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Understanding Plant-Based Milk Alternatives

Published on
14 December 2023
Chef Silvano
Chef Silvano

A Journey Through Terminology, Sustainability, and Choice.


In our ever-evolving culinary landscape, the rise of plant-based milk alternatives has been meteoric. While these beverages are colloquially referred to as “milk,” such as almond milk or oat milk, it’s important to clarify that true milk is indeed a product of female mammals. The terms “almond drink” or “oat drink” may be more accurate descriptors of these plant-based liquids. Let’s delve into the nuances of these alternatives, the implications of their production, and the choices available to consumers.

chef-silvano-braga Milk Substitutes

The Semantics of Milk

The use of the term “milk” in reference to plant-based liquids likely stems from their similar appearance and intended use as dairy milk. These alternatives are often used as direct substitutes in cooking, baking, and beverage preparation, offering a familiar consistency and mouthfeel. However, to foster clarity and education, it may be beneficial to adopt terminology that distinguishes between dairy milk and its plant-based counterparts.

Monoculture and it’s Risks

Monoculture, the agricultural practice of growing a single crop over a vast area, poses significant environmental risks. It can lead to soil degradation, reduced biodiversity, and increased vulnerability to pests and diseases, which may require higher pesticide usage. These factors can contribute to a fragile ecosystem, which is less resilient to climate change and other environmental pressures.


Water Usage in Almond Drink Production

The production of almond drink is a water-intensive process. It is estimated that producing one liter of almond drink requires approximately 371 liters of water. This high water usage is predominantly due to the water needs of almond trees themselves. However, it’s important to note that water usage varies by region and farming practices, and efforts are being made to reduce the water footprint of almond cultivation.

Lactose Tolerance in Adults

The ability of adults to digest dairy products, primarily due to lactose tolerance, is indeed a genetic adaptation. While some populations have a high prevalence of lactose tolerance, others may experience lactose intolerance. This genetic variation means that for many adults, consuming dairy can lead to discomfort, making plant-based alternatives a suitable option.

Choosing Dairy Substitutes

Opting for a dairy substitute is a personal choice that can be influenced by health considerations, ethical beliefs, or taste preferences. It’s completely acceptable to choose plant-based products, and many find them to be delightful additions to their diet. However, it’s also important to respect individual choices and recognise that dietary decisions are personal and multifaceted.


Carbon Footprint Considerations

While plant-based milk alternatives offer benefits, they are not without environmental impact. For instance, the production of these alternatives can involve transportation, packaging, and processing, which contribute to their carbon footprint. It’s essential to consider the entire lifecycle of these products when evaluating their environmental impact. Choosing local and sustainably produced options can help mitigate these effects.


In our pursuit of dietary choices that align with our values and needs, education is key. Whether you prefer dairy milk or its plant-based substitutes, understanding the terminology, environmental impact, and nutritional aspects can empower you to make informed decisions. As we navigate these choices, let’s do so with respect for the diversity of preferences and the shared goal of a sustainable and healthy future for all.

Remember, every small step towards understanding and sustainability is a stride towards a better world. Let’s continue to learn, share, and grow together.