Lately, there has been quite a bit of buzz around what type of milk is best for the planet and best for our bodies. It seems each has its own set of pros and cons that should be taken into consideration before consuming.
For one, did you know that a glass of dairy milk produces nearly three times the amount of greenhouse gas than any plant-based milk? And that dairy milk production utilizes nine times more land than any of the other milk alternatives?
Plant-based milks have been found to have their own set of downfalls, similar to any other crop that is produced in mass quantities. So you might be asking, “how do we determine what form of milk is best for the planet and best for our bodies?”
First and foremost, it’s critical to consider whether or not organic farming methods are being practiced, how much water is used, the carbon footprint, in addition to the impact the crop has on the people and native habitats where the crops are grown.
To offer some insights, we’re broken down each of the main plant milk types listing each kind’s pros and cons to shed some light on this sometimes confusing topic:
Pros: A superfood trend that’s made a name for itself over the last 5 years, coconut milk’s creamy texture and natural sweetness are enjoyed far and wide. What you may not know is that coconut milk is actually no milk at all. Instead, it’s a liquid naturally found inside mature coconuts ‘meat’.
If you crack open a fresh coconut, the liquid that is released is considered 'coconut water', but when blended with the ‘meat’ and strained, results in a thicker 'coconut milk'.
Cons: Although coconut milk is loved by many and known as a healthy dairy milk alternative, it is higher in sugar and saturated fatty acids. In addition, it is often produced in poor regions in the Philippines, Indonesia, and India.
There, many of the pickers earn no more than a dollar a day. Pressures to meet the increasing demand of coconuts has left workers exploited and rainforests destroyed.
One way to avoid supporting unsustainable practices is ensuring you only purchase coconut products that are certified fair trade.
Pros: Rich in texture and flavor, almond milk is one of the top-selling dairy milk alternatives. Making your own almond milk can even yield higher protein content than store-bought, so don’t be afraid to try it for yourself. To do so, blend almonds and water in a food processor until a smooth liquid is formed.
Cons: Despite their smaller amount of required farmland, almonds require more water than any other dairy alternative. The largest specialty crop in the US, almond farms cover a region approximately the size of Delaware causing significant implications for US commercial beekeepers.
Nearly 70% of commercial bees in the US are sent to pollinate almonds every spring. Last year, a record number of bees (one-third of them) died off as a result of the pressures caused by almond farms.
Pros: Soy milk is known for its creamy texture, and essential omega-3 fatty acids, as well as its flavonoids that reap antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cardioprotective properties.
In addition, soy is the only plant-milk that competes with dairy in terms of protein content. In terms of sustainability, soy milk seems to be the most environmentally friendly of the group.
Cons: One of soy’s biggest drawbacks is that soybeans are grown in massive quantities to provide feed for livestock in meat and dairy production. Large areas of the Amazon rainforest have been burned to make space for soy farms.
One way to work around this is to do your research to find soy milk that is made from organic soybeans grown in the US and Canada.
Pros: Recently making a name for itself, oat milk retail sales in the US jumped from $4.4m in 2017 to $29m in 2019, taking the title from almond milk for the fastest-growing dairy alternative. The good news is that contrary to almonds, there is no shortage of oats in sight.
One positive difference is that oats are grown in cooler climates such as northern US and Canada, which means there is no deforestation in developing countries associated with their farming.
Plus, alongside soy milk, oat milk produces relatively few greenhouse gases and requires little amounts of water to produce (one-eighth the amount of water that almonds take to produce!).
Cons: Their most prominent drawback is that the majority of oats come from mass-produced operations that are sprayed with Roundup pesticide prior to harvest. Roundup is shown to contain glyphosate, a possible carcinogen.
Keep an eye out for glyphosate-free oat brands such as Oatly!
Our hope is that this article will help inform your next purchase decision when it comes to milk. All in all, we recommend looking for products with the least number of ingredients, avoiding anything unfamiliar.
Milks with minimal processing are typically best!
At So Good So You, we believe that every decision we make matters, no matter how small or big it may be. Everything we do is with the love of body and planet in mind, producing our products in our renewable energy-powered manufacturing facility.
To learn more about our exciting sustainability initiatives (including our new BtrBtl™!), click here.