“Add 75 cents for a non-dairy alternative,” reads the menu at my local coffee shop. You may be thinking, why should I pay more for a dairy-free alternative if I can just use regular milk for a cheaper cost? At almost every coffee shop now, non-dairy alternatives such as oat, almond, soy etc. are offered because of the increasing demand for non-dairy products. I recently conducted a poll on my Instagram story asking my followers whether they preferred dairy or non-dairy milk. In a sample size of 22, 17 preferred dairy-free milk and 5 preferred regular dairy milk, making the majority 77%. Dairy-free milk is not only better for our bodies, but also for the environment!
So Why Is Dairy Milk Not Sustainable? In order to raise a dairy cow, one must provide food for it for an entire lifetime. The grain they feed on requires lots of water and resources, and on top of that, we use pesticides on it, which can affect us down the line when we consume it. Water is not only needed to keep the grains alive for the cows, but it is necessary to keep the cows alive too! The biggest problem, however, lies in their bodily emissions. Yes, I mean feces, burps, and farts. While this may sound silly, it is indeed a serious topic, as these bodily functions release immense amounts of greenhouse gases like methane and nitrous oxide into the air. Methane and nitrous oxide are very potent greenhouse gases, and they play a big part in climate warming.
What Are Some Side Effects of Consuming Dairy Milk? Milk contains a large amount of saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease and an increased risk of certain cancers. In addition, many people, including myself, have built up an intolerance for lactose. Consuming dairy when you’re lactose intolerant can lead to stomach problems such as diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Often, farmers will give their cows antibiotics and growth hormones to allow them to produce more milk. However, those substances seep into the milk and we consume it, increasing the number of unwanted chemicals in our bodies. Dairy has also been linked to skin irritation and an increased amount of acne.
Almond: Many of you may have probably heard about the negative stigma associated with almond milk and how it is not very sustainable. These notions arise from the fact that almonds require a significantly higher amount of water than other nuts to produce one liter of almond milk. However, one glass of almond requires 371 liters of water and one glass of dairy milk requires 628 liters, which makes it more sustainable than dairy milk. Almond milk may not be as sustainable as other nut milks, but there are many other dairy-free options available. While almond milk is low in calories and saturated fat, it is also low in protein, making other dairy-free milks a better alternative for children.
Soy: This alternative is most similar to dairy milk in terms of protein which helps support our muscles and bones. Soy milk also provides lots of Vitamin B that is beneficial for our nerve cells. In addition, it also contains omega-3, which is beneficial for our brain health in preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Oat: Oat milk also contains more protein than almond milk, although not as much as soy. However, it does offer fiber, something soy milk does not contain. Instead of the saturated fats that dairy milk contains, oat milk offers unsaturated fats. In addition, it contains many types of vitamins and is cholesterol-free.
Rice: Rice milk contains more carbohydrates than other dairy alternatives, but it is these carbohydrates interacting with water that give rice milk its sweet taste. While rice milk contains no protein, it is high in calcium. This is a good alternative for those who are allergic to nuts.
Coconut: Coconut milk contains a high amount of saturated fats. However, it contains medium-chain triglycerides, which have been linked to weight loss. It also contains a lipid called lauric acid, which has been proven to support the immune system.
Things To Watch Out For In Dairy-Free Milk: Oftentimes, dairy-free milk contain added sugars and a potentially harmful thickener called carrageen, which causes inflammation and other digestive issues. Many companies have sugar-free and carrageenan-free options; it’s always important to check the label!
If you decide to make this switch in your diet, you are not only shrinking your carbon footprint, but you are also benefiting your body!