I recently read a letter to the editor in our local newspaper about milk alternatives. While this person was far from an expert the letter was ridiculous on so many levels. My first thought was that there were certainly readers out there that would read this article and believe what this person was saying. That really upset me! This person was putting out misinformation and partial truths so I would like to refute the article on a couple of points. The letter in it’s entirety can be found in the Richmond Times Dispatch if you choose to read it (not sure it’s worth your time). Here are some points that really made my blood boil!
- The title is “Alternative Milk Products Aren’t Milk” Really? I’m pretty sure we all know they are not milk. We don’t drink them thinking they are milk and it is insulting to the reader to even use this title.
- “Calling plant-based beverages “milk” leads consumers to attribute to them properties that exist in actual milk such as protein, Vitamin D and Calcium.” Well, it turns out that is not a bad thing. Plant based milks may not have as much protein as cow’s milk but cow’s milk contains more protein than you need. Furthermore, if you are consuming a well-balanced plant-based diet then you will consume the amount of protein you need without the side effects of saturated fat and cholesterol that are contained in cow’s milk. In regards to calcium, an 8 oz. serving of cow’s milk contains 300 mg of calcium while hemp milk contains 500 mg. The amount of calcium is dependent on the brand and the type of plant-based alternative but, like with protein, calcium will naturally be obtained in adequate amounts if you eat a well-balanced plant-based diet so it may not be that important to get huge amounts of calcium in the milk you drink. Furthermore, humans only absorb 32% of the calcium in a glass of milk according to Joseph Keon in Whitewash. The amount of calcium we absorb is much better in Brussels sprouts ( 63%), kale (40%), broccoli (52%) and mustard greens (57%). Why then wouldn’t we want to just eat our vegetables to get adequate calcium. As far as Vitamin D goes it is actually a vitamin that is synthesized in the body when we are exposed to sunlight. Both types of milk are fortified with Vitamin D so they are comparable. However, if you get as little as 30 minutes of sun exposure a day Vitamin D supplementation isn’t necessary.
- “Alternative milk beverages are indeed useful for some people but recent studies have debunked the notion that low-fat is necessarily healthier. Our obesity rates have risen in correlation to our low-fat mania.” The author is absolutely correct about the low-fat craze. However, it has absolutely nothing to do with alternatives to milk. The amount of saturated fat in cow’s milk is only one of the reasons we should switch to a plant-based alternative. Cow’s milk also contains a myriad of toxins, hormones, and antibiotics even the organic ones although to a lesser extent in some cases). When we can get all we need in a well-balanced plant-based diet cow’s milk isn’t necessary.
This author ends the letter with a call for more information, “It would be most helpful if articles gave more background for readers. Sources from nonpartisan scientific research are essential in understanding nutritional implications.” This I actually agree with! Readers of nutritional information do need unbiased information. Lucky for us Michael Gregor has dedicated his career to seeking out that kind of information and he has compiled it on a website called nutritionfacts.org. Check it out sometime if you want the latest in unbiased nutrition research and be careful what you read! There are so many people out there that have hidden agendas and it is up to us to be smart, educated and responsible consumers.