Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What to drink instead of milk

I know I should be drinking less milk, and I do drink less than I used to (not so with cheese however). For one thing, a glass of cow's milk produces about three times more greenhouse gases than any plant-based milk. But I have found it a hard habit to kick, despite strong provocation from my daughter.
But it seems like most milk substitutes have their own problems. So, what's a well-meaning, right-on guy to do? Let's look at the alternatives (thank you, Guardian):
  • Almond milk: uses less farmland than most alternatives, but a lot more water (130 pints of water to produce a single glass of almond milk!). Almond trees also require pollination by bees, and almost 70% of California's commercial bee population are pressed this service every year, stressing them out and apparently killing a good percentage.
  • Coconut milk: poor and underpaid pickers from Indonesia, Philippines and India are exploited for coconut production, and rainforests in Indonesia are being clear-cut at a rate of three acres every minute to make way for coconut plantations.
  • Rice milk: less nutritious than other alternatives and a real water hog, rice milk also produces more greenhouse gas emissions than other plant-based alternatives, mainly due to methane produced by bacteria breeding in the rice paddies.
  • Hazelnut milk: a reasonably good and tasty alternative, although not as easily available as many others, hazelnuts do not require bees for pollination like almonds do.
  • Hemp and flax milk: milk alternatives produced from seeds are not as widely available as nut milks, and their relatively small production means less monoculture farming.
  • Soy milk: the only plant milk that comes close to the protein content of dairy, soy was the first plant-based milk alternative to be commercially available, and it remains one of the best. Concerns about human-type hormones in soya are overblown (it would require a huge intake of soy milk to create any hormonal problems, and recent studies give it a clean bill of health). The main drawback of soya is that it is used so ubiquitously for animal feed that vast swaths of rainforest in the Amazon and elsewhere have been razed to make way for soya production, so the sourcing of soy milk becomes important.
  • Oat milk: rapidly becoming more popular, oat milk is perhaps the best plant-based milk alternative available. Oats are grown in cooler climates and so avoid the problem of tropical deforestation, although they are grown in vast monocultures (again largely for animal feed), and are often produced using the carcinogenic Roundup pesticide, which has even been found in a third of products made from supposedly organic oats!
The bottom line: anything is better than dairy milk but, of the alternatives, soy and oat milks are the best.

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