How to Choose Plant-based Milk?

2018-05-06 15:42:29 Jimbin Mai, Ph.D. 33

Since we are on subject of the plant-based something, I might as well elaborate a little bit on the plant-based milk since we had already touched upon plant-based hamburger last time.

I spent 17 years of my career using soy protein isolates in the development and formulation of protein-containing neutral and acidic beverages including powdered dry blended and liquid ready to drink versions.  Of the name brand touched are Amway, Herbalife, Ensure, Slim Fast, Carnation Instant Breakfast, Boost, Bolthouse, Odawalla, V8 and Naked Juices, etc. In them, soy protein isolates are used to replace dairy protein for economic reason.  Let’s leave out technicality but just focus on the definition of “milk”.  Cow’s milk is the gold standard   On a per 8 oz. or 240 ml. serving basis, it needs to contain at least 8 g of protein or it can only be called drinks.  Furthermore, milk is high in calcium content as well as rich in vitamin A, therefore, for a plant-based milk to claim for milk nutrition in plant-based milk, fortification is necessary other than meeting the protein requirement

These have been the rules strongly lobbied by the dairy industry as well as enforced by both FDA and USDA.  However, time seems to have changed recently because of the trendy demands for plant-based products, the regulatory agency like FDA has loosened up the definition. Therefore, we saw in the news that Just Mayo egg-free mayonnaise by Hampton Creek had won the legal battle against the famous Hellmann’s brand by Unilever.  However, the French food regulation had just forbidden all the non-meat products to use the meat name like hamburger, meat ball and/or meat pie, etc.  Interesting!

As a wise consumer, I just want you to shop wisely.  Shop for your health and nutrition but also shop for your hard-earned money making sure the products you buy is well worth the money you spent.

On the market places now we can see commercial coconut milk, pea protein milk, soy milk, rice milk, cashew milk, almond milk and may be soon peanut milk.  I did some shopping around and want to share with you their nutrition labelling.  Using the name brand Silk for example, their soy milks contain between 6-7g per serving of 8oz.  For their coconut milk, the protein claim is 0g/8oz, for almond milk 1g/8oz and cashew milk<1g/8oz.  However, they do have other version claimed with high protein milk and fortified with pea protein.  

If we have some Chinese readers here asking about your famous brand of “6 Walnuts”, I did some homework there, too.  By calculation based on its nutritional labeling of 0.6g protein/100 ml, it contains about 2 walnuts but not 6!  They have about 1.44g/240 ml of protein, not much better than either almond or cashew milk here in the States.  So, be wise when you shop for plant-based milk!

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