A review by our Patron and former Health Director Roger French.
I have selected eight different plant milks from local stores and will assess their ingredients to provide a guide for all brands.
Firstly, as you no doubt realise, plant ‘milks’ are not milk at all; they are plant items dissipated in water with some additions. Most are vegan.
Ingredients in bold are harmful or dubious for health
So Good Soy Regular
Ingredients. Filtered water, soy protein (3.5%), corn maltodextrin, vegetable oils (sunflower, canola), sugar, minerals (calcium, magnesium, phosphorous), acidity regulators (322, lecithin), (450, sodium or potassium pyrophosphate), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (B12, D2, A, B2, B1), natural flavour. All ingredients of non-animal origin. Protein 3.2% Gluten free
So Good Almond Original
Ingredients. Filtered water, cane sugar, ground almonds (2.5%), mineral (calcium), emulsifier (sunflower lecithin), natural flavour, salt, mineral salt (sodium bicarbonate), vegetable gum (418, gellan), antioxidant (ascorbic acid), vitamins (B12, B2, B1). All ingredients of non-animal origin. Protein 0.6% Gluten free
Community Co Unsweetened Almond Milk
Ingredients. Water, ground almonds (2.5%), Natural Flavour, Stabilisers (460, 466, 418, 415), Mineral Salt (170, calcium carbonate), Salt, Emulsifier (322, sunflower lecithin)
Protein 0.6% Gluten free
Vitasoy soy milk ‘Calci plus’
Ingredients. Filtered water, organic whole soybeans (min. 15%), barley flour, raw sugar, barley malt, sunflower oil, minerals (calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate), sea salt, vitamins (vit D, vit A, vit B12, vit B2).
Australian grown soya beans. Non GM. No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Suitable for vegans. Protein 3.2% (Not gluten free).
Vitasoy oat milk. Unsweetened, No Added Sugar.
Ingredients. Filtered water, whole oats (min. 15%), oat flour, sunflower oil, gum Arabic, mineral (calcium phosphate), sea salt.
Australian grown oats. Non GM. No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Suitable for vegans. Protein 1.0% (Not gluten free)
Vitasoy rice milk. Unsweetened, No Added Sugar.
Ingredients. Filtered water, whole brown rice (min. 13%), sunflower oil, mineral (calcium phosphate), sea salt.
Australian grown whole rice. Non GM. No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Suitable for vegans. Protein 0.3% Gluten free
Vitasoy coconut milk. Unsweetened. No Added Sugar
Filtered water, coconut cream (min. 8%), chicory root fibre, mineral (calcium phosphate), emulsifier (471), vegetable gums (407, 418), natural flavour, sea salt. No artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Lactose free. Non GM. Suitable for vegans. Protein 0.2% Gluten free
Pure Harvest Organic Coco Quench Coconut Milk. Unsweetened
Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Milk (20%), Organic Brown Rice, Sea Salt. Non GM. Nothing artificial, no added flavours or preservatives. Australian owned. Protein 0.5% Gluten free
Rice is a dietary mainstay in Asia, but it does contain significant levels of arsenic, which it picks up from the soil. Because it is usually grown in flooded bays, rice tends to pick up more than other food crops. Fortunately, Australian rice is now mostly grown in dry soil and irrigated like other crops, except for the later part of its growing season. Consequently, the Aussie crop contains minimal arsenic compared to overseas crops. Part of the solution is to consume a variety of grains, not just lots of rice.
Regarding rice milk, moderate quantities should be fine for an adult or teenage child, but not litres every day. However, regarding infants, the US FDA advises against feeding rice (and presumably rice milk) because of the arsenic.
Regarding the ingredients in the different ‘milks’:
Soy protein in So Good Soy Regular means soy isolate protein, which has been separated out from the other ingredients and so lacks the natural mineral and vitamin content.
We don’t favour canola oil because of its content of toxic erucic acid, even though it is very small.
Sugar or cane sugar – meaning refined white sugar – is unnecessary and undesirable.
Raw sugar is almost as devoid of minerals and vitamins as refined white sugar.
The antioxidant, ascorbic acid (300), is vitamin C, so it is fine.
Natural flavours can be a bit sus as I explained in our Autumn TNH 2020 issue.
Lecithin (322) is nature’s ‘detergent’ and is OK.
Emulsifier (471) is mono- or diglyceride of fatty acids and is OK.
Stabilisers: (407) carrageenan – in significant quantities may be carcinogenic and damage the immune system, so rated not OK; (414) is gum Arabic and is OK; 415 is xanthan gum, made by fermenting a carbohydrate with a bacterium, it is OK; 418 is gellan gum made the same way and is OK; 460 is crystalline cellulose made from plant fibre; 466 is a compound of sodium and cellulose, a suspected carcinogen – the US National Inst. of Cancer says it should be banned as a food additive, so it is not OK.
Mineral salt (170) is calcium carbonate or ground limestone.
How then do we sort out this information to select a good, nutritious milk?
Soya beans, almonds, oats, rice and coconut are all good foods, with the provisos that we don’t overdo soya beans because of their phytoestrogen content and rice because of its arsenic.
Vegetable oils are added in some milks in small amounts to give the nice ‘mouth feel’ that fat gives, but nutritionally we don’t need them.
My preference is that the less ingredients the better. This means that I would give top preference to Pure Harvest Coco Quench, followed by a variety of Vitasoy oat milk, Vitasoy rice milk and Vitasoy soy milk. However, none of these ‘milks’ need to be avoided entirely.