugar but a LOT of added sugar.  Look at the nutrition labels on Silk Almond Milk and see that it contains 7 grams of “added sugars”.  This is 28 calories of sugar per 60 calories.  This means for each cup of Silk Almond Milk, almost 50% of the calories are from added sugar.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend we cut back on foods with added sugar.  Real cow’s milk has NO ADDED SUGAR, compared to Silk Almond Milk which has about 50% of the calories coming from added sugar.  

      3.  Plant-based milks have the same or better nutritional quality.

Not true.  As already shown, plant-based “milks’ are low in protein and many contain a lot of “added sugar”.  Real dairy milk also provides the important mineral, potassium.  Look at the label of Almond Milk and it reads:  Potassium 0 mg.
Real cow’s milk provides vitamin B-2 (riboflavin).  In fact, the nutrition textbook I use in teaching states:  “The greatest contributions of riboflavin come from milk and milk products”. But they mean REAL cow’s milk and real yogurt.  How much riboflavin is in Silk Almond Milk? According to the label, NONE.  

  4.  Plant-based milks, like Almond Milk, are good for the environment. 
According to the Pennsylvania Earth Science Teachers Association, “To grow one almond requires 1.1 gallons of water, and to grow a pound takes 1,900 gal/lb”.  

Plant-based “milks” may be popular but there is so much misunderstanding of their nutritional value, especially when compared to real cow’s milk.  If one needs lactose free milk, fa!rlife milk is a great choice.  Made from real cow’s milk, but no lactose.  Read more about fa!rlife in a previous blog I wrote on fa!rlife milk.    
Real milk and lactose free.
Read the labels of the “milk” you buy.  My daughter’s friend said her mom’s group suggested she give her 1-year old daughter many different plant-based milks – soy, almond, rice.  None of the mom’s recommended real cow’s milk.  My daughters’ friend asked me, the dietitian, for advice.  I recommended real milk, not fake milk.  Children need the nutrients in real cow’s milk for growth.  I want the nutrients in real milk for strong bones and for the high-quality protein real milk and real yogurt provide.  No plant-based “milks” in our house.  Real cow’s milk and only real cow’s milk.  And the yogurt we buy is real – not fake.  Take USDA’s advice – 3 servings of dairy a day. But real dairy – from a cow, not fake dairy from a plant.

No comments:

Post a Comment