Cows are dying, the atmosphere is deteriorating, and peoples’ poor tummies are hurting, all because of cow’s milk.
Well, not exactly--we’re slightly exaggerating. But the number of people switching to milk alternatives from the cultural standard of cow’s milk is nevertheless on the rise. There are a host of reasons to thank (or blame) for the exodus, including lactose intolerance, the increasing popularity of vegan and low cholesterol diets, and ethical concerns regarding the fate of cows and the environment. Some may just want to switch up the texture and taste of their food or smoothies.
You probably already have your reasons and are in the process of sifting through the many options available to find the milk alternative that’s right for you. As you’d suspect, not all are created equal. To help you make your decision we’re going to take a look at two of the most popular--almond milk and soy milk--and dive into the pros and cons of each. Let’s save some cows!
Almond milk and soy milk can do pretty much anything that cow’s milk can do. They can be used for baking, smoothies, cooking, or just straight-up drinking.
Soy and almond milk aren’t rich or thick as cow’s milk. So keep in mind that whatever you decide to make with these alternative milks may sport a leaner, lighter taste and texture.
Also keep in mind that almond milk and soy milk have much different tastes, and many people prefer one over the other. Those who prefer almond milk tend to gravitate towards its low-profile taste, particularly for things like baking or cooking. Soy milk, on the other hand, has an overall stronger taste that may distract from whatever it is you’re trying to make with it.
Health & Nutrition
Positive Health Benefits
Many of us have been inundated since birth about the health benefits of cow’s milk (It’s now a much more hotly debated topic). Whichever side you land on, almond milk and soy milk both contain their own nutritional benefits that make them suitable substitutes. Here’s a quick primer on the benefits of each:
Soy Milk has the edge on almond milk in being a more nutrient-dense substitute, more along the lines of normal cow’s milk. For one, it has higher protein content, fat content, carbohydrates, and calories. For all of you who hit the gym regularly and are looking for a proper dairy substitute to help you make gains, soy milk is the way to go.
You won’t get the same amount of calcium with soy milk as you would with cow’s milk, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As we’ll see later, too much calcium has been linked to the development of prostate cancer.
Almond milk might not be as nutritionally stacked as soy milk, but that can be beneficial for those looking to lose weight rather than gain it. For instance, there are significantly fewer calories and grams of sugar per serving of almond milk compared to soy milk.
Almonds are typically loaded with protein, but because there are actually so few almonds used per serving of almond milk, the grams of protein per serving is negligible compared to that of actual almonds.
On the flip side, you may have heard of the potentially harmful effects of cow’s milk. Fortunately, there’s not much to talk about here where soy milk and almond milk are concerned. But to satisfy the skeptics, we did a deep dive into some of the contested adverse health effects of each.
There’s little to suggest that almond milk plays any role, positive or negative, in the development of prostate cancer, which is what cow’s milk is becoming more and more notorious for. So if you’re siding with the research, this may be the most “harmless” choice.
- New research is always being done, but some studies say that soy milk may actually reduce risk of prostate cancer. Countries like China, who consume soy milk in preference to cow’s milk, have significantly lower rates of this form of cancer.
- As for claims about soy milk increasing estrogen in men, the jury’s still out on that one. Research shows that soy milk can have both pro and anti-estrogenic effects, depending on who’s consuming it. But the effects are mild and shouldn’t have a significant impact on estrogen levels overall.
- Given all that you’ve probably heard about how dairy farming contributes to global warming and is inhumane, it makes sense to think that switching to dairy alternatives would contribute a net-positive impact on the environment. But that’s not always the case.
- Almond farming, for instance, takes a much greater toll on the environment than soy milk. An estimated 80% of almonds are grown in California, and it takes about 15 gallons of water to produce just 16 of them. That’s a lot of water for just a few almonds, especially when you consider California’s severe drought problem.
- The farming of soybeans is probably the most eco-friendly of the bunch. There’s no real concern about excess water usage and unethical farming practices, which one can’t say for almond milk and cow’s milk. So if you’re switching for environmental reasons, soy milk is probably the way to go.