Cow’s Milk vs. Plant Milk
Plant milk is starting to become more popular all over the world, while the demand of cow’s milk is decreasing. People are slowly starting to understand that cow’s milk might not be the best for health, the environment and the animals.
Dairy products can be associated with some health problems. Milk is high in cholesterol and saturated fat, of which both have the possibility to increase the risk of cancer, such as prostate and breast cancer. Also, dairy products contain hormones, pesticides and puss.
At the same time consumers might be afraid that by cutting out dairy, they might be missing some important nutrients such as calcium and vitamin b2. Let’s have a look at these nutrients in both, cow’s and plant milk.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient, which is important for calcium balance, bone metabolism and the immune system.
Cow’s milk does contain vitamin D, but the amount is usually very small.
Plant milk only contains vitamin D, if it has been fortified. Generally, it is safer to rely on enough sunlight during summer days and vitamin D supplements in order to get an adequate amount of vitamin D.
As everyone knows, calcium is important for strong bones and teeth.
Calcium is generally lower in plant milks, but many companies fortify their plant milks with it.
Great plant sources of calcium are: kale, broccoli, pak choi, wild herbs, dried fruit, nuts, almonds, seeds and pseudo-grains (like amaranth) and some legumes (like tofu, soya beans, lupin, black beans, white beans, red beans).
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
Yes, cow’s milk does contain vitamin B2, but so do kale, mushrooms, asparagus, almonds, nutritional yeast, avocado and wild rice.
In comparison: cow’s milk has 180µg per 100g, kale 182µg per 100g, mushrooms 389µg per 100g and broccoli 177µg per 100g.
Whole grains and legumes can also be a good source of vitamin B2.
Iron is known to be a critical nutrient in the vegan diet, but also for women in general. Iron is an important component of red blood cells, which carry oxygen from your lungs to your whole body.
I personally think it’s super cool that there is more iron in plant milk than there is in cow’s milk. In comparison there is about 60µg in 100g of cow’s milk while there can be around 570µg in 100g of soy milk.
Vitamin B12 is needed for brain function, nerve tissue health and the production of red blood cells.
Conventional plant milks are sometimes fortified with vitamin B12, though it is not the best source of vitamin B12. It is always recommended to supplement vitamin B12.
In addition to that, many people have a lactose intolerance, which can lead to diarrhoea, bloating and severe stomach cramps.
Many think that soy products are responsible for deforestation. Most soybeans, which are used for soy milk, usually come from France, Italy, Canada and West Europe.
98% of all soy that is being grown worldwide is used for animal food. Only 2% is being used for products, which we consume (most producers put the place of production on their packaging).
Soy beans that are used for animal food usually come from Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and the US, where rainforests are being destroyed for this reason.
Two research groups from Sweden have analysed the life cycle of soy and oat milk vs. cow’s milk.
This is what they have found out:
When it comes to land consumption, soy milk and oat milk use 39% and 21% respectively, compared to cow’s milk with 100%. Both plant milks also create less greenhouse gases (cow’s milk: 100%, soy milk: 24%, oat milk: 31%).
UNESCO-IHE analysed the water usage of soy milk and burgers as well as cow’s milk and beef burgers. The results are crazy! While it takes 158 litres of water to get a 150g soy burger, it takes 2350 litres (!!!!!) of water to get get a 150g beef burger. It takes 296 litres of water to get 1 litre of soy milk, while for 1 litre of cow’s milk, it takes 1050 litres of water.
Not only does it seem that the consumption of plant milk has a lot of benefits for our health and the environment, but it seems like it has a lot of benefits for the animals, too.
A cow, just like any other mammal (including us humans) produces milk only when pregnant. A dairy cow needs to constantly produce milk. For this reason cows are being forcibly inseminated every year. After the cow gives birth to her baby, both, mother and calf are being separated within hours or minutes, which is very traumatic for both parts. The cow will be inseminated again, six to eight weeks after giving birth.
While female cows all face the same destiny and become a dairy cow, male calves are being sold to fattening farms, where they spend a few weeks gaining weight, until they are being sent to slaughter.
A life span of a cow is between 18 and 22 years. In the dairy and slaughter industry most of these animals die way before. A dairy cow, when no longer able to produce milk, will be slaughtered at the age of 4.5 to 6 years.
Nowadays there are so many choices and brands. More and more stores offer soy, oat, almond, cashew, hazelnut, coconut, rice, hemp and macadamia milk.
I personally love coconut and oat milk. Which is your favourite plant milk?
ProVeg (2018). Treatment of cows in the dairy industry.
Ecodemy (2019). Pflanzenmilch – der Siegeszug einer Milch, die eigentlich gar nicht so heißen darf