The creativity of many industries has brought results. Since plant-based diets are becoming more and more popular, new beverage ideas have come along. Many start ditching dairy milk and start looking for plant-based milks. There are different categories of plant-based milks: Cereal based, legume-based, nut-based, seed-based and pseudo-cereal based (1). Because it’s easy to get the ingredients of different cereals, legumes, nuts, and seeds, many produce their own plant-based milk at home.
However, we need to know that there is a difference in the nutrition content between homemade plant-based milk and industrialized plant-based milk. It’s because there is a fortification process of certain nutrients in industrialized plant-based milk, for example, vitamin B12. So your homemade plant-based milk most likely will not have vitamin B12, because you didn’t add it. Whenever you buy plant-based milk, read the labels. Different brands would have slightly different nutrition compositions as well. From all the choices we have, you might wonder, which one is the healthiest for us?
Cereal based milk
Oat milk, Rice milk, Corn milk, Spelt milk fall into this category. They are based on grains. There are many benefits of consuming whole grains. For example, oats is hypocholesterolemic, meaning it can reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol level, and it has some anticancer properties as well. (2) However, in general, usually, cereal-based milk would have lower protein content compared to legume or nut-based milk.
Legume based milk
The most common legume-based milk is soy milk. Plant-based milk is made from black beans, and red beans are less common. From legume-based milk and other plant-based milk categories, soy milk contains the highest protein. So if you need to get more protein, soy milk is the way to go. Plus, the isoflavones in soy milk have a “protective effect against cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis.” (3) Soy milk is the only plant-based milk that has the closest to nutrition content to cow’s milk because soy has a complete protein.
Nut based milk
Almond milk, pistachio milk, cashews milk are under this category. Almond milk has low protein content, but higher in calcium. Interestingly enough, in 240ml almond milk has more calcium than cow’s milk. (4)
Seed based milk
Hemp Seed milks, sesame seed milk, sunflower seed milk, pumpkin seed milk are examples of seed-based milk. Sesame seed milk contains lignan that has “neutraceutical properties such as antioxidative, hypocholesterolemic, anticarcinogenic, antitumor, and antiviral activities.” (5) Sesame seed milk is also high in calcium, just like if it becomes tahini. Hemp milk is one of the few plant-based milks that contains a good amount of ALA omega 3.
Pseudo-cereal based milk such as Quinoa milk, Teff milk, or Amaranth milk, are not quite common yet in comparison to other plant-based milks. From many choices we have with plant-based milks, we can choose what is best in terms of our nutrition needs. If you need more protein and calcium, soymilk is a great choice. If you do not look for a lot of protein but look for a different taste than soy milk, then you can with almond milk or sesame seeds. The healthiest plant-based milk is the one that suits your nutrition needs.