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Dairy vs plant-based alternatives

Ever wondered how do dairy products and their plant-based counterparts match-up? We've done all the hard work for you!

Dairy milk vs plant milks

Remember that any milk is a very watery liquid – around 90 per cent is always water – so the amount of nutrients in a portion is never too high.

Cow's milk vs plant milks

Nutrient/100g Dairy milk (semi-skimmed) Soya milk Almond milk Oat milk Hemp milk Rice milk Coconut milk
Total fat 2.0 g 1.7 g 1.1 g 0.5-1.5 g 2.8 g 1.0 g 0.9-2.0 g
Saturated fat 1-1.3 g 0.3 g 0.1 g 0.1-0.2 g 0.3 g 0.1 g 0.9-1.9 g
Polyunsaturated (essential) fats 0-0.1 g 1.0 g 0.3 g 0.7 g 2.0 g 0.6 g 0.0 g
Protein 3-4 g 3.0 g 0.4 g 1.0 g 0.6 g 0.1 g 0.1-0.2 g
Sugar 5.0 g 0.1 g (sweetened - 2.4 g) 0.1 g (sweetened - 3 g) 4.1 g 0.1 g (sweetened - 1.8 g) 3.3-7.0 g 1.6-1.9 g
Fibre 0.0 g 0.5 g 0.4 g 0.8 g 0.5 g 0.3 g 0.1 g
Calcium 120 mg 120 mg 120 mg 120 mg 118 mg 120 mg

120 mg

 

Why is there sugar in dairy milk you ask? Milk sugar – lactose – is naturally present in milk. It is a simple sugar – ie breaks down fast and is quickly absorbed by your body – same as table sugar.

Dairy also always contains saturated ‘bad’ fats and never has any fibre – which is exactly the opposite of what we want from a healthy diet!

Plant-based milks all have a better fat and sugar profile than dairy milk. Protein levels vary but soya milk is pretty close to dairy milk and with better protein at that! Soya protein lowers cholesterol and may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Some cow’s milk proteins such as caseins are hard to digest; in fact they used to make furniture glue out of casein!

The amount of calcium you get from most plant milks is the same as from cow’s milk. Plant milks contain a bunch of good nutrients on top, whilst dairy milk always packs a good dose of hormones and pus. No one needs that!

 

Plain low-fat dairy yogurt vs plain soya yogurt

Dairy vs soya yogurt

Nutrient/100 g Plain low-fat dairy yogurt

Alpro plain soya/ soya-almond yogurt

Total fat 1.5 g 2.8/2.3 g
Saturated fat 1.0 g 0.4 g
Polyunsaturated (essential) fats 0.044 g 1.4 g
Protein 5.2 g 3.9/4.0 g
Sugar 7.0 g 2.2/2.1 g
Fibre 0.0 g 1.1 g
Calcium 183 mg 120 mg

 

Plant-based yogurts are a clear winner here! The only thing to watch when it comes to non-dairy yogurts are some coconut ones which have a very high fat content.

 

Environmental impact? There’s a big difference!

It takes 1,020 litres of water to produce one litre of milk.

To produce the same amount of soya milk, you only need 297 litres of water. And even less for other crops like oats!

What about almonds that certain tabloids like to shout about? They’re certainly not the culprit behind California’s water crises (see the report) – unlike livestock farms:

 

If you are looking for a healthier type of milk that is better for you and the environment, then plant milks are the clear winner. Cow’s milk doesn’t contain any nutrients that can’t be found in healthier plant-based milks and it is linked to a wide range of illnesses and diseases from acne to Alzheimer’s disease.