Milk substitutes: how useful are they?

Soy milk was first introduced to the public in the United States by John Harvey Kellogg, who was the inventor of corn flakes and granola (sweetened oatmeal with nuts and raisins) and head of the Battle Creek Sanitarium for fifty years. Kellogg’s student, Dr. Harry W. Miller, brought the knowledge of soy milk to China. Miller worked on improving the taste of soy milk and started commercial production in China in 1936. Certainly soy milk can be a worthy substitute for animal milk. In various developing countries, the shortage of cow’s milk has made it desirable to invest in the development of beverages based on vegetable proteins. Dietary restrictions (eliminating cholesterol and saturated fat), religious beliefs (Buddhism, Hinduism, some sects of Christianity), ethical considerations (“save the planet”), and personal choice (aversion to dairy products, fear of diseases such as mad cow disease) – All these factors lead to the fact that an increasing number of people are interested in alternatives to cow’s milk. The growing interest is also explained by health considerations (lactose intolerance, milk allergy). Today’s dairy alternatives have been variously referred to as “milk substitutes”, “alternative dairy drinks” and “non-dairy drinks”. Soy milk is just one such product available to consumers today. The basis for non-dairy products are soybeans, grains, tofu, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Whole soybeans are used as the main ingredient in most foods. Many labels list the beans as “organic whole soybeans” to appeal to consumers who prefer organically grown products. Soy protein isolate, a concentrated protein derived from soybeans, is the second most common ingredient in this type of product. Tofu is used as the main ingredient. Tofu is made from mashed soybeans, much like cottage cheese is made from cow’s milk. Other foods use grains, vegetables, nuts, or seeds (rice, oats, green peas, potatoes, and almonds) as the main ingredients. Homemade non-dairy drink recipes use soybeans, almonds, cashews, or sesame seeds. Non-dairy products are considered primarily based on criteria such as appearance and smell. If the product is caramel or yellowish brown in color, then it is likely to be rejected without even trying it. White or cream-colored products look more attractive. Repulsive odors also do not add to the attractiveness of the product.

Factors that negatively affect the attractiveness of non-dairy products:

  • taste – too sweet, salty, reminiscent of lime,
  • consistency – greasy, watery, granular, dusty, pasty, oily,
  • aftertaste – bean, bitter, “medicinal”.

The most common nutrients added to non-dairy drinks are those found in high amounts in cow’s milk. These nutrients include: protein, calcium, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin B12) and vitamin A. Cow’s milk and some commercial non-dairy products are high in vitamin D. There are now more than thirty non-dairy beverages on the world market, and there are a variety of ideas about how appropriate their fortification. Some drinks are not fortified at all, while others are intensively fortified by their manufacturers in order to bring them as close as possible to cow’s milk in terms of nutritional value. Although acceptable taste is an important factor in the selection of non-dairy products, the nutritional value of products should be given more importance. It is worth choosing a fortified brand, if possible, containing at least 20-30% of the standard nutritional profile of calcium, riboflavin and vitamin B12, which is similar to the nutritional profile of dairy products. People living in northern latitudes (where the sunlight is too weak in winter for vitamin D to be synthesized by the body itself) should prefer non-dairy drinks fortified with vitamin D. There is a popular and misconception that non-dairy drinks can serve as milk substitutes in any recipes. . The main difficulty in cooking arises at the stage of heating (cooking, baking) non-dairy products. Non-dairy drinks (based on soy or high in calcium carbonate) coagulate at high temperatures. The use of non-dairy drinks may result in changes in consistency or texture. For example, most puddings do not harden when milk replacers are used. To make gravies, you need to use a large amount of thickener (starch). In choosing a non-dairy drink and its further use in cooking, smell is an important factor. The sweet or vanilla flavor is hardly suitable for soups or savory dishes. Soy-based non-dairy beverages are generally thicker and more textured than similar grain or nut-based beverages. Non-dairy rice-based beverages have a light, sweet flavor that reminds many people of dairy products. Nut-based non-dairy drinks are more suitable for sweet dishes. It’s good to know what labels mean. “1% fat”: this means “1% by weight of the product”, not 1% of calories per kg. “The product does not contain cholesterol”: this is the correct expression, but keep in mind that all non-dairy products do not contain cholesterol because they are derived from plant sources. In nature, there are no plants containing cholesterol. “Light/Low Calorie/Fat Free”: Some low-fat foods are high in calories. The non-dairy drink, although fat-free, contains 160 kilocalories per eight-ounce glass. One eight-ounce glass of low-fat cow’s milk contains 90 kilocalories. The extra kilocalories in non-dairy drinks come from carbohydrate, usually in the form of simple sugars. “Tofu”: Some products advertised as “tofu-based non-dairy drinks” contain sugar or a sweetener instead of tofu as the main ingredient; the second – oil; the third is calcium carbonate (calcium supplement). Tofu appears as the fourth, fifth or sixth most important ingredient. This may mean that the basis of such drinks is carbohydrates and oil, and not tofu. When choosing a drink that replaces milk, consider the following: 1. The choice of non-dairy drink with reduced or standard fat content depends on what nutrients the consumer seeks to obtain. It is worth opting for drinks that contain at least 20-30% of the recommended daily intake of calcium, riboflavin and vitamin B12. 2. If the choice is made in favor of non-dairy drinks with a lower nutrient content, then other foods rich in calcium, riboflavin and vitamin B12 should be consumed daily. 3. You need to buy milk substitutes in small quantities, for testing, in order to understand whether they are suitable for the consumer in terms of appearance, smell and taste. When mixing products in the form of powders, the manufacturer’s instructions must be followed. 4. None of these products are suitable for babies. Non-dairy drinks usually do not contain enough proteins and fats and are not intended for an infant’s immature digestive system. Babies under one year old are suitable for special soy drinks for babies.

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