The Consumer Education Project of Milk SA

What is the difference in the nutritional profile of cow’s milk and plant-based beverages?

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Popular plant-based beverages used as alternatives to cow’s milk include almond, rice, oats and coconut “milk”. Health professionals (dietitians, nutritionists, medical doctors, community health nurses, and others who dispense dietary advice) should alert consumers to the fact that these beverages are processed grains, legumes, oil seeds and nuts mixed with water and sometimes fortified with macro- and micronutrients (e.g. calcium and vitamin B12). Plant-based beverages are fortified to mimic the nutritional composition of cow’s milk.

Plant-based beverages are, therefore, highly processed products compared to cow’s milk, which is a naturally rich and good source of essential nutrients. These include high-quality protein, a unique mixture of slow- and fast-digesting proteins and important minerals (calcium) and vitamins (vitamin B12 in particular). Cow’s milk contains a variety of natural bioactive components (e.g. more than 400 specific fatty acids and in excess of 400 different proteins), all in a unique food matrix. This extends the health benefits of cow’s milk beyond the effects of individual nutrients.

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