Plant-based Milk Ingredients: What is Really in Your Dairy Alternative?

featured image for a blog on plant-based milk ingredients

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in consumer preferences towards plant-based alternatives, and one of the most prominent categories to see this is dairy. From almond to oat, soy to coconut, the plant-based milk market has grown exponentially. As consumers, we seek alternatives for multiple reasons including health, environmental concerns, and ethical considerations. However, have you ever read the ingredients list to see what is in plant “milk”?

To understand what goes into plant milk, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common varieties in New Zealand and their ingredients.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only. It represents the author’s opinion and does not reflect negative sentiment towards the companies mentioned.

Plant-based Milk Ingredients

Plant-based Milk - Soy milk

Soy Milk

Soy milk has been used in many cultures for centuries with the oldest evidence tracing it back to China in 25–220 AD. It’s known for its creamy texture and high protein content, making it a popular choice among vegans and individuals with lactose intolerance. The primary ingredients in soy milk are water and soy protein. Manufacturers then enhance the flavour and nutritional value by adding sweeteners, vitamins, and ingredients to stabilise, thicken, and regulate the acidity.

Example: Sanitarium So Good Regular Soy

Filtered water, soy protein (3.5%), corn maltodextrin, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola), cane sugar, minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium), acidity regulators (332, 450), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (B12, D2, A, B2, B1), natural flavour.

Plant-based Milk - Almond Milk

Almond Milk

Almond milk has gained widespread popularity for its nutty flavour and creamy consistency. While almonds are rich in nutrients like vitamin E and magnesium, commercial almond milk often contains added sweeteners, thickeners (such as guar gum), and fortifications to mimic the nutritional profile of animal milk. It’s crucial to note that commercially produced almond milk typically contains far fewer almonds than homemade versions.

Example: Alpro Almond Milk Barista

Water, Almond (2.5%), Sugar, Fructose, Acidity Regulators (Potassium Phosphates, Calcium Carbonate), Natural Flavourings, Stabilisers (Gellan Gum, Guar Gum), Sea Salt

Plant-based Milk - Oat milk

Oat Milk

Oat milk has surged in popularity due to its neutral taste and creamy texture, making it an excellent addition to coffee, cereal, and baked goods. The primary ingredients in oat milk are oats and water. Oats naturally contain beta-glucans, a type of soluble fibre known for its cholesterol-lowering effects. While most brands add oil, sweeteners, and stabilisers to improve taste and texture, others offer unsweetened varieties for those watching their sugar intake. Most oat milk is fortified with vitamins and minerals.

Example: Vitasoy Oat (unsweetened)

Ingredients: Filtered water, whole oats (min. 10%), sunflower oil, oat flour, gum arabic, minerals (calcium carbonate, calcium phosphate), acidity regulator (potassium phosphate), natural flavour, sea salt.

Plant-based Milk - Coconut milk

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is distinct for its rich flavour and creamy texture. It’s a common ingredient in Southeast Asian and Caribbean cuisines, used in sweet and savoury dishes. Coconut milk contains water and coconut cream, giving it a high-fat content and distinctive taste. While coconut milk is naturally sweet, some commercial varieties may contain added sugars and thickeners. Additionally, coconut milk is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D to enhance its nutritional profile.

Example: Little Island Coconut Milk

Filtered Artesian Water, Coconut Cream (15%), Lithothamnion Seaweed, Acacia Fibre, Faba Bean Protein, Natural Flavour, Monk Fruit Juice, Stabilizers (Gellan Gum, Carob Bean Gum), Sea Salt, Mushroom Powder, Vitamin (B12).

Plant-based Milk - Rice milk

Rice Milk

Rice milk is a hypoallergenic alternative suitable for individuals with nut or soy allergies. It has a mild flavour and thin consistency, similar to skim milk. Rice milk is lower in protein and higher in carbohydrates than other plant-based alternatives. Brown rice-based milk has more nutritional value than white rice-based milk. Again, manufacturers often fortify rice milk with vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin B12. While rice milk is naturally mildly sweet, some varieties contain added sweeteners.

Example: Macro Organic Rice Milk

Filtered Water, Organic Brown Rice (15%), Organic Sunflower Oil, Plant Calcium, Sea Salt

Plant-based Milk - Hemp milk

Hemp Milk

Hemp milk, derived from hemp seeds, is gaining popularity for its earthy flavour and nutritional benefits. Hemp seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and complete proteins, making hemp milk a nutrient-dense plant-based option.

Example: Good Hemp Seed Milk Creamy

Water, Hemp Seed Base (4%), Emulsifier (Sunflower Lecithin), Stabiliser (Gellan Gum), Acidity Regulator (Dipotassium Phosphate), Sea Salt

Key Considerations

While each type of plant milk offers unique flavours and benefits, make sure you check labels and ingredient lists to make informed choices. Here are some points to remember.

  • Added Sugars: Be mindful of added sugars, as many contain high amounts, which can contribute to health issues like diabetes and obesity.
  • Additives: What have they been fortified with to match the nutritional profile of animal milk? Avoid products with unnecessary additives like carrageenan (Chondrus crispus), which may cause digestive discomfort in some individuals.
  • Sustainability: Evaluate the environmental impact of different plant milk options, considering factors like water usage, land usage, and carbon emissions. Where has the milk come from? Is it locally sourced or imported?
just milk sheep milk pouch

An Alternate Alternative

It should be no surprise to you that we believe the best cow milk alternative is sheep milk! Our milk contains only that – milk! Not only is our grass-fed sheep’s milk naturally higher in nutrients than cow’s milk and all of the plant milk types mentioned in this article, but it’s also sustainably produced right here in New Zealand. It’s better for you, and better for the environment.

If you want to learn more about the nutritional benefits of sheep milk, check out our article 5 Health Benefits You’ll Get From Drinking Sheep Milk.

And if you’re ready to try it, click the button below!

buy sheep milk online in new zealand from jones family farm

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