"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Plant-based milk lacks naturally occurring nutrients

July 28, 2023 – Most plant-based milks, comparable to almond or oat milk, contain less calcium, vitamin D and protein than cow's milk, a staple beverage for meeting dietary needs, in line with a University of Minnesota study.

To compensate for this, many plant-based milk products are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, but most still lack the protein content of cow's milk, the researchers found. The evaluation included greater than 200 plant-based milk alternatives, including those made out of almonds, cashews, coconuts, flax, hazelnuts, hemp, oats, pistachios, rice, soy and walnuts. The Resultsthat are unpublished, were presented this week throughout the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition in Boston.

“About half were fortified with vitamin D, two-thirds with calcium, and nearly 20% had protein content similar to cow's milk,” lead study creator Abigail Johnson, PhD, RD, told CNN.

Johnson is director of the Nutrition Coordinating Center on the University of Minnesota, which maintains a database of 19,000 foods for nutrition research.

“I'm not seriously concerned about that because you can easily get those nutrients from other sources and cow's milk is certainly not perfect and infallible,” Johnson said. “But if a consumer thinks plant-based milk is a 1:1 substitute for dairy, many of them are not.”

Consumers should read product labels and select people who list calcium and vitamin D as ingredients, and likewise consider adding other sources of calcium and vitamin D to their weight loss program, Johnson said in a opinion.

The research team plans to further investigate plant-based milk alternatives, including how the products contain fiber not present in cow's milk. Nutrition experts told CNN that plant-based products have attractive attributes comparable to less fat, lower cholesterol and more fiber, and are also produced in a more environmentally friendly way in comparison with cow's milk.

Current US dietary guidelines state that the majority plant-based milks don't help meet the really helpful amount of milk nutrients because their nutrient content is just not comparable to that of milk or fortified soy beverages. According to the USDA, as much as 9 in 10 people within the U.S. don't meet current milk intake recommendations. An estimated 65% of U.S. children drink milk day by day and only 20% of adults drink milk. Many dairy products contain high amounts of added sugar, saturated fat and sodium, the rules warn.

“Most people would benefit from increasing their intake of dairy products in fat-free or low-fat forms, whether in the form of milk (including lactose-free milk), yogurt and cheese, or in the form of fortified soy beverages or soy yogurt,” the rules say. “Strategies to increase dairy intake include drinking fat-free or low-fat milk or a fortified soy beverage with meals or using unsweetened fat-free or low-fat yogurt for breakfast or snacks.”